Mezzowriter's ReadWriter Blog

Reading, Writing, and The Search for Buried Gems of Literature

What I’m Reading #21: Freewill March 23, 2010

It’s a slim book, but the information on the flap seemed promising.


Freewill by Chris Lynch

HarperTempest, 2002

Courtesy of Review

Chris Lynch has long been one of the most stylistically daring of teen novelists, and in Freewill, his innovative use of language redefines the possibilities of the genre. Strikingly, the story is told in second person. The voice is in the mind of Will, a boy who is moving in stunned bewilderment through a life leeched of meaning by the death of his father and stepmother in what may have been a suicide and murder. This speaker (who is not Will) constantly admonishes, challenges, and questions reality in clipped, enigmatic sentence fragments, and Will only occasionally answers back. The events of the story are dimly seen through this distorting haze of interior dialogue (as the events of Lynch’s Gold Dust were seen through the protagonist’s obsession with baseball).

Will, in a therapeutic woodworking class at “Hopeless High,” has moved beyond furniture and garden gnomes to strange pole sculptures. There he is disconnected from reality and other people, except for occasional brief encounters with a tall black runner named Angela, who remains sarcastic and deliberately distant. When a girl from the school drowns in what is perhaps a suicide, a floral tribute accumulates around the death spot, with one of Will’s sculptures as the centerpiece. A second possible suicide, and then two more are all marked with the strange poles, and a cult begins to grow around Will as the “carrier pigeon of death.” A reporter forces him to see the connection between the sculptures and his father’s ambivalent end, and Will begins to sink into total oblivion, saved, finally, when Angela and his grandparents reach out in “freewill,” in this very dark, very odd, but riveting novel. (Ages 14 and older) –Patty Campbell –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


Strengths: Lynch does an admirable job of fleshing out some of his characters and establishing their roles within the narrative.

Potential Flaws: Okay, I was scraping a bit for strengths.  This book became a Printz Award Honor Book, and I just don’t see why.  The review above lauds the unique narrative style, but I found that intensely distracting.  I really had to push to finish the book.  If it hadn’t been such a short book, I probably wouldn’t have finished at all.  It was just too stream-of-consciousness for my taste.  I realize that the narrative was designed to give you an insight into the unstable state of mind of Will, the main character.  I felt that the use of the technique was overdone and ended up weakening the structure of the novel.

My Rating:

Not easy to invest in this read due to the confusion created by the narrative style.


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