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Meof50days

Meof50days

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Freewill - Chris Lynch

Freewill is a Printz honor and one of those books that you appreciate what the book is trying to do more than enjoy the execution.

Told in the second person, in a sparse and almost repetitive cadence, the story is about Will, who is disconnected from life and whose only outlet seems to be strange woodwork projects that he doesn't even particularly enjoy. When the wood totems show up in a series of suicides, unwanted attention is drawn to him and he must decide if he should speak up or let himself become part of the nothing he feels he has to live for.

I think Lynch made a lot of smart choices in framing. While many people would find the "you" off-putting, it helps reinforce the reader's own questions. However, Will is still so much a nonentity and passive character that he is neither a proper cypher for the reader to insert their own desires into nor interesting enough to carry the story's odd and morbid tone the way the narrators of Silver Linings Playbook or Perks of Being a Wallflower manage.

The other characters don't work as complex or lively characters either, partially from the remoteness of Will's relationship with them. This leaves most of their discussions feeling like talking points of the plot, anti-suicide PSAs rather than their own motivations.

This novel is not without compelling moments. While the choice to make the prose simple and sparse, Lynch has passages that are vivid. One example that made me take notice was when Will was taking a shower after forgetting clean himself for three days and remarks on the wonderful feeling of scrubbing skin, reminding himself to remember it because it's a nice small pleasure that is easily forgotten.

Unfortunately, the sparseness and the vagueness work against the story more than help it. The mystery of the totems and the suicides are left unresolved or even commented it on, as the story winds off into a palatable non-ending where Will finally makes a choice not to be so passive. I do like an open-endedness to my stories, but there's not enough to structure to make the suggestion of possibilities. On the bright side, the story is a brisk novella more than anything else and there are some passages that create a thoughtful starting point for the weighty topic.

And perhaps that is all that Freewill wanted to do, was to present the reader with a choice to do so...