Saturday, April 9, 2016

If I Fall If I Die

Wow, I really haven't been reading much lately.  But then my brother lent me If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie and I needed to read it fast for a variety of reasons.  Michael Christie is originally from Thunder Bay, and he set this there, which was kind of exciting (the last book I read set here was Anna Dressed in Blood).

If I Fall, If I Die starts out as a very intriguing book.  Will lives with his mother Inside.  His mother has never forbidden him from going outside, but Will knows she would have a hard time handling his going (she's an agoraphobe who has gradually become too afraid to leave her house).  Besides, it's his job to protect her.  But when he hears a strange noise, he braves going Outside.  Of course, once he realizes that going Outside will not result in his immediate demise, Will starts wanting to venture Outside all the more.  But when he realizes that Marcus, his first Outside friend (Marcus set a smoke bomb off in Will's yard in order to steal Will's garden hose; despite slingshotting Will in the head during their first meeting, Will considers him a friend because Marcus said "sure, whatever" when Will asked) has disappeared, Will makes it his mission to find the other boy.  Will even decides to brave going to school to find him. 

What starts out as a wonderful exploration of the Outside takes a bit of a weird turn about 100 pages in.  Marcus was embroiled with a scheme of the local crime lord (I think?), the Butler.  The Butler's wolves (yes, he has wolves for some reason) attack another boy in school, Jonah.  Will and Jonah become friends determined to track down Marcus while becoming the best skateboarders in Thunder Bay.  They find themselves down in the waterfront where they meet Titus, a deranged man who was beaten up by the Butler.  They nurse him back to health in the hopes that he'll let spill a clue about Marcus's whereabouts.  But after getting threatened by the Butler, Jonah decides he wants out of the investigation.  Will goes to end things and confront Titus (because he also found Titus's fingerprints in his house), but the Butler arrives and captures them (and Jonah, who showed up at the waterfront too).  After threatening to kill the boys unless Titus tells the Butler what happened to Marcus, Will's mother shows up with Jonah's brothers, who quickly turn the tables and free the good guys.  And Titus ends up Will's long-lost uncle who the book makes you believe died years previously in an accident at the grain elevators.  So Will ends up with a bigger family and everyone is mostly happy, or will be in a few years when Will and Jonah are back in the same school (Will and Jonah cut class too many times skateboarding and caring for Titus so Jonah got sent to some other school).

That literally is what happens, even though it sounds kind of crazy.  And it was crazy.  From about the time of the wolf attack, I felt like this book was off.  Part of the problem was that it didn't feel like Thunder Bay (except, unfortunately, the racism against Native Canadians.  Sadly that is a very real problem here).  And that feeling of being off just culminated in the ridiculous action-packed climax that seemed to belong in another book.

But despite the craziness, this book is very well-written.  Christie's prose is beautiful.  I loved the stuff at the beginning of the book, when Will was first venturing Outside.  Even the way he saw his world Inside (like how the rooms of his house had different place names) was fantastic.  And how he was so unprepared to make friends, but was determined to try anyway.  Christie's characters were also wonderful.  Will at the beginning of the book is a fantastic character.  And his mother was so tragic, how she lost most of her family and was terrified of losing Will, too.  Unfortunately the plot became so crazy near the end that I felt like it honestly took away from what was an otherwise very enjoyable book.

1 comment:

Shauna said...

While talking to my brother about the book, he made an excellent point. As crazy as the ending was, all those events could have still happened if they weren't the focus. The focus should have been Will's mother leaving the house and finding help. That was the big deal (and realistically the climax of the book).