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Review of "Freewill"

By Chris Lynch
HarperTempest, 2001
Review by Su Terry on Mar 8th 2002

Freewill by Chris Lynch is a confusing book about a confused young man. It deals with the long-term emotional impact of the death of a teens parents and how the death/suicide of his classmates provoke a crisis as he tries to cope with his mounting loss.

Freewill by Chris Lynch is set in some unknown American town.  Seventeen-year old Will has been placed in a special school for young people in some form of crisis. In this school, he has been placed in a vocational therapy woodworking class. Even though he is a gifted woodworker, Will continues to insist that he is not supposed to be in woodworking, but in an aviation program, because he is destine to be a pilot. Recently, Wills projects have moved from ugly garden gnomes, whirligigs, and useful furniture to odd-looking totem poles. This greatly displeases Mr. Jacks, his shop teacher/counselor, who feels there is more of a market for lawn ornaments. When his poles begin disappearing and showing up at the memorials for young people who have died under suspicious conditions, and then at site where young people later die, Will begins to feel responsible for their deaths, but is uncertain how he is involved.

Freewill is told through the inner dialog within Wills head. This offers a confusing and slanted view of events. Will is quite confused about his life and perhaps his thinking is further clouded by his meds.  Viewed from this perspective it leaves the reader questioning the reality that Wills presents as his viewpoint. While such a limiting perspective may prove to be interesting in a sane, dare I say norm character, sorting through Wills confused, often paranoid viewpoint to try to view what might be reality is not only difficult, it is impossible. It is often hard to follow how and why he arrives at the conclusions he does since his leaps of logic are not logical. His inner voice is often sheer irrationality. I suspect that I might have accepted some of the irrational patter if there was some other balancing voice to explain the events of the novel. I also was very frustrated by the conclusion of the book that shed no light on Wills situation or the deaths of his classmates.

There are a number of interesting characters in this novel. Angela is Wills classmate. She is a strong and dynamic character, but filtered through Wills mind her motives become random and rather hazy. Mr. Jacks is Wills shop teacher. He is the stereotypical bad teacher who is more interested in himself than his students, but that IS Wills take on him. Wills grandparents, Gran and Pops, are very realistic. I find it interesting that they are presented so well through Wills filtration system.

Chris Lynch is the author of many award winning young adult novels. His young adult novels include, Iceman (1994); Shadow Boxer (1995); Slot Machine (1995); Extreme Elvin (1999) the sequel to Slot Machine; Whitechurch (1999); Gold Dust (2000); and Freewill (2001).  Freewill is one of the Michael L. Printz Honor Books for 2002.

Freewill is a very confusing book. I am not sure that I would recommend it to a young person. If the young person would like a challenge, working through Wills psychobabble to decipher the truth is definitely a challenge. If, however, the young person is not into being challenged, s/he will put this book down very quickly and condemn it as confusing and not worth the effort. I wish I could say hold out to the end and everything will become crystal clear, but unfortunately, in the case of this book, I cannot say that. I give this author an A for creativity, but a rewrite for readability.


© 2002 Su Terry


Su Terry: Education: B.A. in History from Sacred Heart University, M.L.S. in Library Science from Southern Connecticut State College, M.R.S. in Religious Studies/Pastoral Counseling from Fairfield University, a M.Div. in Professional Ministry from New Brunswick Theological Seminary, a Certificate in Spirituality/Spiritual Direction from Sacred Heart University. She is a Licensed Minister of the United Church of Christ and an Assistant Professor in Library Science at Dowling College, Long Island, NY.  Interests in Mental Health: She is interested in the interplay between psychology, biology, and mysticism. Her current area of research is in the impact of hormonal fluctuation in female Christian mystics.

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