There should be a special name for books that start out really, really well and then fall in a heap. In the absence of a particular term for such a book, I’ll call it If I Fall, If I Die (by Michael Christie).
It’s the story of Will, a teen who has never been to ‘the Outside’ (at least not since he can remember). His mother, Diane, is an eccentric agoraphobe who drowns in panic at the thought of opening the front door.
“…she taught him that the Outside was built of danger, of slicing edges and crushing weights, of piercing needlepoints and pummeling drop-offs, of an unrelenting potential for suffocation, electrocution, mayhem, and harm.”
One day, Will decides to leave the Inside and from there unfolds a story about Diane’s lost family, a missing boy and an illegal drug ring – all dangerous stuff given Will’s sheltered upbringing.
“His mind veered to the day’s venture: the wind sashaying around him, the birch trees shaking as though in applause, the gently smoking bomb, the boy’s kind, welcoming face, while the preposterous sky flew upward beyond all measurement.”
I sped through the first third of the book – Diane, Will and their life on the Inside made for compelling reading. Diane’s fears were imaginative and marvelously incorporated – knives kept in locked drawers, food slow-cooked to avoid using the oven and light-bulbs changed wearing a rubber wetsuit and rubber gloves.
Although initially interesting and originally written, Will’s life on the Outside quickly loses momentum. He makes a friend, Jonah, which is the author’s segue into lots of stuff about skateboarding. I appreciate that Christie once wrote for a skateboarding magazine but a ‘touch of skateboarding’ would have been sufficient. The skateboarding details didn’t add to the narrative and there was lots. Lots.
And then the story turns to the ‘mystery’ which was a simple plot line but bizarrely over-worked – odd scenes and details were included as red-herrings (maybe??) but only served to crowd the story and weigh down Christie’s words, which had started out so appealingly.
The final scenes lacked suspense – a shame because clearly Christie can write action scenes (the early ones are good) – and I finished the book in a hurry, feeling flat and just wanting to be done.
I received my copy of If I Fall, If I Die from the publisher, Random House UK/ Cornerstone via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
Munch on corn chips with If I Fall, If I Die, simply because they’re on Will’s banned food list (choking hazard).