I received this copy of If I Fall, If I Die in exchange for an honest review.
Diving into this book, I really didn’t have a good idea of what exactly it was that I was getting into. I thought it was a book about a boy who couldn’t be outside. That he something kept him in his home, until he decided against the will of his mother that he was no longer going to remain trapped. In some ways I was right, but in others I wasn’t. What I was treated to was an interesting story about a young boy who after spending nearly his entire life in the confines of his home with his agoraphobic mother, decides to step out into the world to solve a mystery that fell into his backyard.
In many ways this story is absolutely wonderful. The switching perspectives between a young Will and his mother, Diane, paint a picture of panic as well as hope. You feel for these characters and journey with them as things begin to change. The only problem was that I constantly felt like I wanted a bit more from them. I wanted to see Will’s emotions to being in the world for the first time. To having new interactions. In the beginning these were handled rather well, but then we got less an less. Sure, things became more familiar with him, but we didn’t get any real reflection on how things had changed. And yes, I do expect a 12 year old to be at least a little contemplative about this. Then there was Diane who I just wanted more from in general. I found her sections to be rather interesting. At times I wish they were broken up a bit because they sometimes dragged, but they were never boring. A few more jaunts with Diane’s perspective especially toward the end would have been wonderful.
The only real problem that I had with the novel was the perspective of a character we learn about throughout the novel. I’m not going to go into it as really discussing it is spoilers, but I felt that it was very connected and distant at the same time. It was an abrupt shift from what we were seeing previously and didn’t easily connect back in when it should have. That made it jarring. That said the bits with this character added an interesting element to the story. It could have been wonderful if it was just a tad more connected.
One of the big issues that this novel took a look at was the mental state of a number of characters that wouldn’t necessarily be considered stable by most of society. However, these characters were treated with the kind of care that they deserved. These were people who were no better or worse than anyone else. They had fears, desires, and goals. In the case of Diane, we learn that the black Lagoon was something she had dealt with for a long time. Life slowly closed in on her, fear and uncertainty racked her life. It ruled her for a long time as she got worse and worse. However, we got to see her hit rock bottom. We got to see her want to fight. We saw her slowly take steps toward getting better and it was a refreshing sign. None of it was easy and that felt real. On a similar note, we saw another character that fell to unstable pits. Destroyed and endangered he slowly lost his mind. When we finally see him coming out of it, again, we see that it is a struggle for him.
Aside from the interesting look at various states of differing mental health, we got a very interesting look at race. This novel really confronted the issue and systematic oppression of Indians in this society. This isn’t some ancient society either. This is what we deal with at present. These Indians were looked down upon. Expected to behave a certain way. Simply looking at them caused numerous adults to either discount these kids actively jeer at them. It made me sick to read, but it also is a reality. People see them as scum and drunks. It’s not a good way to be seen. However, what was even more depressing was that the cops in the novel showed no concern for these kids going missing, going so far as to tell Will, the white boy, to stay out of it so they don’t drag him down. While at times it was tough to read, I was glad that a book confronted issues like this.
As for Jonah he was one of the best of friends for Will. Watching their friendship blossom was something great. They went from Will eagerly trying to get Jonah to talk to them hanging out all the time. Jonah was the lens for Will’s new outlook on the world. The development of the two characters as their friendship bloomed was great. Learning about Jonah and his desires and goals was just as satisfying as learning more about will. Jonah was just a greatly fleshed out character that I would have loved to learn more about.
Ultimately, I didn’t find many things that bothered me with the story. I just never fell in love with it either. That said it is a solid read. If I got a little bit more from the characters, I probably would have been totally in love.