by Michael Christie
At age 11, Will Cardiel thinks his life is pretty normal. His mother Diane is agoraphobic and Will has grown up believing that the Outside is full of danger. He lives life indoors, painting “masterpieces” and opening the door for the delivery men that help Will and his mother maintain their lifestyle.
At school Will becomes entranced by Jonah and his skateboarding skills. Although Jonah never speaks at school, Will manages to befriend him and soon the two of them are skateboarding all over Thunder Bay. But the town is full of dark secrets, including Marcus’s disappearance. Determined to find him, Will and Jonah become embroiled in the grim lifestyle of the waterfront, which is filled with lost souls who are addicted and down on their luck. All the while, Diane worries terribly for her son but is completely helpless and unable to intervene in his activities Outside.
If I Fall, If I Die explores the moment when a child separates from his parent and finally becomes an individual. Will is constantly torn between his mother’s neediness and his own desires. He is angry that she has lied to him about the dangers of Outside, but loves her deeply.
The novel is also an ode to skateboarding, and explores the idea that the very act of skateboarding can turn the ugly city into something beautiful. It can make the alienated kid feel capable, assertive and graceful. It is a world most often misunderstood by adults, but embraced by the youth who participate.
There were a few things in this novel that didn’t add up or that didn’t seem believable, but I enjoyed this weird and wild novel enough to let those things go. Michael Christie has crafted a coming of age story with a dark and suspenseful twist, partly based on his own life. Enjoy!