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No one knows why local teens are committing suicide, either, one after the other. The deaths ...
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No one knows why local teens are committing suicide, either, one after the other. The deaths all have one thing in common: beautifully carved wooden tributes that appear just after—or just before—the bodies are found. Will's afraid he knows who's responsible for the deaths. And lurking just behind that knowledge is another secret, one so explosive that he might not be able to face it and survive...
Part thriller, part mystery, Chris Lynch's newest book is a rollercoaster ride through a passionate young man's psyche—and an unforgettable emotional journey through grief, guilt, and hope from a writer at the height of his powers.
About the Author:
Chris Lynch is the author of many highly acclaimed books for young adults, including Iceman, Shadow Boxer, and Slot Machine, all ALA Best Books for Young Adults and ALA Recommended Books for Young Readers. He is also the author of Extreme Elvin, the sequel to Slot Machine; Whitechurch; and most recently, Gold Dust.
A teenager trying to recover from the tragic death of his father and stepmother believes himself to be responsible for the rash of teen suicides occurring in his town.
"I said, nice table, that. Pretty work. The inlay is classic. And it's strong, huh?"
He stands on the table, adding eighteen inches to his height. He bounces up and down on his toes, testing the table's strength and adding, taking away, adding and taking away, an additional two inches. He hops down, to where nature put him. Five foot seven. Do you know this one's name? No, you don't. Don't and won't.
"But it doesn't look it. That's what's really nice about work like this. Real strong and functional, but with delicate lines. Nice, nice work."
He is sliding his hand over the highly polished finish of the nice, nice work in question.
"Thanks. But it's not mine," you say.
"What? What are you talking about? Of course it's yours. 55
"No. Sorry, but it isn't."
"Yes, it is. What are you, jerking me around? I been sitting here three feet away from you for two weeks watching you do it."
Watching you. Watching you? Two weeks watching you.
"You just finished it yesterday morning. It's just dry today. It's nice work, why you want to pretend you didn't do it?"
You look at that table, and you agree. It is nice work.
"Two weeks?" you ask. "Does it really take somebody two weeks of life to make something like that?"
"Fine. Be that way."
The surface of the table is the size of a chessboard. Your classmate has left it to get back to his own knotty-pine creation which he says is a bookshelf, but you know is for videos.
Why are you here?
Whose table is that?
Why are you in wood shop? You are meant to be a pilot. How does wood shop get you anycloser to being a pilot?
But here you are. And you do not like to be idle. Devil's workshop and all. You don't know why you are here but you know you are, and you are meant to be doing something so you might as well.
Why would somebody spend two weeks of his life on a table big enough for one small lamp, one can of Pringles and one glass of water and nothing else?
And why would another somebody spend two weeks watching him?
Beautiful plank of blond oak. Four feet long, two feet wide, two inches deep. Little table maybe means nothing, but this is a beautiful piece of wood.
"This is a beautiful piece of wood, Mr. jacks. May I?"
"Yes it is, and yes you may, and what's more I have fifteen others just like it stacked up in the storage. Sweetheart deal, fell from the sky, and you shoppers are the beneficiaries."
You stroke the piece of wood as if it were an Angora cat. You could do that stroke up or down or sideways or swirls all day long if you wanted to and never pick up a splinter. It is a magnificent piece of wood.
"That mean you're finished with that table now?"
"The table. You filing it?"
Your classmate takes this as his cue, sliding on over beside you. "He says it ain't his, Mr. jacks."
"Well it's not, if he's finished with it. It's the school's. Just like that video rack is going to be if you ever complete it."
"It's a bookshelf, sir."
"You done with the table then?" Mr. jacks, just like the video-shelving guy, takes an up-close-and-personal inspection of the table in question. "Nice finish. I can see myself. Extra credit when I can see myself. Smooth, strong, clean edges. Fine work, as usual."
The kid is laughing in a way that makes clear to every body that he doesn't find anything funny. "He says it's not his, sir."
"It's not mine."
"No, sorry to say," Mr. jacks says, "but it isn't. I wish I could let you guys keep some of your stuff, but the rules are the rules. We keep them through term, then we donate. "
Mr. jacks takes the table up and walks it off, to where they take the wood that has been made furniture and is thus no longer of any use to the class.
"Mr. Jacks." You are looking ever closer at that beautiful blond board and all its fine grains.
"Huh? Oh, ya, knock yourself out. But it better be great, using my star lumber."
"Great," you say. An answer. "Great," you repeat, a question, a promise, a further question.
Why do you do it? What is the driver? You don't know.
"What are you making there, Will?" Mr. jacks asks.
You release the trigger on the handsaw, raise your protective glasses. "Not sure, really." The rest of the class continues with hammering, planing, chipping and slicing with pneumatic tools and raw muscle power, so that you have to strain to be heard. But this is not new. It is standard and barely noticeable, to have to strain to be heard.
"Well, it's rather important that you know what you're making. Otherwise, how can I judge whether you've made it or not when you're done?"You look up, and try to smile. You do smile, successfully if not radiantly. "Faith, Mr. jacks," is what you say.
"Faith," he says. "Faith. You mean I'm just supposed to trust you, that you're doing something worthwhile with your time and my wood and the school's machinery"'
"Well. Well, I suppose that's what I'm saying, sir."
Mr. Jacks looks all around, for comic effect, the way teachers do in regular classrooms when they want to emphasize that a student has said something fairly ridiculous. But this is not the regular class, nobody hears or notices what is going on between you two, and Mr. Jacks has to give an answer all on his own.
"Okay," he says. "You haven't botched anything so far. So I guess you've earned a little faith."
Is it? Is it faith if you've earned it? Isn't faith putting trust in something for no good reason? Maybe you should ask.Freewill. Copyright © by Chris Lynch. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Q. What inspired you to write Freewill?
A. The small spark of the idea for Freewill came from a post-Columbine story I read in the paper about a man who had erected monuments to all the victims. Near the site of the tragedy, the man had put up one wooden cross to represent each of the dead -- including the two shooters. There was some outrage at the fact that he'd included them in his memorial, and he was eventually forced to take them all down. But I found the idea, the man, his motivation, his own personal relationship to the event, unforgettable. I don't know what that man was feeling, but it made me start thinking about Will. The wake of tragedy rather than the tragedy itself is where I find story.
Q. What was your writing process like? Did you begin creating the story by imagining the characters? The story line?
A. I began, as I always do, with characters. Or, mainly, with the one character and his legacy. I was fairly well flying blind on this one when I started, and that was very much by design. I wanted to address the subject of the legacy of suicide, to explore the feelings involved for someone who is left to deal with suicide. I truly did not know what Will was going to make of his circumstances, where he would wind up, if he would wind up. I trusted that I would understand more as I traveled along with him.
Q. Freewill is a gripping narrative, which takes the reader through the mental life of a disturbed teenage boy. Can you talk a bit about how you accomplished this journey of the mind through narrative style as well as the book's structure?
A. This is also why the book is written quite the way it is. As much as possible I wanted the reader to do what I was doing, which was to live the life inside Will's head along with him. It would seem the most natural way to do this would be the way I usually write, in first person. But almost immediately I sensed that by removing Will from himself by a degree, we could better appreciate the simultaneous inside/out experience of detachment. And at the same time I wanted to tease out the idea of voices in our heads. Is he listening to somebody else? Is he doing it to himself. Second person was the only way to get at it all the way I wanted to.
Q. What was the experience of writing Will's character like for you? Did you feel that you could relate to this boy's experience or was it completely imagined? How difficult was it to write from his character's inner voice?
A. I found it not too difficult to write Will's voice. Once you commit to living with, and in, a character, you find yourself (see, that creeping second person is a lot easier to get into than out of) falling freely and completely in. If you have ever lived through detachment, confusion, and any level of depression -- and if you've lived through adolescence, then you most likely have -- then I think you can warm up to Will's perspective pretty readily. And the second-person approach allowed me and the reader and Will to pose a great many pertinent questions that otherwise would have had to be more obliquely addressed.
Q. What inspired you to make woodworking such an integral part of the plot? Does this art form have a special significance for you?
A. The woodworking bit, as I said, comes directly from that newspaper story. Although those pieces were standard Christian crosses, and I wanted to make Will's more a part of his own personality, more enigmatic. I find sculpture to be a supremely adaptable and expressive medium, one that can effectively stand for a person's insides in the event that words fail him.
Q. In your mind, what is the relationship between the wooden sculptures and the ocean? Did you view this as an arbitrary relationship or was there a specific reason in mind for linking these two important elements?
A. I did not have a strong feeling about the relationship between the wood and the ocean. I saw them as two distinct, evocative elements at work within the same story. In fact, I think it's notable that whenever the two issues come together, they do not actually come together. The monuments Will lays down are always nearby to water, and usually after a water-related tragedy. The wood is symbolic, representational, tributary. Of the two, it is the water that possesses a power of its own.
Q. What was the most difficult thing about writing this novel? What was the most enjoyable aspect of writing it?
A. The hard bits of writing Freewill are probably obvious. It dealt almost exclusively with some of the most difficult aspects of life and death, particularly young people's experience of it. It can be difficult to sustain that kind of atmosphere through the writing of a whole book without letting it affect you personally. Even if the journey's end is redemptive.
The fun part -- if that's the right word -- comes in the pleasures involved in the craft of writing. Any time you get the chance to spread out, to challenge yourself and your readers, to get a little creative with form and style and voice, then there is a deep satisfaction in the writing. A story like Freewill provides that opportunity.
Q&A courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers
Posted June 20, 2004
I thought this book was really good, it was different than anything I have ever read before, which I like. I had to leave behind all my expectations of a young adult novel and keep an open mind. I like that Chris Lynch came up with something different.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 12, 2002
I liked the plot of the book. I didn't, however, like how the book was wrote in the 2nd person. It was kind of repetitive as you continued reading all sorts of questions rather than getting more into what is happeneing in the book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 7, 2002
This is a cool book. It kind of makes you want to sit down and think, and put yourself in Will's shoes. its a 4 strarrer because i think his other books are better Example: slot machine ext. elvin, Mick books.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 19, 2002
Posted May 12, 2002
I thought this book sounded really interesting from the back, and it was. The way it was written, with the author writing directly to you...(Ex: You liked that, didn't you? You knew about her didn't you?) it got kind of annoying. I liked the story, but not the way it was being told.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.