3.5 6
by Chris Lynch

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Will knows he is meant to be a pilot. But instead he finds himself with a bunch of kids in wood shop, in a school that's known as Hopeless High. Will doesn't know what he's doing there—or mabye he just doesn't want to admit the truth. Once upon a time he made beautiful things like gnomes, whirligigs, and furniture. Now he's driven to create strange wooden totems&…  See more details below


Will knows he is meant to be a pilot. But instead he finds himself with a bunch of kids in wood shop, in a school that's known as Hopeless High. Will doesn't know what he's doing there—or mabye he just doesn't want to admit the truth. Once upon a time he made beautiful things like gnomes, whirligigs, and furniture. Now he's driven to create strange wooden totems—and he doesn't know why.

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Sarah Raymond
Will finds himself floating through life completely disconnected from the world around him. After the murder-suicide of his father and stepmother, he is walking through a haze he cannot find his way out of despite the good intentions of the grandparents he now lives with. Will finds himself sitting in woodshop creating these amazing pieces of art that he does not even remember doing. He has one almost friend, Angela, who in her own way starts to help him, but she is rather mysterious and distant. One day a young girl from the community commits suicide and one of his creations shows up at the memorial site. After another death in the community, people start wondering about Will’s involvement in the situation. Interestingly enough, this story is told in second person, which is confusing at first. Although the author does a nice job of detailing with the detachment and depressive state of losing a loved one, the book ends with a lot of unanswered questions. Reviewer: Sarah Raymond; Ages 14 up.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Lynch successfully takes the reader into the soul of somebody isolated by grief.
Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA)
Lynch remains one of young adult literature's most intriguing writers.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Lynch's control over Will's narration is superb...There's a real Holden Caufield echo.
Horn Book
Lynch guides the reader through this complex internal journey with a remarkably light touch.
Publishers Weekly
Will, a 17-year-old enrolled in a vocational woodworking class, falls under suspicion when his wood sculptures are found near the site of several teens' mysterious drownings or suicides. According to PW, this novel, narrated by Will in the second person, "focuses on the dark and murky corners of its main character's psyche." Ages 13-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Despite the redemptive themes suggested by its title and its division into three sections expansively entitled "Faith," "Hope" and "Charity," Lynch's (Whitechurch) latest novel focuses on the dark and murky corners of its main character's psyche. Unraveling as an interior monologue in which 17-year-old Will refers to himself as "you," the narrative cryptically sets forth this teen's plight. Against his will, the tellingly named protagonist has been enrolled in a woodworking program at some kind of vocational high school populated with lost souls. He lives with his grandparents because, as the boy discloses midway through the story, "My dad drove off the road.... Into the water. With my stepmother." Water plays a chilling role in the morbid goings-on, which include the mysterious drownings or suicides of several teens; with each death, one of Will's wood sculptures is found near the site. Will says he is responsible, but is he indeed a murderer or even a "carrier pigeon of death"? Clarification comes slowly and obtrusively via advice from Will's grandfather and encounters with two of Will's troubled classmates, all of whom fit familiar stereotypes. Filled with such self-addressed comments as "She doesn't understand you. Nobody understands you," this airless novel does not reward the effort required to penetrate it. Ages 12-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Lynch's latest book is a foray into the mind of a confused adolescent who remains on the fringe of his peer group. Will lives with his grandparents and attends a school that the locals call Hopeless High, a vocational school for kids who have problems. There, instead of learning to become a pilot, which is his dream, Will is enrolled in the woodworking program. He is able to carve beautiful objects, but he finds himself creating strange totems that later appear at the sites of several teen suicides. Throughout the book, Will grapples with the notions of freewill, understanding people and being understood, and what the purpose is in each action he takes. There is little real action in the book, as most of it takes place inside Will's head, and the dialogue is difficult to follow, since Will speaks of himself in the second person. I found myself constantly looking for quotation marks, which detracted from the story. All in all, this is a disappointing book that is difficult to follow and understand. 2001, HarperCollins Children's Books, $15.95 and $15.89. Ages 14 up. Reviewer: Elizabeth Pabrinkis
Lynch remains one of young adult literature's most intriguing writers, delving deeply again here into the mind and heart of his character, Will, who like many troubled teens, is in danger of being lost for good. In this stream-of-consciousness narrative of a boy living inside himself, Will struggles to understand how he has come to be placed where he feels he does not belong. In a special program school with "the dead enders—stupid, dangerous or hanging out," Will senses he was meant instead to be a pilot, soaring free and clear of all the murky humanity below. Slowly readers come to understand Will's background—how he landed with Gran and Pops, his talent in woodworking newly revealed, and his tentative reaching out to classmate Angela. His growing fear is that he is some kind of Jonah, a "carrier pigeon of death," when his original, eerily beautiful sculptures begin to turn up at the scenes of a rash of teen suicides. Readers are drawn as if by a whirlwind through the air of death and loss that envelops Will, who struggles to stay connected and make the messages he means to convey find an understanding heart. Lynch asks the essential adolescent query about autonomy and choice, self-definition or preordained roles: Can I become who I mean myself to be, and where will that self belong in the world? Will's story is profound, and sensitive readers will persevere through Lynch's literate style. Recurring water and wood motifs keep Will connected to the natural world, while the title and section headings frame the theme of spiritual renewal after a dark night of the soul. Elliptical revelation through a series of interior dialogues and questions, questions, questions graduallydissolve Will's detachment and draw the reader in to share his redemption. PLB $15.89. VOYA CODES: 5Q 3P S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Will appeal with pushing; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2001, HarperCollins, 160p, $15.95. Ages 16 to 18. Reviewer: Mary Arnold SOURCE: VOYA, August 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 3)
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-The power of childhood friendships and generous spirits to overcome ethnic hatred is the theme of this moving story of an 11-year-old Albanian victim of the civil war in Kosovo. As Zana Dugolli and her family attempt to escape an attack, her father and two brothers are killed, and Zana is severely wounded. Hospitalized in Belgrade for three months, the terrified child encounters kindness on the part of a Serbian surgeon and, helped by the Red Cross, returns home on crutches. Her recovery is complicated by recurring infections, but the attentions of a British doctor and the revival of a friendship with Lena, the Serbian girl next door, help the healing process. When infection flares up, her mother convinces Lena's father to take her back to a hospital where she waits out the NATO bombing. In the end, she is reunited with the family she thought she had lost. When the villagers, including her older brother, want to take revenge on Lena's family, Zana saves their lives by standing with them. The contrasts in the protagonist's world are clear. Their television plays Venezuelan soap operas but food is cooked on a wood stove and water pumped by hand, outside. However, there is little to anchor this story in a specific setting or culture. Zana could be an American child, Lena is not developed at all, and readers never witness their former friendship. Mead's sympathy for children caught in adult conflicts is evident, and readers will likely come to share that sympathy but are unlikely to develop a better understanding of the complexities of the Balkan world.-Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Horn Book (starred review)
“Lynch guides the reader through this complex internal journey with a remarkably light touch.”
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"Lynch's control over Will's narration is superb...There's a real Holden Caufield echo."
Chicago Tribune
"Packs quite a wallop."

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Product Details

Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One



"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.

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Freewill 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
if you wanna be amazed read this book it sweeps you off your feet and make you wanna keep reading more books like it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I only got the sample, but I didnt like how it was written. He only asks questions, you cant really tell where anythnig is going, or how it makes sense, and it generally is annoying. I didnt like it, this book made me angry from only a few pages..