Will, the seventeen-year-old protagonist of Chris Lynch’s YA novel Freewill has suffered a horrible tragedy. Now he lives with his grandparents who are “Kind people. They didn’t have to take you in. Or did they? Love? Is it love? Charity.”
That’s the first thing about Freewill: it’s written in the second person. Not many books are and I suspect that many YA readers will wonder what the heck is going on. Once Will’s circumstances reveal themselves, readers will likely be able to figure out why Lynch chose this point of view. At the very least, it would be an interesting conversation to have with students. But second person is a stylistic choice and not everyone grooves to it.
Will, as a character, is frustrating and sympathetic. He spends most of his time in woodshop, where he clearly has some talent. He makes furniture and carves little statues which start showing up in advance of the deaths of local students. He doesn’t have any friends until he meets Angela, another misfit in his woodworking class.
Has she spoken to you before? You know her name, though, don’t you? Haven’t bothered knowing any of the others. What’s the use, after all. But you haven’t been able to not know Angela.
The novel works as a sort of interior monologue as Will comes to grips with the facts of his life. He’s stuck in limbo. He tells his teacher “I’m supposed to be a pilot, Mr. Jacks. How did I wind up in woodshop?”
The how reveals itself – sort of – relatively quickly, but Will’s mental health is clearly in jeopardy and it will take a while before the whole thing plays out.
I didn’t love this book, but that doesn’t mean it’s without merit. Mature, patient reads will likely get something from the reading experience.