Will has never been outside, at least not since he can remember. And he has certainly never gotten to know anyone other than his mother, a fiercely loving yet wildly eccentric agoraphobe who panics at the thought of opening the front door. Read more...
Will has never been outside, at least not since he can remember. And he has certainly never gotten to know anyone other than his mother, a fiercely loving yet wildly eccentric agoraphobe who panics at the thought of opening the front door. Their world is rich and fun- loving full of art, science experiments, and music and all confined to their small house.
But Will s thirst for adventure can t be contained. Clad in a protective helmet and unsure of how to talk to other kids, he finally ventures outside. At his new school he meets Jonah, an artsy loner who introduces Will to the high-flying freedoms of skateboarding. Together, they search for a missing local boy, help a bedraggled vagabond, and evade a dangerous bootlegger. The adventure is more than Will ever expected, pulling him far from the confines of his closed-off world and into the throes of early adulthood, and all the risks that everyday life offers.
In buoyant, kinetic prose, Michael Christie has written an emotionally resonant and keenly observed novel about mothers and sons, fears and uncertainties, and the lengths we ll go for those we love."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-10-13
- Reviewer: Staff
“The Outside” has never seemed as dangerous and as magical as in the debut novel by Christie (the story collection The Beggar’s Garden) about a boy who lives confined in his home with his agoraphobic mother. Until the age of 11, Will has never set foot Outside; he spends his time indoors painting “masterpieces,” conducting Destructivity experiments, and dealing with the many deliverymen his mother fears. When a strange noise brings Will outdoors for the first time, he encounters a boy who soon disappears, sparking Will’s curiosity about not only the boy’s whereabouts but also the Outside world in general. Against his mother’s wishes, he starts attending school, making friends, and picking up skateboarding. Alternating chapters between Will’s increasingly daring adventures Outside and his mother’s increasing reclusiveness hint at his mother’s past and the source of her condition. While the mysterious family backstory at times distracts from the delightful simplicity of Will’s misadventures, the boy’s raw but clever commentary brims with a fierce poignancy that makes the book very difficult to put down. Agent: Bill Clegg, Clegg Agency. (Jan.)
When the world grows with you
Will’s entire world exists inside the walls of his house. Raised by an agoraphobic mother, he’s taught to fear the world outside—and the world inside, too, wearing a helmet constantly and donning body armor just to change a light bulb. He feels safe. Then he goes outside, and everything feels strange.
It doesn’t help that what he encounters really is bizarre: Neighborhood kids steal water hoses and make explosives, and he’s lied to by a boy he doesn’t know better than to trust. Despite its dangers, the outside attracts Will. Determined to solve a particular mystery in town, he forces himself and his mother to accept his going to school, walking and playing on the outside—even skateboarding.
Michael Christie, who was a professional skateboarder before turning to fiction, does an outstanding job exploring agoraphobia and panic disorders. He describes the “Black Lagoon” of depression that envelopes Will’s mother with remarkable insight and accuracy without either glorifying or trivializing her condition. The rest of the novel is fully drawn, too, including the psyches of Will, his friend Jonah and even the bullies. If I Fall, If I Die begins within the walls of a single home, but it eventually stretches to encompass an entire town, including its history and its mysteries.
Besides the obvious themes of leaving the nest and coming of age, this novel is about pushing boundaries and striving for change while understanding that the people we love may not be able to follow us. It’s about recognizing the beauty in new relationships even when they don’t turn out the way we plan. It’s about the ways we escape who our parents raised us to be—and the ways we’re inevitably drawn back into our histories anyway.