With all honesty, I picked up this book because I felt emotionally drained from work and wanted to read a book that was entertaining – which I very superficially inferred from the cover and blurb – and nothing more. Instead, I found myself liking this book much more than I expected I would, though admittedly the revelation was gradual.
Set in a not-so-distant future, Gnosis, the technological world’s corporate giant, has developed an app, Lux, that assists in your decisions – from significant to trivial – thereby guaranteeing its users happiness, efficiency and a stress-free, healthy life. With Lux, the small voice in your head, or now known as the Doubt, is deceiving and illogical in comparison. So when sixteen year old Rory Vaughn is accepted into the prestigious Theden Academy and begins to hear the Doubt, Rory is torn between ignoring it or listening to it, even though the latter may mean uncovering dark, twisted secrets about the world as she knows it.
Free to Fall by Lauren Miller is no revelation or an imaginative exploration of original ideas. Rather, it is a story with relevant ideas in today’s socio-cultural context that has been made accessible to a younger audience whilst retaining the characteristics of a young adult novel (i.e. younger characters, abundance of dialogue). However, though it may not be the novel’s prime objective, Free to Fall contains some interesting and insightful explorations of what our world may look like if it continues its trajectory into neoliberalism – more specifically, a world where social Darwinism is encouraged, and where human lives are quantified with Eurocentric measures.
On that note, I loved Miller’s exploration of the Doubt – the idea that one’s conscience can be medicalized and constructed as a medical disorder. That because we create medical jargon, establish that correlation implies causation (which it does not), and pharmaceuticalize the things we do not understand, we can create umbrella terms or labels for things that are complex and inherent in human experience. And that is what happens with the Doubt; Miller’s exploration of it emphasizes that mental illnesses are partly socially constructed and also come with a lot of rhetoric that justify its social construction.
What I liked about Free to Fall, is that the setting’s underlying dominant ideology is executed subtly; the problematic aspects of the society Rory lives in are not immediately evident (perhaps because it is so similar to our own society), but arise when the protagonist herself comes to realize them for herself. In other words, we perceive the society through her lens, which make the story more immersive and compelling.
Though Free to Fall contains snippets of these ideas I’ve mentioned above (and looking at my notes, there is much more!), at the heart of it, it’s an exciting book. It is slow to start at first, but once the ball starts rolling, it’s thrilling. I also liked the characters, even the typical love interest that represented this ideal of subversion and resistance. I didn’t care too much for the romance – if anything, I thought it enhanced it slightly. The characters themselves develop in interesting ways, and I enjoyed Rory’s change in consciousness as she uncovers some difficult, jarring truths about the life she lives. At times, the plot is outlandish, but I think the message and moral remains, which makes the book worth reading and interesting.
To sum, Free to Fall was an unexpected and exciting read. I enjoyed it immensely, especially for its lighthearted take on social issues and an interpretation of what a futuristic, technology-reliant world would look like.
Name: Free to Fall
Author: Lauren Miller