Free to Fall by Lauren Miller

free to fallWith 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.

Rating: 3.5/5

Book Information
Name: Free to Fall
Author: Lauren Miller
Pages: 469
Publisher: HarperTeen

Hello 2015!

Happy New Year, everyone!

The good news is that I successfully finished my 2014 Goodreads Challenge, which was to read 75 books. I would say 2014 was a satisfying year of reading, and I hope 2015 will be even better.

In 2014, I found some new favourite books, namely:

  • The Ask and the Answers by Patrick Ness
  • Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shirley
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn
  • Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn
  • Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

And I finished a few book series too:

  • The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
  • Under the Never Sky series by Veronica Rossi
  • If I Stay series by Gayle Forman

This year, I hope to read more classics (maybe tackle a giant, like Moby Dick or The Count of Monte Cristo or something), read more non-fiction, or maybe make my way through the BusinessInsider’s ‘100 Books Everyone Should Read Before They Die’ list. Other than reading, my new year goals include maintaining my exercise regime (and hopefully develop some muscle!), try new things and explore more, find a balance between spending and enjoying myself, and prepare myself for postgraduate school. Needless to say, I am pretty optimistic about this year!

Bring on a new year of reading!