Published: May 13th
Publisher: Harper Teen
Copy: courtesy of Harper Teen
What if there was an app that told you what song to listen to, what coffee to order, who to date, even what to do with your life—an app that could ensure your complete and utter happiness? What if you never had to fail or make a wrong choice?
What if you never had to fall?
Fast-forward to a time when Apple and Google have been replaced by Gnosis, a monolith corporation that has developed the most life-changing technology to ever hit the market: Lux, an app that flawlessly optimizes decision making for the best personal results. Just like everyone else, sixteen-year-old Rory Vaughn knows the key to a happy, healthy life is following what Lux recommends. When she’s accepted to the elite boarding school Theden Academy, her future happiness seems all the more assured. But once on campus, something feels wrong beneath the polished surface of her prestigious dream school. Then she meets North, a handsome townie who doesn’t use Lux, and begins to fall for him and his outsider way of life. Soon, Rory is going against Lux’s recommendations, listening instead to the inner voice that everyone has been taught to ignore — a choice that leads her to uncover a truth neither she nor the world ever saw coming.
I can be a bit of an old fogey and I am sometimes a little slow to get with the program, at least according to my children - case in point, I don't tweet and I don't do Pinterest. As far as I am concerned they are time stealers, and I don't have enough time in the day to accomplish everything I want to as it is. Don't get me wrong, I can understand the appeal alright, but I know myself, and I would lose hours in the day if I succumbed to their siren lure. So when I read Free to Fall, my first though after finishing it was - thank God! That will never happen to me, but I can really see it happening - and that positively alarmed me.
Lauren Miller has written a futuristic thriller that is so utterly plausible given today's environment that it is incredibly scary. The idea that we could become slaves to a phone app - never gonna happen, r i g h t! It's already happening now, albeit to a much lesser degree. Rory has to fight to maintain her independence, separate from her Gold - a new micro mini tablet that virtually everyone is becoming totally dependent upon, and she doesn't know who she can trust. She was an interesting character that I found easy to like and root for and her relationship with North was real. North's cageyness was a little surprising, but also rang true and I enjoyed watching their relationship develop. It was suitably confusing as to which adults could be trusted, if any and there were plenty of false trails to follow to confuse the true issues.
Although this story is set in an elite boarding school, which makes it perfect for teens, I could easily see it as an adult thriller, with only a few minor changes. There is a degree of tension that starts slowly and builds to a lovely crescendo, with a surprising little twist of a medical nature that I didn't see coming. Free to Fall illustrates beautifully that the bogey man doesn't always come crashing through the door wielding an axe - sometimes he just slips quietly into your life through your phone!
Thanks so much to Megan at Goldberg McDuffie for sending me a copy of Free to Fall. I probably wouldn't have picked it up on my own, and I would have missed a winner.