How do you feel about sadness? Good? Great. If so, then you should feel right at home while reading Freewill by Chris Lynch. Because our narrator, seventeen-year-old Will, takes depression pretty much to its limits. Poor guy.
Oh wait… what's that? You don't like sadness? Well here's a secret: Neither does Will. It doesn't feel good—not at all—but it totally runs the show in his world. See, his mom died when he was a baby, and then his dad and stepmother died in a murder-suicide a year ago, and now everything is just. The. Worst. Ever.
Published in 2001, Freewill takes a seriously up-close and personal look at depression. Stuck inside Will's head for the duration of the story, readers get well acquainted with the seedier sides of his thoughts. Is it pretty? Nope. But it's definitely raw and super real.
And here's the thing about depression: It happens. Like, to a lot of us. Which is perhaps at least part of the reason it's received such mixed reviews (here's a good one, and here's one that begs to differ). This book tackles a tough topic, and it does so in an unusual way (second-person narration), which as a combination, has left readers with strong—if varied—feelings about it.
So whether you're someone who generally skips through life, or someone who knows just how hard it can be to get out of bed in the morning, crack open your copy of Freewill and see which side you fall on. The only way to know whether you love it or hate it, after all, is to read it.
Okay. We're about to get real with you, you ready?
About eleven percent of teenagers experience depression in some serious form by the time they're seventeen (source). We're not talking about feeling bummed because you get dumped, or sad because your best friend got into your dream college and you didn't—we're talking about depression proper, something that impacts your life in a very real and much-less fleeting way.
And this, Shmoopers, is why you should care about Freewill. This is Will's story, and Will is seriously struggling to get by on a daily basis. Does he have people who love him? Absolutely. Does he have a teacher who tells him he's awesome? Yup. But none of this matters because the weight he carries inside him is just too heavy.
Maybe you've struggled with depression yourself, and maybe you haven't. But with so many teens navigating it, you're bound to come up against it at some point, either in yourself or in someone you know. And when you do, maybe you'll remember Freewill and it will help you make sense of an otherwise super confusing and overwhelming time.
And if not, well, reading never hurt anybody. At least not that we know of. But then again, we love books.
Lynch's Home on the Web
Okay, technically this is his publisher's home, but still—it has some biographical info, as well as a round-up of his work.
A Teen's Guide for Depression
Feeling blue or know someone who is? This website can help you find the help you need.
The Lowdown on Frank Sinatra
In case you're not familiar with the guy, here's the dirt.
How Does Talking to You Make You Feel?
There is a reason Lynch uses the second person narration style to write about depression, and this article explores it in depth.
Lynch on What Inspired Him to Write Freewill
Lynch talks briefly about the story behind Freewill and—bonus—reads a section.
The King of Cool Singing "Summer Wind"
Will is haunted by the song "Summer Wind," which Frank Sinatra made into a hit in 1966. Find out what's so cool about it.
… gazing meaningfully at the ocean. Yes, seriously.
Not Sure What Free Will Is?
Then check out this comic. It sums it up pretty nicely.
The Old Cover Treatment
A simple cover, featuring the ocean.