Study Guide

Freewill

Freewill Summary

Will questions the idea of faith, and wonders why fate has rewritten his life story, transforming it into CSI material, complete with a crime scene and dead parents. Seems like a pretty reasonable response to such a terrible development.

On top of this, Will's been assigned to a school for kids with issues and is forced to live with his grandparents. Impressed by his woodworking skills, Will's woodshop teacher, Mr. Jacks, asks him to make more of the gnome-like sculptures he's been busy making. Despite his teacher's enthusiasm, though, Will is not impressed by anything, especially himself—he thinks he makes people uncomfortable.

Will meets Angela and discovers they speak the same language. They aren't interested in finding friends or in trying to make a good impression on anyone, and she is drawn to his moody demeanor, though she isn't quick to trust him because he offers very few details about himself. Whatever landed him here in this school is still a mystery to her.

Will ruminates on many things: suicide, death, knowledge, fate versus choice, and the way things are supposed to be. He is notably perturbed when two local kids are found dead by apparent suicide and wonders why people can't stop creating more sadness. And then one of his wooden whirligigs is found near where the dead kids are discovered.

Will goes to the beach, his favorite place to be alone, and finds the head of a fish, which has significance for him. Pops discovers him there and the two get into an emotional tug of war about Will's dead father. Will confronts Pops about being stuck in the school for dead-enders and tells him he's not crazy and he wants out.

Mr. Jacks asks Will to make another wooden gnome for his mother, saying that he's been "losing his way" (561) and that the world needs more "gnomes, whirligigs and furniture" (575) from him. Will goes home and doesn't leave the house for three days, until Angela stops by the house, concerned about his well being. Will finally gives Angela the details of his parents' death, then he takes a shower, which brings him back to life, and the two go for a walk. They visit the spot where the teens died and plant two of his wooden sculptures in the sand.

Will hears on the radio news that two more teens have committed suicide, their bodies found drowned in the bay. The police are investigating the connection between the deaths and the wooden sculptures, two of which were found nearby. A reporter calls the house, and Will admits he planted the sculptures but says he doesn't know the kids or how they died. He and the reporter meet at the beach—and Will punches him in the face when he gets nasty and unprofessional.

The next morning, a detective visits the house and questions Will about the incident and the sculptures. Will goes to the hospital for x-rays and comes home with his hand in a splint and—finally—medication for his depression. Will doesn't want to start taking meds, but realizes that he needs help and could use some of that peace-of-mind business he's heard about.

Mr. Jacks confronts Will, who wants to leave the program, and tells him he can't leave until he gets a medical evaluation. At home, Will receives a mysterious call from an anonymous male caller asking, "Who's next?" which is super creepy. Will asks if the caller has been stealing the sculptures and placing them around town and gets only a chorus of snickering voices in response. Eek.

Will has a heated conversation with Angela at a school track meet; she tells him to grow up. Later, Angela finds a sculpture in her yard and asks Will what's up… but Will doesn't know. Both he and Angela are officially creeped out, and trying to figure out why the objects are showing up in various locations. The next morning Will wakes to find thirty of the wooden statues in his front yard, along with a sign that reads "NEXT?" on it. Dun dun dun…

Pops and Will exchange harsh—but honest—words about their familial predicament. Another mystery caller asks if Angela is going to be the next dead one. He and the caller meet at the beach and wrestle one another to the ground. Will scares the guy and he runs away, and in this moment, Will recognizes his own power, courage, and authority. You go, Will.

Will goes for a swim and realizes that he is not responsible for his father's death and that people love him and things are going to get better. He returns home with a better attitude, finally able to admire all of his beautiful wooden whirligigs and no longer frightened by them.

  • Chapter 1

    Faith

    • Will, our disheartened narrator, questions the idea of faith. In fact, he questions everything.
    • What kind of cosmic fate has assigned him to this situation, forced into woodshop class, surrounded by people he really doesn't know, or want to know, in this program for kids with issues? Why should we have faith that things will get better if all we can see is evidence that they won't?
    • Will's teacher, Mr. Jacks, is impressed by Will's woodworking skills.
    • Will, however, is not impressed by anything, especially himself.
    • He wants things to be the way things are supposed to be, a.k.a. normal.
    • Will meets Angela in woodshop.
    • Angela isn't quick to trust Will because he makes cryptic remarks about his past and withholds personal details about himself; his inability to talk about himself honestly makes him seem out of touch and disturbed.
    • Will admires Angela's blunt nature and disinterest in pleasing people. She straight-up tells him she doesn't need friends.
    • Angela is both annoyed by—and drawn to—Will's mysterious and "moody-broody" (366) demeanor.
    • At the grocery store, Will wonders why he should have to shop for his grandparents, whom he regrettably lives with.
    • Why can't he just have a normal life? Is he an imposition to them?
    • He runs into Angela and they engage in some good, old-fashioned awkward conversation.
    • He tells her that he shops for his grandparents and she apologizes for intruding in his personal life, as if she knows something about why he doesn't live with his parents.
    • She leaves and he trails her around the store hoping to make a better impression.
    • Back at school, Mr. Jacks commends Will for his wood work and tells him to keep up the good job, most of which Will claims he doesn't remember doing.
    • Will tells Mr. Jacks that he doesn't want to be doing this, that he had planned to be a pilot, not a guy who spends hours and hours making "fat-faced little gnomes" (470).
    • Mr. Jacks offers condolences to Will for what happened to his parents, and says he is truly sorry for what he's been through.
    • Will hears on the radio that a local girl has drowned and her death might have been a suicide, but no one knows for sure.
    • Duh. What does anyone know for sure anyway?
    • The fact that the police don't know if the girl took her own life or if there was foul play haunts Will, though it's not clear why.
    • How can anyone ever really know anything for sure unless they are inside someone's head? Suicide always involves gray area.
    • And then another dead teenager is discovered—this one, clearly a suicide.
    • Will wonders what's wrong with people and why they don't realize they are doomed by patterns established before they were born.
    • It seems safe to say at this point that Will isn't exactly a chipper guy.
  • Chapter 2


     Hope

    • Welcome to the beach, a place that Will loves. Wait, what was that? Will loves something? Indeed, apparently he does.
    • Will shares a moment with the severed head of a fish, which brings him joy. To each his own, we supposed.
    • His peace of mind is interrupted by Pops nagging him about school and life issues.
    • Pops asks Will about the gnomes, which are disappearing from the classroom, and the two get into an emotional tug of war over Will's dead father.
    • Will confronts Pops about being placed in the school for "dead-enders" (515), and asks him to put him back in a normal school. Pops ignores his plea, but Will pushes him.
    • Pops mentions an agreement the two had, something about Will trying to "get normal" (523)… whatever that means.
    • Will wonders whether there will be a third death in town since "things always happen in threes" (548).
    • Mr. Jacks asks Will to make a gnome for his mother and tells him the gnomes are his best work.
    • After Mr. Jacks remarks that Will has been "losing his way," Will ruminates on his present state, noting that he is emotionally wrecked, that one day he had parents "of a sort" (568), and the next day he didn't.
    • He wonders why people think of him as disturbed when the more obviously disturbing thing is the fact "somebody might have topped somebody and then did himself in," a vague reference to his parents' mysterious death that makes it sounds more like a murder-suicide than an accident.
    • Will ruminates on the concept of idleness versus being productive after Mr. Jacks asks him to stick to making more gnomes.
    • Following a brief conversation with Angela, Will contemplates friendship, loneliness, and being alone while surrounded by other people.
    • Will suggests that his gnome is a monument to the meaning of life, which is… uh, er… ? Yeah, good question.
    • At home, Will brings the television into his room, eats dinner, and doesn't leave the house for three days.
    • He thinks about death, and comes to the conclusion that his grandfather is afraid of feeling and therefore can't communicate about his feelings to Will.
    • Angela visits and asks Will why he's been missing classes—she is worried about him.
    • Will finally discloses some of the details of his parents' death: His father drove off the road into the water with his stepmother in the car.
    • Frank Sinatra, whom his father adored, died shortly after that.
    • Will tells Angela he thinks his father was "some kind of carrier pigeon of death" (689).
    • When Angela asks whether it was a surprise, an accident, or a mistake, Will tells her that he believes his father's intention was to kill himself and his wife, and also that his birth mother died about a year after Will was born.
    • Will is glad that Angela doesn't feel pity for him like he thinks most people do. She also makes it clear that she doesn't "like" him. Go you two.
    • Will takes his first shower in three days, remembers how much he loves taking showers, and tells himself that he must never forget this fact. He is, in a word, rejuvenated.
    • Angela persuades Will to get out of the house and go for a walk.
    • Will struggles to convince Angela he does indeed have a sense of humor.
    • They visit the spot where the two teenagers died, and find that one of Will's sculptures has been placed there.
    • Angela tells Will her favorite literary quote: "I love humanity, it's just people, make me want to puke."
    • They plant two of Will's wooden sculptures in the sand.
  • Chapter 3

     Charity 

    • Two more teens commit suicide. Yikes, right? Their bodies are found drowned in the bay… and nearby the site are two wooden sculptures.
    • Will hears on the radio that police are investigating the placement of the sculptures, but have not determined whether the teens who died placed them there.
    • Will starts to freak out, thinking he or his sculptures are somehow responsible for the deaths. His grandmother tries to convince him there's no way he could… ahem, will something like that to happen.
    • The phone is ringing off the hook—Will refuses a call from Mr. Jacks, then overhears Pops answering odd questions.
    • When he discovers it's a reporter from the local news, he answers a few of his questions.
    • Will tells the reporter that he made the sculptures and put them in the sand, but…
    • Ignoring his grandparents' fear that he might implicate himself as a suspect, Will agrees to meet the guy at the beach.
    • Will tells the reporter he planted the sculptures but has no idea how the two kids died.
    • The reporter tells Will there is a rumor going around that some kind of cult is involved in the recent deaths, and wants to know what the "Nazi goth penis weird whatevers"—he can't quite find the words wooden sculptures in his vocabulary—mean.
    • Suggesting that the police are going to hunt Will down, the reporter tries to scare Will in an effort to coax an explanation out of him.
    • Will gives the guy nothing, though, asks him not to make stuff up, then runs away.
    • The reporter baits him further, implying there is a connection between Will's parents' murder-suicide and the suicides happening around town.
    • Now in a rage, Will turns back and hits the reporter, knocking both of them to the ground.
    • Surprised by his own aggression, Will gets up and walks away as the reporter shouts insults at him.
    • Back in his room at home, Will ruminates over his unusual and unfortunate circumstances while he ices his swollen hand.
    • The next morning, a detective by the name of Lieutenant Dahl visits the house and questions Will about the incidents, asking him if he might be a "teenage prophet of death" (1118).
    • Will tells him he is not a prophet, but perhaps "a carrier pigeon of death" (1032), and that he's worried that kids are coming to his sculptures to do this.
    • Will goes to the hospital for x-rays and returns with his hand in a splint and medication.
    • While he knows it is admirable to resist taking the meds, Will realizes that he needs help and decides he could use some of that peace of mind stuff.
    • Ready to be done with all of this, Will heads to school to clean out his locker.
    • Mr. Jacks confronts him, though, and tells him he doesn't think he's ready to be out of the program.
    • Will disagrees, and since he needs a medical clearance to leave, he gets himself examined and questioned by a nurse.
    • Once Will is cleared, Mr. Jacks interrogates him about his sculptures. Thing is, though, that Will has no idea why they've all disappeared or where they might be going—someone must be taking them.
    • At home Will receives a mysterious call from an anonymous raspy-voiced male asking, "who's next?"
    • The caller tells Will that he's famous… like Jesus (1160), and calls him an Angel.
    • Will hears the Frank Sinatra song "Summer Wind" playing in the background, and asks that the caller reveal his identity and tell him where the sculptures are being taken.
    • In response, all he hears is a chorus of snickering voices. Creepy.
    • When someone asks Will to tell them who will be next, Will finally hangs up the phone.
    • Will heads to the school track meet to find Angela, who has just won an event.
    • The two have an awkward conversation in which Will asks if she would miss him if he were gone and she refuses to directly answer his trick question but instead calls him out on the practice of trick questions, which she confesses to believe is part of his woe-is-me act which at this point she's pretty tired of.
    • Did we say awkward? Perhaps we meant uncomfortable.
    • This gives Angela an opportunity to express her frustration with Will and his withholding nature, which is driving her nuts. He's evaded her questions since day one and she's sick of it—among other insults, Angela tells Will to "grow up!" (1232).
    • Will returns to his safe spot—a.k.a. the beach—to do some more ruminating.
    • He is surprised to see Angela, who is holding one of the wooden sculptures and curious how it ended up in her front yard. Will has no clue.
    • The two are equally freaked-out by the whole ordeal, and Will assures her he will make it stop.
    • When he gets home, Will's grandmother tells him he looks bad—and though she says he needs more sleep, we're thinking he needs less creepiness around his sculptures.
    • The next morning, Will wakes up to find his front yard covered in wooden statues, along with a sign with the word NEXT? written on it.
    • Will's grandparents want to know what's going on, as grandparents are inclined to do, and if Will has been taking his medication.
    • Pops and Will get into it again when Will reminds him that he is not his son but his grandson.
    • Gran smacks him for saying such a mean thing and finally raises her voice at him saying, "[…] and I am not your mother, or your father. And you are not your father. Nobody is him anymore" (1335), which is certainly a true statement on her part.
    • Silence falls over the yard filled with gnomes… that is, until it's broken by Pops and Will yelling. Pops goes on about life and fate and how some people have it harder than others and some people fall but they pick themselves up or, if they're lucky, someone is there to help them get up off the ground. Pops, it seems, has some things to get off his chest when it comes to Will and his attitude.
    • Will gets another freaky prank call with a Sinatra soundtrack—and this time, the caller wants to know why Angela isn't dead.
    • Will has an a-ha (or oh no) moment, and asks the guy to meet him at the beach.
    • The freaky prank-caller dude shows up at the beach in a black leather jacket and matching cap, wanting to know who is going down next.
    • With a sudden life-altering burst of mojo, Will wrestles the black jacket and cap guy to the ground and gets him in headlock, then attempts to push him into the ocean, pretending to be a killer.
    • The guy in the black cap runs away, and with a sudden mood-enhancing burst of insight, Will recognizes his own power, courage, and authority. In this moment, Will is the man.
    • So he goes for a swim, at which point he realizes that not only is he not alone, but he is also not responsible for his father—or anyone else's—deaths. And you know what else? People love him and things are going to get better.
    • A wet Will returns home to dry off, greet his grandparents with a better attitude, and admire all of his beautiful wooden fat-faced little gnome whirligigs.