Free to Fall by Lauren Miller
“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?”
(summary from goodreads.com)
3.6 stars out of 5
***I’ll try to keep this review as vague as possible to avoid spoilers, but that being said there might be some light spoilers in this post that I don’t realize are spoilers. You’ve been warned***
Free to Fall by Lauren Miller takes place about 20 years from now in a world where Apple and Google have been dethroned by a company called Gnosis who dominate the cell phone and technology market. Their phones have an app called Lux, which is like Siri’s scary older sister. Lux makes all of a users decisions for them, from what to eat, to where to go to school, to who they should date. Using a complex formula designed to keep the user happy Lux takes the difficulty of choice out of life. It can be helpful in many instances, such as if a person has a severe food allergy they no longer have to worry because if they scan what they’re about to eat and Lux can warn them about allergens. However, the ease of life Lux provides reduces the need for individual thought. Aurora Vaughn starts the book like everyone, blissfully addicted to her phone and the convenience of Lux. When she gets accepted to a prestigious boarding school in Massachusetts called Theden, secrets from her (dead) mother’s past start to catch up to her and make her question what she knows about the world. As well, she meets and starts to fall for North, a resident of the town that neighbors Theden, who rejects all technology the two team up to discover what the cost of Lux truly is. My favorite part of the book was definitely the setting. It started in Seattle and then moved to a suburb of Boston. I could easily identify with the scenes once Rory went to school because New England suburbs all start to look the same after a while, small and boring, surrounded by people who can be a little stuck up. What really impressed me about the setting was the way Miller handled the dystopian aspect of the novel. This dystopia wasn’t a result of some horrible collapse of the government, war, disease, or any other reason that is usually present in dystopian novels. That’s usually my main issue with this genre is that they often lack good explanations for what happened. The dystopian society in this book is a result of evolving and changing technology, to the point that it takes away all freedom of choice. In today’s iPhone and technology-obsessed society this doesn’t seem too unrealistic. As well, the future it takes place in isn’t too far off. Rory’s mother graduated high school in 2013, which is the same year I graduated high school, so at the point that this novel is taking place, I would likely still be alive which isn’t something that can be imagined in a lot of dystopian novels. Miller did a fantastic job of crafting a future that is just far-fetched enough to be fictional and enjoyable while hitting close enough to home that there is a sense of uneasiness after reading the book. My least favorite part of this book was the lack of character development. There were some really great characters in this book, don’t get me wrong, but I also think there were a lot of characters that had so much potential that was never fully realized. The character that I thought was best developed was Hershey, Rory’s roommate. At first she’s written as the spoiled, vapid, boy-obsessed, party-girl who seemed would be Rory’s foil. As the story unfolds she begins to develop into an intelligent, fierce, and loyal character who becomes Rory’s best friend at school. I loved (or at least wanted to love) Beck, Rory’s best friend in Seattle, but he was almost completely forgotten about once Rory left for school. After Rory goes to school he functioned more as a convenient plot point, only there to move the conflict forward, and not a living breathing character. Dr. Tarsus was another great, nuanced character, but her development happened way to fast. She almost completely changed in the last few pages of the book and if the author had slowed down, I think her character could have been a lot better, but her ending left me unsatisfied, as she like Beck turned more into a plot point. The two main character Rory and North were for the most part likable. Rory is your typical smart, kind of nerdy girl who follows the rules and doesn’t question what’s told of her. North is the opposite, a rebel and against the technology that controls the life of so many. North makes Rory think about the implications of the technology. My issue with these two characters was that Miller would often mention character traits about the two characters that wouldn’t been seen again until it was necessary of the plot for them to be seen. A lot of what is supposed to be their “main” character details seemed inconsistent. I liked the way Miller handled their relationship. It wasn’t only because of North that Rory started to question the society she lived in. It was clues from her dead mother’s past, hints from peers at her school, and inconsistencies in her daily life that also further her curiosity. As well, their love story was a secondary plot to the mystery of the novel and not the main point, which I liked. Most of the secondary characters weren’t memorable or distinct, and functioned more like plot points to the story than anything else. I had some issues with the pacing of the novel nearing the last 40% of the book. The first 60% was fast paced, interesting, and captivating. Around the 65% mark though I noticed that it slowed down and started to drag a little, not so much that I ever stopped reading, but in the way that I felt it was repetitive. Then with about 20% left it picked up really rapidly again and everything was resolved in a flash and it wasn’t explained as well as I would have wanted. Then as soon as everything was resolved it flashed to an epilogue where everything was almost happily ever after and it was told what happened to the world. I would have liked less explaining and more showing. I think some of the time where the novel dragged could have been taken out to make the ending evolved at a smoother pace. Overall I really did enjoy this book. It was a fun, quick read. Perfect for the summer. I would really recommend this book to people who want a good summer read, especially to bring to the beach.
***All images were taken from google and in no way belong to me***