Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Free to fall by Lauren Miller

Sixteen year old Aurora "Rory" Vaughn has just been accepted to the Theden Academy, a unique high school that offers it graduating students the chance to do almost anything.  Being accepted is a dream come true for Rory, a chance at a bright future free of the constraints of her modest family income.  What Rory didn't know was that her mother also went the Theden Academy, something Rory only discovers because she chooses to go, if she had chosen to stay in Seattle she would never have known about the connection between her new school and her mother.  Going to Theden means leaving behind her best friend Beck and all she has ever known, but it is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Life at Theden is liberating and challenging, the teachers expect them to be grown up in their choices and decisions and grant them a great deal of freedom - but that freedom also comes with a few strings.  Rory quickly discovers that she is an anomaly even among the exceptional bright and gifted students at Theden.  Most of the students excel in three or four areas, but as a Hepta Rory excels in all areas and that brings the unwanted attention of some people.  As Rory settles into the routine at Theden she begins to hear the voice that should have faded away with her childhood, the voice of The Doubt, and each time she hears that voice Rory worries that she may be slipping into madness like her mother.  

Walking a knife edge of worry, Rory tries to stay on the straight and narrow, but that is easier said than done.  While exploring the local town with her room mate Hershey Rory meets North and discovers that she has led a rather sheltered life.  North avoids Lux and a lot of the trappings of the modern world, and it is through his eyes that Rory begins to understand some of the dangers lurking under the mundane and normal world she has always know.  When Rory uncovers a shocking secret she begins a race against time to stay alive long enough to uncover the entire secret and the people involved - before they decide to silence her in a quiet and convenient way.  In a world where Lux helps you make all the decisions, Rory is making the dangerous choice to think for herself and she wants people to have the same choice, but there are people in power who will stop at nothing to keep that from happening.

Free to fall is an intense psychological thriller, a mystery wrapped around an adrenaline ride of conspiracies, self doubt, and self discovery.  Through Rory's eyes we are introduced to a world set slightly in our future where people have hand held devices that contain their lives - identification  money, information - and the Lux app makes all the decisions for them based on their choices and preferences.  Life can be very easy with Lux, you can focus on living your life rather than making choices, and everyone uses it so you fit in with everyone else if you consult Lux.  There are a few weird people who don't use Lux, and there are those people who have dropped out of society, but on the whole people live their lives guided and connected by their hand helds.  Of course no society is perfect, and in this society The Doubt is a voice that prevents people from reaching their potential, a condition that becomes a serious mental illness if The Doubt survives into adulthood - or does it?

It is unusual to find a book that seems so clearly identifiable as part of a genre (dystopian in this case) that defies the conventions of the genre by being more than it appears on the surface.  When I picked up Free to fall and realised it was 469 pages long I almost put it down again because I wasn't really in the mood for a long read, but having read and enjoyed Miller's last book Parallel I thought I would give it a chance - and I am so glad I did because I ended up devouring the book in just over a day (it would have been less if I hadn't been interrupted by the need to work and sleep).  

There are a series of complex layers to Free to fall that make it a complete world and one that absorbs you completely - the characters are believable, the world is close enough to ours to be believable, and the mystery/thriller element is deftly executed.  This is a complex story, but not so complex that you can not keep track of what is happening  and there are enough twists and turns to keep it believable.  A thoroughly engrossing and mind blowing read, and it makes you wonder if there is already a company out there like the one in the book - conspiracy theorists would likely agree there is!

If you like this book then try:
  • Parallel by Lauren Miller
  • Asylum by Madeleine Roux
  • Proxy by Alex London
  • Revived by Cat Patrick
  • The rules by Stacey Kade
  • The here and now by Ann Brashares
  • Altered by Jennifer Rush
  • Mila 2.0 by Debra Drizer
  • Reboot by Amy Tintera
  • Don't turn around by Michelle Gagnon
  • Variant by Robison Wells
  • Burning blue by Paul Griffin
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth
  • What's left of me by Kat Zhang
  • Slated by Teri Terry

Reviewed by Brilla

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