If I Fall, If I Die is a unique story highlighting mental illness, resilience and love. It is the story of Will, a young boy who lives in Thunder Bay with his mother. His mother is unable to leave their home, unable to answer the door and sometimes unable to even leave her bedroom. When she enters the “black lagoon”, Will needs to care for her and becomes responsible for greeting the delivery men, changing lightbulbs and doing the laundry when she is unable to go down to the basement.
In the beginning, Will never leaves the safety inside his home. He had lives in a protected environment, sleeping with his mom, wearing a helmet and creating artistic “masterpieces” that his mother praised. One day while she was engaged in her relaxation techniques, Will went to the Outside and realized that nothing bad happened as he stepped out the door. He met a boy his age and his curiousity about the Outside was stoked.
Will demanded to go to school. He learned that the boy that he met had disappeared and started hanging out with Jonah, taking risks on skateboards, exploring Thunder Bay and trying to find the missing boy. As they searched, they became enmeshed in a seedy world of underground alcohol and met Titus, a homeless man down at the harbour with his own mental illness and his own secrets.
As the boys investigate their friend’s absence, they get to know Titus and Will’s mom slowly relives her past losses. Will begins to learn about his family, secrets are revealed and the family copes. I enjoyed this book – it is great to read Canadian stories and it was interesting to learn the perspective of the mom living with her mental illness and of Will who had become attuned with his mother’s phobia and adapted to her inside lifestyle. This is definitely worth picking up!