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? Fast-forward to a time when Apple and Google have been replaced by Gnosis, a monolith corporation that has developed the most life-changing technology to ever hit the market: Lux, an app that flawlessly optimizes decision making for the best personal results. Just like everyone else, sixteen-year-old Rory Vaughn knows the key to a happy, healthy life is following what Lux recommends. When she’s accepted to the elite boarding school Theden Academy, her future happiness seems all the more assured. But once on campus, something feels wrong beneath the polished surface of her prestigious dream school. Then she meets North, a handsome townie who doesn’t use Lux, and begins to fall for him and his outsider way of life. Soon, Rory is going against Lux’s recommendations, listening instead to the inner voice that everyone has been taught to ignore — a choice that leads her to uncover a truth neither she nor the world ever saw coming.
Free to FallFeaturedHot
Free to Fall takes place 20 years in the future. The world’s not all that different. Apple has been replaced in cell phone dominance by a company called Gnosis, most famous for their Lux App. Lux does Siri one better. Lux doesn’t just look things up for you; Lux will tell you what to do. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m a really indecisive person a lot of the time. Which movie should I watch? What book should I read? Should I go out to a bar with my friends or stay home and practice the hermit lifestyle? There have been times where I wished someone or something would make these choices for me, to spare me all the time spent mulling and fretting over choices. That is what Lux does.
Needless to say, Lux is really popular, and almost everyone has a Gnosis handheld. People live guided by Lux, and their lives are bettered for that. If you listen to Lux, you’ll maintain a healthy diet and make safe, non-destructive choices. Rory (short for Aurora) trusts Lux much more than herself, and worries about her best friend Beck, an artist, who refuses to use the app, preferring to follow The Doubt.
The Doubt is a little hard to quantify, something like intuition or conscience but possibly coming from something else. That point’s not really settled. In Rory’s day, this internal voice is called The Doubt and it’s been classified as a mental disorder. Listening to Lux and keeping the brain active should prevent The Doubt from speaking up. The foundation of Free to Fall deals with these two voices and the question of what they are and which to trust.
Free to Fall is very plot-heavy. There’s romance, a sweet if not for me swoony one, but Miller’s first focus is on the actual story. 470 pages went by pretty quickly, full of intellectual puzzles and tough ethical questions. It’s very nerd-fascinating. Nerdinating? Anyway, the characters are all brilliant. Rory, for example, recited the Fibonacci sequence to fall asleep. There were a couple of instances where Rory didn’t put together obvious things as quickly as I did, but they were mostly related to relationships with people. She rocks class.
The plot follows pretty predictable lines, but I think Miller did it very well. The characters seem more prepared than YA heroes and heroines often do. They plan, they think things through, and they put survival above kissing. Also, I love that Free to Fall isn’t anti-technology, but does recommend consideration of how much we let technology rule our lives.
What Left Me Wanting More:
The only drawback for me was that there wasn’t as much focus on characterization as I like in my books. Rory’s great and North is a fabulously unique love interest. Hershey, Rory’s roommate, has an amazing character arc. Otherwise, though, I think a lot of the characters get dropped as the plot picks up. I loved Rory’s friendship with Beck at the beginning, but he becomes a sidenote. Even Hershey sort of drops off the map. Though the romance doesn’t overwhelm the plot, the focus does narrow to just Rory and North, making me feel like other characters didn’t get fitting endings or were written off entirely.
The Final Verdict:
Miller’s Free to Fall imagines a world where our phones can make choices for us, a frighteningly believable and tempting conception. It’s a surprisingly quick read for almost five hundred pages, and I definitely want more Lauren Miller novels.
I am glad that the story starts before she's at Theden. We get a glimpse of the life that has shaped her. A mother who died when she was a baby, a dad and stepmother, being obsessed with school, grades, and having her life just so. But I also like that she was drawn to Beck, the free spirit, who still hears his conscious, which meds and meditation has labeled The Doubt--when your brain makes you doubt perfectly reasonable things. He is a photographer, and has been her best friend.
It was neat and different at Theden at first, with Rory rooming with a girl from her high school that she hadn't really even talked to before, who disappears in the middle of the night and acts like they are besties. Their adviser has these pods that does simulations and it puts them in the middle of dramatic situations and sees what they'll do. Their relationship throughout this one really surprised me. I didn't think there was much depth to Hershey, and at times she surprises me both way. Also, the part that Dr. Tarsus, their adviser, plays in this one reminded me of another famous teacher and student situation and dynamics.
With secret societies, lies and mysteries from Rory's past, Free to Fall takes us on a wild ride. Rory has to figure out who is with her, who is clueless, and who is working behind the scenes and realize what about Lux and Gnosis is more than it seems. Some of it wasn't expected and others I could guess about halfway through.
I liked the romance. There was automatic chemistry and tension and I liked North, that he was different and that he challenged Rory to think for herself and open her eyes to things around her. North had so many mysteries and at times I even began to mistrust him, but the circumstances ended up only making me like and respect him even more. I think that he and Rory are good for each other. He is smart and though it seems like he is classes below her, there is definitely more under the surface and he can keep her on her toes academically as well as with real life matters.
The ending wrapped things up well for me, and I was pleased with the depth of the plot and how things unfolded. The setting, the tech, the romance and the plot were all excellent and entertaining.
Bottom Line: Smart and easy to root for heroine.