Semi regularly I type in skateboard novels into google. I need to see what is coming out and make sure my novel is still original. Sometimes titles show up, and I’ve gotten some good reads. In the past few years I’ve read, A Room with No Windows by Scott Bourne Hobbs, Death to the Readers by Bob ‘Shaggy’ Crawford, Remember Me Like This by Brett Anthony Johnson, and now If I fall, If I Die by Michael Christie. Except for the Hobbs book all of these novels share skateboarding as part of the story line for their novels.
I noticed a similarity that these novels all go for the nuances of skateboarding, the feeling generated by skating, and a way for readers to relate to that. Skateboard terminology and jargon takes a back seat, and the other parts of the characters lives are highlighted. These authors have sponsored skateboard backgrounds, they are more defined by skateboarding than I am, and very much made the decision not to include skateboard terminology in their work.
These books are different from mine. Two are literary coming of age stories, and the other two are lifestyle books of urban adult men. Part of my dystopian novel is competition, so perhaps that forces me to use skateboard terminology for tricks. But these published authors obviously avoided doing so, and maybe I should think over their approach as I revise. Maybe there is a right way and a wrong way to write about skateboarding. Enough about me, let’s get to the novel by Michael Christie.
If I fall, If I Die is an emotional novel to read. The skateboarding only comes to play halfway through the novel. The mother of the eleven-year old protagonist, Will Cardiel, has agoraphobia, and she does not go out of their house. Neither does he. One day he heard a noise and ventured outside. A foster kid hit Will with a slingshot but then they talked. Then that foster kid goes missing, and Will wants to find him.
Will decides to go to school. The setting of this novel is unique. It’s a Great Lakes town called Thunder Bay in Canada. It’s poor, and has conflict between the townies and the nearby Indians on a reservation. Will starts to explore Thunder Bay, with an Indian kid named Jonah. Jonah teaches Will skateboarding, and they unravel secrets of the town as they search for their missing friend.
I recommend this book because it’s psychological, and gets into the thinking of the agoraphobic mother, and the awkwardness of the protagonist from that isolation growing up. The story takes place in the late 80’s to 90’s. The only true time reference is the skateboard deck and video selections, and the lack of cell phones. Also, in the last few pages there is a passage of how skateboarders are the ones from broken homes, the disenfranchised, or the crazy kids. Those last few pages make it beneficial for all skaters to read.
Michael Christie’s skate part.
Don’t take my work for it, this novel got a NYT review.