A 21st century response to Walter Dean Myers's classic Lockdown, The Free takes a look inside juvie, where Isaac West is fighting for a second chance.
In the beginning, Isaac West stole to give his younger sister, Janelle, little things: a new sweater, a scarf, just things that made her look less like a charity case whose mother spent money on booze and more like the prep school girls he’s seen on the way to school.
But when his biggest job to date, a car theft, goes wrong, Isaac chooses to take the full rap himself, and he’s cut off from helping Janelle. He steels himself for 30 days at Haverland Juvenile Detention Facility. Friendless in a dangerous world of gangs and violent offenders, he must watch his every step.
Isaac’s sentence includes group therapy, where he and fellow inmates reenact their crimes, attempting to understand what happened from the perspective of their victims. The sessions are intense. And as Isaac pieces together the truth about the circumstances that shaped his life—the circumstances that landed him in juvie in the first place—he must face who he was, who he is . . . and who he wants to be.
About the Author
Lauren McLaughlin grew up in Wenham, Massachusetts, a small town outside of Boston. After college and a brief foray into anthropology, she spent ten years as a screenwriter and producer before turning her attention to novels. She is also the author of the YA novels Cycler, (Re)Cycler, and Scored, and the children’s picture book series Mitzi Tulane, Preschool Detective.
Praise for The Free
"A tight, claustrophobic novel that veers between the terror and camaraderie of incarceration; I don't know when I've read a more empathic novel, and it's been a long time since I read one that was more sorrowful and joyful at the same time." —Cory Doctorow, New York Times bestselling author of Homeland
“A spellbinding novel about crime, taking responsibility, and finding a new path to justice." —Scott Westerfeld, New York Times bestselling author of Uglies and Spill Zone
"A 16-year-old boy works to overcome a lifetime of obstacles in this riveting YA novel about life in 'juvie.' Brilliant." —Shelf Awareness, Starred Review
"A Boston-area youth in juvenile detention finds redemption in stories—his and his fellow inmates' . . . A penetrating look at the power in the stories we tell ourselves." —Kirkus Reviews
"Tightly woven, well-paced, emotionally framed, McLaughlin’s novel presents Isaac’s life: his irresponsible mother; his wonderfully brave younger sister; and what he is willing to do to provide Janelle with a safe environment. He has broken some laws and done some bad things, but he is the hero of this story." —VOYA
"The story is cinematically gritty, sort of a cross between Boys Town and Dead Poets Society, with lots of enjoyably dramatic breakthroughs in the therapy group and convincing details about racial and personal dynamics in detention (mixed-race Isaac has no obvious crew)." —The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Praise for Lauren McLaughlin
“Artfully fractured and wickedly smart, a brilliant screwball comedy about love, self-knowledge and the secret identities inside all of us.” —Scott Westerfeld
“The sci-fi plot is so unique, so downright weird, it will keep the pages turning.” —Chicago Tribune
“This original contemporary fantasy will circulate widely, leaving readers hoping that McLaughlin has many more such fresh, edgy books already in the editorial pipeline.” —Booklist
“A complex, philosophical exploration into gender politics and the mutability of identity.” —Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books