Monday, May 28, 2007

Decisions, Decisions

I spent part of this afternoon reading Date Him or Dump Him: The Campfire Crush, by Cylin Busby (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, May 2007). It’s a “Choose Your Boyfriend Book,” one of those paperbacks where the reader gets to make decisions along the way. (For the record, I ended up dumping sort-of-a-jerk Seth and dating not-my-usual-type-but-very-sweet Eric.)

As a reader and a writer, I have mixed opinions on this type of book.

Pro: The story places you, the reader, in the story. The author does not give a name for the main character (you are supposed to use your own), and she uses a situation that is so general, any kid can relate to it (going to camp and meeting a bunch of new boys). I found myself transported back to my early teens, with all the insecurities and drama that period entailed.

Con: A few of the main character’s actions did not ring true for me. I found myself thinking, I would never do that, which took me out of the story. Still, given that the book is supposed to fit just about everyone who reads it, the author did a great job of tapping into experiences and emotions that are universal to tween girls.

Pro: It can be fun to direct the plot. I imagine this would be even more important for kids. There is so much they can’t control in their lives, being able to play Master of the Universe as they read would be a nice change.

Con: Half the fun of reading a book is not knowing what happens next. I found myself getting drawn into a story line and wondering where it would go, only to realize, Oh, yeah, it could go either way. I’m the one who decides. Kind of a letdown, for me, anyway.

Pro: The decisions the book asked me to make weren’t always easy. Side with your best friend or with the cute boy? Give sort-of-a-jerk Seth another chance or not? It made me think about Big Things such as my values and my self worth. I’m sure that would be even more pronounced for tweens. (The one exception to this was the question about whether I would try catch the snake in my cabin by myself or run for help. Um. Easy one.)

Con: Sometimes the choices presented didn’t accurately reflect what I would do. I had to pick “A” or “B,” when I knew in reality I would do something in between. On the other hand, being forced to choose did make me dig a little deeper inside to figure out my true feelings about things, so that was kind of cool.

As a kid, did you enjoy “choose your own ending” books? Any favorites?


Andie K. said...

I have a place in my heart for the choose your own adventure books, although I don't know if I'd have the patience to read them now. The only English assignment I ever enjoyed in school was in Grade 6 when we spent a whole semester writing our very own choose your own adventure book. That might even be why I write now.

LindaBudz said...

Wow, I wish I'd gone to your school! Sister Concepta never gave us cool assignments like that!

Andie K. said...

Oh don't worry, that was the only cool assignment we ever had.

Lauren said...

I used to read Choose your Own Adventure Books, and once I tried to write one about dolls and toys coming to life and the MC shrinking. I used to always go back and read every single decision that you could make, just to see what would have happened if I had picked something else. Choose your boyfriend sounds sort of interesting.

LindaBudz said...

Welcome, Lauren!

I don't think I ever even thought about writing a "choose your own" book ... maybe that'll have to be my next project. Could be interesting to try to do that with a mystery....

The Date Him or Dump Him books are going to be a series. The second one, "The Dance Dilemma," is coming out in August. Sounds as though Bloomsbury is planning some cool promo stuff for the series ... including possibly a Date Him or Dump Him quiz on their Web site (I was always a sucker for quizzes)!

Lauren said...

I looked them up and was trying to argue with my fiance about whether they were good or bad for girls. I think they're good, and I think I won. Yay!

I remember I somehow acquired a little booklet telling me how to write a Choose Your Own Adventure book. I still have it.

LindaBudz said...

Hah! Clearly Fiance feels threatened by the Date Him or Dump Him power we girls have! Better be extra nice to him for a while!

I think they are basically good, and they do include some healthy "lessons" (i.e., if you keep choosing to chase after a jerk or keep acting like an idiot to impress a guy, you eventually get burned ... yes, I read every possibly permutation as well!).