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?