Choose Your Own Adventure. Remember those books? Interactive novels written in the second person, where you get to make choices that take the story in different directions. They were enormously successful in the 1980s and there have been many other books in a similar interactive vein (including my own series, You Choose). Writer/performer Nathan Penlington certainly remembers them. And they set him off on a real-life adventure documented in his book, The Boy in the Book.
At this point, dear reader, you may…
A: Go and buy the book I am reviewing
B: Continue reading my review…
One day, Nathan Penlington decides to buy a set of Choose Your Own Adventure books on eBay. It turns out that all 106 books were originally owned by the same person — a boy in the 1980s named Terence Prendergast. And it also turns out that Terence wrote in the books — just a few scribbled notes about his life. Inside the pages of one particular book, The Cave of Time, are four pages of a diary. In those four pages Terence writes about bullying, the things he wants to improve in his life, running away from home and suicide. Finding this diary sets Nathan Penlington off on an obsessive search — to find Terence and get answers to the questions posed by the notes and diary entries. Did Terence overcome the bullying? Did he actually run away from home? What sort of person is he now? Is he even still alive? Or did he kill himself?
I can’t tell you whether or not he finds Terence as I don’t want to spoil the book — you’ll need to read it if you want to find out. But I can tell you that he meets a number of other interesting people in his search, including a child psychologist, a historian working on a collection of diaries, a Graphologist (someone who analyses hand writing) and even Choose Your Own Adventure author Edward Packard. There is a fascinating bunch of people wandering in and out of the pages of this book.
Time for you to make another choice. Would you like to…
A: Check out Edward Packard’s website
B: Continue reading my review…
The Boy in the Book is a twisting, turning narrative that is full of surprises, never progressing in quite the way one would expect. Although it is the story of Penlington’s search for Terance Predergast, it is also very much his own story of obsession, something that is, perhaps, more fascinating than the search itself. It is a riveting, revealing read — a journey into Penlington’s past, a study of his obsessions and an examination of his thought-processes. A unique book, indeed.
I will admit to feeling a little cheated upon reading the Afterword where Penlington reveals:
“Everything you have just read is true, but almost a lie.”
It seems that this book is based on a documentary film/live experience called Choose Your Own Documentary. So, although the events of the book are true, they didn’t always happen in quite the way the book depicts. Those meetings and interviews, personal and intimate in the book, actually took place in front of a documentary film crew. Finding this out, for me, tarnished the magic just a little. But that doesn’t make the book any less interesting or any less worth reading. It is still an excellent book and you should all read it.
Finally, you get to choose what to do now that my review is complete…
Catch ya later, George
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