Page 45 Review by Stephen
Haha! Once again I issue the dire warning:
THIS BOOK IS NOT SUITABLE FOR YOUNG ONES!
Oh, it looks as though it should be since it is indeed an interactive Choose Your Own Adventure story and stars yourself as a cute kitten.
I explain all and at great length in my review of YOU ARE A CAT! PICK A PLOT BOOK 1 which is still in print and in stock at the time of typing. You can view this as its prequel if you like, though in order to do so you're going to have to survive this experience and you may find the odds stacked against you.
Remember: there are terrible people in this world! You are about to encounter some.
Just like your childhood favourites, this is illustrated prose. But there is a comicbook equivalent in the form of Jason Shiga's ingenious MEANWHILE which is suitable for all ages. Its panels are linked together in a Spaghetti Junction of tubes which take you back and forth throughout the book using the tabs that stick out from its laminated pages leading almost inevitably towards Doomsday. "3,856 story possibilities" declares the front cover, but only one road leads to happiness. Which is a poor reflection on life and not something you should tell small children.
This kicks off with an evocation of your first bleary-eyed experiences of the world, the initial sensations of your siblings huddled together and being licked in turn by your mother's tongue. Accompanied by an illustration seen from your own blurred point of view, it's beautifully written, placing you firmly in your new, soft-padded, fluffy paws.
"You cry out again. Your voice is a dull, inchoate noise mingling with the low-level buzz.
"After a while it's not so cold anymore. Something large and warm is close by, radiating heat, and you move towards it. You are aware of other bodies, also warm, also moving around you. You follow a deeply satisfying smell toward her.
"Under her fur, the soothing lub-dub of her heart pulsing against your face. The rhythm is a faint echo of the same beat that used to surround you, that was your whole world. It feels so far off now."
It's going to feel a lot further off very shortly.
Not all kittens in a litter are wanted, and not all couples owning cats should do so.
I can't bear to break your hearts by continuing so instead I turn to Tija's feature in the back: a guide to creating your own interactive adventure which is a great deal more complicated than it looks. The good news is that Sherwin has already written three so he's encountered the logistical nightmare which is assigning page numbers etc and solved it.
Equally as important is remembering that these interactive adventures at their best are "empathy machines": you're placed in someone else's shoes - those who may face difficult choices - and some may really make you think. Thinking about those choices when creating them is vital: offer obvious ones, advises Tija, and their opposites. "Then offer the offbeat and the outlandish." Sherwin is a master of subverting expectations as you may have gathered by now! "Try to offer choices that would appeal to different personality types."
Too many strands will leave you with an unwieldy 3,000-page epic, so "funnelling is your friend". Astutely he compares the mapping to capillaries in your body rather than the almost infinite branching of trees, for capillaries leave its arteries, divide further as they supply your muscles etc with oxygen and nutrients (possibly - it's over three decades since I studied Biology A Level) then regroup and rejoin the main flow as veins.
Also advised are options to jump from one strand of the story to another at intervals; cautioned against to avoid reader frustration is the "try and die" experience. What I'd never thought about are orphan pages: the mischievous incorporation of excerpts which no roads lead to at all!
At eight pages in relatively small print, the guide is far more detailed than I've room to go into here and could lead to some exceptionally fun school projects. Just not the main body of work. Oh my days, no!