Very few things cause a fluttering in my heart and paper cuts between my fingers like "Choose Your Own Adventure" books. I remember when I first discovered them in a local bookstore. My parents took us on a rare trip - it's dangerous to lead an addict straight to the object of their addictions - and they had given us a strict budget. Looking back, it was likely $5 because paperbacks have always been an affordable option. That would have gotten me 2 books back in the day! (It was the 80's for anyone curious.)
I perused the shelves, walked right past The Baby-sitter's Club (which would become a later obsession), selected a Girl Talk book called "The New You", and stood in front of the Choose Your Own Adventure display trying to make the impossible decision of which one would come home with me. I remember racking my brain to see if I could remember which ones were already available to me at the school and public libraries. I had to pick just. the. right. one.
So when an author contacted me with the subject line "Want to help revive a genre?" and it turned out to be a grown adult version of CYOA, I could not reply fast enough. "The Friar's Lantern" by Greg Hickey was everything I hoped it would be and more. He treats the readers like the adults we are but also takes great care to keep with the CYOA tropes we all know and love. I found myself going back, just as I did with the books as a child, to certain decisions and going the other direction to see what would have befallen my character. I was pleased with my fantastic original decision that lead to my character winning a million dollars. Within this fun format, some real issues are discussed: grief, power of the mind, murder, and ethics of psychological experiments to name a few.
I highly recommend this book for anyone missing the CYOA nostalgia in your life but finding the originals now a bit unsatisfying. Who knows? You may win a million dollars!
How long has it been since I was really, genuinely bursting with excitement over a YA book?
Let me tell you: it's been awhile.
I don't know what clicked SO MUCH with "A Danger to Herself and Others" by Alicia Sheinmel, but it did. Could it be that I was reading in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep? Sure. But it comes down to the fact that it gave me a lot of thoughts and feelings as a reader. Isn't that the whole point of reading?
I love the unreliable narrator aspect - and I've rarely seen it executed this well. Hannah is very easy for me to connect and sympathize with. She has a lot of anxiety and coping mechanisms in place throughout the book that honestly seem pretty reasonable. Counting steps? Sure. Not hurting anyone by counting steps. I think that's why I was so blown away by the book. We see everything through Hannah's perspective and she's a worthy narrator.
The masterful storytelling is something that has me really excited to share "A Danger to Herself and Others" with my readers. April Henry fans will devour this book. Heck, I would read it again! (And I'm known for NOT re-reading books.) It's suspenseful, nothing comes out of left field without justification, and just...beautiful. Beautifully written.
Finally, that ending... I wanted to pull Hannah to me and hug her myself. Her parents were so distant and aloof that I could barely stand it. The author doesn't cave to my need to know Hannah is going to be alright. She lets it dangle in front of me without succumbing to the trend to put a pretty bow on every ending - especially when dealing with mental illness. I am thrilled that this book is in my library's collection and I cannot recommend it highly enough.