Saturday, November 10, 2012

Review: Meanwhile


I had heard about this amazing graphic novel Meanwhile by Jason Shiga a while ago, but had never bothered to track down a copy. And then, magically, during my first week at my new library job, I found it on the shelf! Clearly I was inheriting a cool collection from a really great librarian :)

I immediately picked it up and started in on the game. You see, Meanwhile is not like any other graphic novel, where you read from panel to panel, moving along the pages in some kind of order and getting a story out of it. No, this is a choose-your-own-adventure spiraling book of craziness.

It all starts with a simple question: chocolate or vanilla? Each choice you make (some as silly as chocolate or vanilla, some earth-shatteringly important) moves the story to another place. You move back and forth through the pages by following paths and flipping to different tabbed pages. You can see from the picture above that vanilla takes you to the light-teal page, while chocolate takes you to the dark-teal page.


The decisions you make quickly become more complicated, however. The page above shows a scene in which you need to enter the correct code on a machine to make it work. Each choice along the way can change the story, so you have to pay attention to what you're doing and where the path you choose actually goes.

There are 3856 story possibilities (so the cover states, at least). I barely got through a fraction of them. In fact, I found that there were whole pages that I was missing, so I did some tricky reverse-engineering to actually see how to get to them.

Is the story amazing? No; I mean, it's cute and fun, but the story is not what I'm going to remember this book for. The storytelling, however, is epic; it's truly not about the destination but how you get there. I want Shiga to produce another one of this ASAP :)

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