Meanwhile by Jason Shiga
(Harry N, Abrams, 2010)
A “Choose Your Own Adventure” Novel For The Age
Jason Shiga, the author of Meanwhile, is an Asian American cartoonist. He is famous in literary circles due to the fact that he incorporates mysteries and puzzles in his work. It’s this unconventional narrative style that he uses that makes his stories so much fun to read. Jason grew up in Oakland, California, and his father, Seiji Shiga, was an animator before him. Jason graduated from the University of Berkeley with a major in mathematics. He is known as the “Maze Specialist” for his publication of a maze on the front cover of “McSweeney’s Quarterly.” He’s a master at creating difficult things such as Meanwhile. The book has 3856 different story possibilities with a huge amount of choices within the story. I imagine it would be hard to keep track of every choice and scenario, which is why Meanwhile is one of the works he is most known for.
This book is a “choose your own adventure” novel. This means that the reader has the ability to change the overall story. Usually these kinds of books will start off with a scenario, and the reader would then have to choose which path to go. In the case of Meanwhile, the scenario starts off with a kid going to an ice cream shop, and the reader would then have to choose the kind of ice cream he/she wants for the main character. From there, the story starts to get even more ridiculous. There will be a different scenario for every choice, which ends up leading to a different outcome each time the reader goes through the book. After selecting the chocolate ice cream you meet a scientist. He later asks if you want to play with some of the inventions he created. There are now three choices to make between the inventions he created: the time machine, SQUID, and the Killatron. All three machines lead to different scenarios. The story may sometimes repeat itself, and you could get stuck in a loop, but that’s the fun in this book. With each invention you do pick, there are wild stories that unfold. The story becomes more interesting because of these silly scenarios that the main character ends up in. The best part is that the reader shapes the story. After going through the book several times, all the endings need to be found. The story has this grasp, and it will make the reader want to find the ultimate ending, an ending that you helped craft.
I honestly love this book. This is the first “choose your own adventure” novel I ever picked up, and now I want more. The book is great at what it does: confuse, frustrate, intrigue, and delight the reader all at the same time. I read it for the first time and I was determined to find all the endings the book had to offer from then on. Things get really silly, whacky, disastrous, and even sad, but it’s a great story overall. I give this book a 5 out of 5. This is because I honestly had a really good time reading this book. I can probably say that that has never happened before which is why the Meanwhile is amazing.
Zaki Refai is a student at Indian Springs School.