Presenting engagements (including reviews) of poetry books & projects. Some issues also offer Featured Poets, a "The Critic Writes Poems" series, and/or Feature Articles.

Saturday, May 2, 2015



Meanwhile by Jason Shiga
(Harry N. Abrams, 2010)

You are in charge of the plot

It is YOU. It is you who decides what is going on in the book. It is you who chooses the next step and it is you who is responsible for the death of the character. In Meanwhile you make the choices. The book is split is up with thousands of different adventures and most of them end with death and disaster. To be exact; the reader has 3,856 story possilities and he is in charge of choosing the right one.

          Meanwhile was written by Jason Shiga and is a Choose your own adventure story and ergodic literature. It is a comic with in which you decide what is going on. First, before I am going to talk about the basic plot of the book, let me explain how you read this special book. In Meanwhile every panel is connected to a thin tube. The tubes may travel to the left or the right, to the bottom or to the top. Sometimes a tube splits into two or more paths. When this happens the reader has to choose which part he want to go.

            Some tubes also lead of the page onto a tab on a different page in the book. If this happens, just simply turn to the tabbed page. Meanwhile also contains different codes that allow you to access different parts of the book or even top-secret pages. If you get on such a page, it may take you a while but do never cheat because otherwise you will ruin the challenge of the book and its character.

            The book starts with a very easy but at the same time important question; Chocolate or vanilla? Now it´s your turn choose with ice cream flavor the little boy should get. This first question may seem not important but it can bring the story in a completely different direction. After you got on one of the two paths, the book gets more complex and the reader will start thinking about his choices and often regret them. The reader will be stuck or even dead sometimes and then he has to go back and try over again until he finally reaches another situation. In Meanwhile there is no plot I could describe because every reader of the book has own story based on his preferences and choices.

            The book is different to other books and it requires the reader to read with extra effort (ergodic literature). The reader is forced to focus on the book and think about his choices. I personally think it was a great experience to read a Choose your own adventure story. It was an awkward, challenging and funny situation at the same time. The book required a lot time to read but after I was stuck and after I died several times, I finally figured out how to survive and get to one of the possible endings. The feeling after I “finished” this book was completely different to other “normal” books. After reading this book I had a feeling of success and happiness.

            Scott McCloud (author of Understanding Comics) describes Jason Shiga as a mixture of a craziness and genius. I think this sums up basically what the Author and book is; it is crazy and a work of a genius at the same time. It is a special piece of literature.

            I would highly recommend to everybody who is reading this review to experience Meanwhile because it is more than just reading a book: it is thinking about things that happen and being angry because of wrong choices.  But overall it is just the amazing experience of a completely new type of book.


Jonas Schallenberg is a student at Indian Springs School and says, "I am from Germany and in America for an exchange year. At Indian Springs School I am in 12th grade, even though I am just 15 years old. I wrote this book review during my Experimental Literature class and got good feedback back from teacher."

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