Choose Your Own Misery Series
Writer: Mike MacDonald & Jilly Gagnon
Publisher: Diversion Books
A review by Amelia Wellman
Imagine you’re an office worker that’s going through the motions, or a Christmas curmudgeon planning how you’ll spend the dreadful holiday. What’s the worst series of events that you can imagine happening? Now, I don’t want to short change your 21st century pessimism, but it’s more or less guaranteed that what you imagined isn’t anywhere close to what Mike MacDonald and Jilly Gagnon dreamt up in their parody series Choose Your Own Misery!
Choose Your Own Misery is a series that explores the “choose your own path” adventure story in a way that rarely ends well. In Choose Your Own Misery: The Office you’re a dejected, hung-over office worker just trying to get through another awful work day that you’ve overslept for. Do you cab it in when you can’t afford it, or try to make them think you’re working from home? Should you show up for the big meeting or duck out with Debby, the weird woman from HR who keeps making suggestive comments about FDR? What about that fatty lump on your back? Play it up for sympathy or dive in a WebMD spiral that can only end in cancer?
In Choose Your Own Misery: The Holidays you’re going to avoid Christmas completely! At least you were until your island getaway was washed out by a hurricane. Now comes the choice, spend the holidays with your shrewish sister, take your new girlfriend up on her offer to endure her family for a week, or slum it in Kingston Jamaica. Choices galore, but once again, none of them good.
Say what you will about the literary merits of choose your own adventure stories, at the very least you have to admit that they’re unique. Choose Your Own Misery riffs on the classic kid’s book series (of which there were 184 in total) all the way down to the cover design.
Written in a solid second person, with each scenario no more than one or two pages, this series is a parody of, not only the genre, but the mundanity of everyday life and the decisions we make. The circumstances might be exaggerated (depending on your level of luck) but the descriptions that Gagnon and MacDonald have offered up ring true enough that maybe it isn’t such a stretch to believe you’d have a heart to heart with your boss that ends with you lying about being attracted to pillows or wind up in a scary Jamaican hostel with food poisoning all to avoid your unbearable sister during the holidays.
Check them out! Choose Your Own Misery is a simple idea, executed wonderfully. This bitter, dark, thoroughly hilarious series is addictive in its desolation! The options are truly grisly, but the humour will compel you to choose one or the other and the quick scenarios presented keep the pace moving quickly and offers infinite re-reads. And, just because it traffics in woe, it’s a good laugh for any reader. From the truly pessimistic all the way through to the eternally optimistic!
I can only hope they take their Choose Your Own Misery series to the only logical next step: retail. A subject near but certainly not dear to so many hearts!