Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Creative and fun way to advance series
Cons: Two parallel paths at one point.
The Bottom Line:
Owen and Kara
Need help escaping prison
Please pick correct path
Can You Carefully Guide Owen Back to Bethany?
One reason I’ve been enjoying the Story Thieves books is that each entry in the series takes on a different genre. However, I was a bit concerned when I realized that Pick the Plot, the fourth in the series, was going to have a Choose Your Own Adventure vibe. Since this is part of an ongoing series and storyline, how would that work? It turns out that I was worrying for nothing because it worked remarkably well.
If you are new to the series, the book actually starts with a brief reminder of what just happened at the end of book three. Even though it’s been a few months, I appreciated it as well. Here’s a quick crash course for new readers (that include minor spoilers). Our main characters are Owen and Bethany. Bethany is half fictional, which allows her to pop in and out of books. Bethany has been doing this for years in an attempt to find her father, a fictional character who disappeared years ago. But the two have now found themselves as pawns of the mysterious Nobody, who is tired of the non-fictional people (that’s us) controlling the lives of the fictionals. He’s trying to form a permanent break between the two worlds. When we last saw our heroes, Bethany had turned into a beam of light and started shooting off in to the future. Meanwhile, Owen, not aware of what Bethany has done, was trapped in the pages of a book….
Confused? It’s hard to summarize three books in a paragraph. You’ll just have to believe me when I saw that this series is highly creative and a ton of fun.
As this book opens, Owen finds himself waking up in a room. That room is a prison – the Jules Verne Memorial Time Prison. He’s trapped there with a bunch of time criminals, including one Kara Dox, who seems to know who he is. And did I mention that this prison is in the past? Surrounding the building are dinosaurs. There are three tasks that Owen must complete to get a code to escape, but of course, there are complications that might keep him from doing so, including the other prisoners. Can Owen and Kara figure out how to escape in time to rescue Bethany? Can Bethany even be rescued?
And can you help him? Or do you want to help him?
For those not familiar with the Choose Your Own Adventure books, each book in the series set You in the middle of some adventure. Every page or two, You are given two choices, and what happens next depends on what you choose. Yes, the books are written in second person, and each book has a host of different endings, some good, and some bad.
You can see how this format might be problematic for the middle part of an on-going series. However, author James Riley made some tweaks to the format and service his purposes well. First of all, Owen is still our third person point of view character. However, Owen quickly realizes he is in a Pick the Plot book, so he uses his thoughts to communicate with us at times. Admittedly, the correct choice to move the story forward is usually pretty obvious, but if you do want to pick the incorrect choice, you are looped back to either the beginning of the story or the correct choice.
So really, there is one correct path through the book that does indeed advance the series story forward. Unlike previous books, we stick with Owen for the entirety of this book. Kara is a new character introduced here, and we don’t see much of the other characters we’ve met. However, there was so much going on, I didn’t miss the other characters, and since reuniting with them was Owen’s driving motivation, knowing where they were would ruin some of the suspense.
There are a couple of things we need to keep track of as we attempt to help Owen navigate the story, so be prepared for that.
There is one point where the story branches off into two parallel threads before coming back together. Honestly, I’m not sure why that happened since they both provide interesting background to the ongoing series story. I’m glad I went back and read the other path, and I recommend you do the same.
Which brings me to my other issue with the book. Since we are jumping all over the book, it is hard to tell how far into the story we truly are. Okay, this is probably just a me issue since I try to read a certain percentage of the story each day. I was actually a bit surprised when I reached the end, which means the book was a faster read than I was expecting.
Minor complaints aside, James Riley set a monumental task for himself, and he managed to pull it off. Pick the Plot advances the Story Thieves story nicely in a very creative fashion.
Enjoy more of Owen and Bethany's story in the rest of the Story Thieves series.
This review is part of this week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.