Friday, February 25, 2011


A choose your own adventure story to end them all, Meanwhile boasts 3,856 story possibilities that spring from Jimmy's simple choice of getting vanilla or chocolate ice cream. Following the story across multiple panels connected by arrows and tubes across pages, the reader can choose what happens next. Most paths lead to "DOOM and DISASTER," according to the introduction, with only one path leading successfully home. The fun comes in figuring out which choices lead where.

The stories I have seen so far have been very creative, involving the choices that come from meeting Professor K, a scientist with fantastic inventions. One allows a person to travel 10 minutes back in time. Another allows a person to read the last 10 minutes of someone's thoughts. The last one, the Killitron 2000, kills every living being on Earth that is not safely enclosed in its cabin. Getting the choice to use all of these devices leads to some pretty interesting, often funny, outcomes.

Writer-creator Jason Shiga is renowned for including mazes and puzzles in his work, and his unconventional stories have appeared in McSweeney's Quarterly and Nickelodeon Magazine. He has been nominated for multiple comics awards and won the 2003 Eisner Award for Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition for his comic, Fleep. More information about Shiga's life and career can be found here. To get an idea of how much time and thought went into Meanwhile, check out this picture of the book laid out in matrix form. This interview sheds more light on his work on the book and this video interview with Shiga describes how it can be read.

The interactive features have lead many to praise the book. Travis Jonker wrote that the book should appeal to "puzzle solvers, mathematicians, and the scientific-minded" who love to solve riddles. A reviewer at The School Library Journal called it "one of the most original titles I've ever encountered" while also providing a bevy of related links at the bottom of their page. Wired's GeekDad Jonathan Liu was so impressed with the book he's putting Shiga on his list of people to watch. Kirkus Reviews offer a slightly less enthusiastic response, noting some problems with a simple and circular plot but still admitting that "this clever book should amuse for hours."

Meanwhile was published by Amulet Books. There is a short preview at, but it does not do justice to the book's format.

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