Don’t waste your valuable brain cells or time on a book called Pretty Little Mistakes by Heather McElhatton

Last summer I got all excited because on a radio news program they featured a local author who had published a new work of fiction. The hook on her line was that the book was a choose-your-own-adventure story. But hers had hundreds of potential outcomes and twists. It sounded really ambitious.

When I was young I loved reading choose-your-own-adventure books. They all must have come as a set because the books all looked the same — title arched across the top, big illustration in the center, the author’s name (which I can’t remember) on the bottom, same number of pages, paperback, easily fit in your hand. They were maddening because some of the choices made you end up in jail or eaten by a giant squid, even if you went back and tried to change the choices you made. Great stuff for a voracious young reader.

Please allow me to take this opportunity to caution you against Heather McElhatton’s Pretty Little Mistakes. Within the first chapters, there is a gratuitous amount of low behavior and crass language, and the choices made within the chapters go from bad to worse. I thought it must just be the choice I made in the previous chapter that would throw me into such a terrible story situation, so I went back and made the other choice offered to me, and still ended up reading about promiscuous behavior, illegal drug use, and avant-guard art that featured sculptures of genitalia set on fire. No, I’m not kidding. And I only read for about five minutes! In addition, many of the chapters are one page long, which makes the emphasis squarely on the plot, rather than the character. It moves things along, certainly, but doesn’t ever establish a reason to care why any of these things happen.

I was so disappointed. McEllhatton has such a creative mind and it is amazing that she could come up with so many twists and turns in this novel. The cover claims that it has 150 endings! But the choices she details are ones that end up in brokenness, twisted relationships, murder and ultimately the author’s own wasted talent.

Now, I know, Dear Reader, that some of you are like me, and when I warn you off about this book, you will find yourself sorely tempted to check it out. But please, if you must, find it at the library and do not use one penny of your income to support this book.

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