And now--these years later--I've had a very similar reaction to Bullet Train Disaster--the first in this series of choose-your-own-path stories.
Written in third person narrative, YOU are the star of this book, which means 'you' can be anyone. Including me. You have a kooky friend named Pigeon and you are taking a ride on a supersonic train that's about to blast up the side of an icy mountain--Mt Grave.
Not only do you have no idea what's about to unfold, you have the power--mwah ha ha ha--and added thrill, of choosing which way the story goes. At the end of each short chapter, you have a choice--accept the bandit's offer and go to this page or refuse the offer and go to that page.
At first the possibility of weaving my own story track seemed mindboggling, and I was sorely tempted to follow each and every one of the possible threads, just to see what I might be 'missing out on'. But I pretty quickly settled into my chosen threads--only to meet with an early demise! Uh-oh! Back to the drawing board to find another way.
How Jack wrote this endless series of threads and kept his sanity, I will never, ever, ever know. I've always said Jack was an intelligent writer, and this book is testament to that. Equally mind-boggling is that each story thread is timed, in real time, to countdown from 30 minutes, making wonderfully easy snippets of story for older kids struggling to read, or for kids who want to zip around on several threads and read for longer.
Jack writes with his typical freshness and clarity, with choppy, short sentences that carry high action so beautifully. His voice is enormously kid-friendly and there's plenty of pock-marked humour. What I like about this story, too, is that Jack has cleverly provided the option for the reader--YOU--to be a boy or a girl. This happens early in the story so it doesn't affect the ensuing plot threads.
Whether you’re a 12-year-old thrill-seeker or just a middle-aged mum whose most thrilling ride would be dead-heading her iceberg roses, Bullet Train Disaster is some wild ride. If you're willing to risk giant, super-deadly ticks, being cut in half or even losing your pants, this is a story that will have you entranced from go to woah. Grab your skis and balaclava. Can you survive?
Shockwave, book #2 in the Countdown to Danger series, will be out this May.
Title: Bullet Train Disaster (Countdown to Danger)
Author: Jack Heath
Publisher: Scholastic, $12.99 RRP
Publication Date: 1 February 2016
For ages: 8 - 12
Type: Junior Fiction