“Keep Me in Mind” by Nancy Holder Review

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Keep Me in Mind

Author: Nancy Holder

Release Date: April 2005

What makes a good Choose Your Own Adventure Buffy book? Well, the things that make a good Buffy book are characters that act true to the tv series, and a story that feel like it has something at risk for the reader and does not contradict what we know on the show. A good choose your own adventure book allows the reader to feel like they are in control of the story and their decisions have consequences. Unfortunately, this book (while clearly written by an author knowledgeable of the show) struggles under both measures.

The biggest problem in this book starts in the pages before chapter one. Typically a choose your own adventure book has a warning in it, “Stop! Don’t read the pages in this book in order!” or some similar remark. This book opts for a multipage letter from Giles to Buffy telling her about how this book allows her to relive her adventures or some other disclaimer, essentially telling the reader “none of what you are about to read is real.” Obviously none of it is real, we’re all aware of that. The problem is the nature of this specific story is that Buffy continually sees images from her past that aren’t real, and combined with the preface to the book, the entire thing reads like a long dream sequence (I hate dream sequences).

The story does not make much sense until you figure out what’s causing it, nor does it attempt to catch your attention beyond “Buffy goes to school, bad guys show up.” It is set in motion by questions about whether you should train or not or investigate the reappearance of an invisible girl (ok, that was poorly worded) but eventually we find out that **spoiler alert** Ethan Rayne is behind a spell that causes people’s memories to create doppelgangers of the people in the memories. For Buffy, this means repeat encounters with the Master, Luke, Spike, Ted, Incan Mummy Girl, and other memorable one episode villains from the show. Clearly the author is a fan of the show, and knows the characters well. Still, one of the first choices in both this and “The Suicide King” (the first two installments in this series) ask the reader to have Buffy make a decision to ditch her responsibilities and hang out with Cordelia. Both stories clearly take place in season two of the show, when it’s a guarantee neither character would ever make that choice, and start the books off with an action that feels like it contradicts the world the book is set in.

Whereas with the Suicide King, I finished the book quickly, taking three separate paths through it, with this book I only made one wrong turn early on (deciding to visit the nurse’s office, which led to the book ending with Buffy having to meet Principal Snyder for an hour every morning… definitely not the usual fatal error found in these books) before going back and making it to the happy ending on try two in what felt like more of a slog. Many of the “choices” were actually just roadmaps, where the reader would go to one page if they had made a certain choice earlier, or a different page if they made the other choice. The problem is that most of these pages I would end up having to read twice because I would take the choice that was earlier in the page count, and then have to revisit as I made it later on the book. (It’s a pet peeve of mine when you read these books when it is basically completed by reading chronologically, i.e. if you jump ahead 70 pages you’d be dead quicker than making the choice that you read the next page). Some of the choices take you to the same exact place as well, with only one page of interim text being different. There was also a fair share of crapshoot choices, “you lost her, do you go left or right?” or “they disappeared, do you check the roof or the alley?” It diminished the feeling of accomplishment of reaching the happy ending when there were few choices that required thought along the way. The net effect was reading the entire book felt more like reading a substandard Buffy book than a Choose Your Own Adventure Buffy book.

The best quality about the book is it was written with hindsight of a few seasons of television before it was published, so there are plenty of comments by Buffy that give a chuckle to the reader (seeing Jonathan and saying there’s no reason he’d ever draw the slayer’s interest, the thought of kissing Spike repulsing her, Willow never changing from her ordinary self, etc.). I also appreciate that when giving the opportunity to make decisions that the characters would make, it would lead to better consequences in the adventure. However, the earlier problems in the book, and the fact that the end of the book was about 20 pages in a row with no choices (and ridiculous markings at the bottom telling the reader to turn to the next page) didn’t lead to this being a great entry in the extended universe of Buffy.

2-star

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