The “choose your own adventure” genre gets another reboot in Magaziner’s (Wizardmatch, 2018) newest.
Protagonist Carlos lives in a run-down house with his single mom, who owns a down-and-out private detective agency. When his mom wakes up ill on the morning she is to meet with a wealthy new client, Carlos takes matters into his own hands. Accompanied by his best friend, Eliza, and with her distractible younger brother, Frank, in tow, the amateur sleuth sets off to discover who has been sending death threats to well-heeled widow Guinevere LeCavalier. The adventure is told through first-person narrative rather than the second-person common to the genre, so readers see the story through Carlos’ eyes as they assist in solving puzzles, mazes, and other brain teasers to get to the bottom of the mystery. Pitfalls are everywhere, with over two dozen possible endings, and only a few of them are happy. Most of the endings are sillly and clearly intended to be humorous hyperbole, but the endings that result in financial ruin for Carlos and his mom border on ridicule. Readers who themselves know the anxiety of an unemployed or underemployed parent and the reality of living paycheck to paycheck are unlikely to find much humor in these catastrophes. Carlos is Latinx, while Eliza and Frank are white.
Mildly amusing, though a sudoku book might be a better investment. (Adventure. 8-12)