Saturday, May 8, 2010

Pretty Little Mistakes

Pretty Little Mistakes
Written by: Heather McElhatton
Paperback: 512 pages
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
Language: English
May 2007, $14.99
Genre: Fiction

It's the last day of high school, should you marry or stay single? Go on to college or fulfill your fantasy of traveling to Europe? Become an artist, an entrepreneur, a homemaker, a doctor...or a drug dealer?

There are hundreds of lives sewn inside Pretty Little Mistakes, Heather McElhatton's singularly spectacular, breathtakingly unique novel that has more than 150 possible endings. You may end up in an opulent mansion or homeless down by the river; happily married with your own corporation or alone and pecked to death by ducks in London; a Zen master in Japan or morbidly obese in a trailer park.

Is it destiny or decision that controls our fate? You can't change your past and start over from scratch in real life - but in Pretty Little Mistakes, you can! But be warned, choose wisely.


When I was a kid I would save up my hard earned allowance money not for the usual trinkets the average 10 year old loved, though admittedly I did have no willpower what so ever when the ice cream truck came round. Instead I spent all of my money at the Scholastic Book Fair. The book fair was like Christmas to a girl like me, tons of books, stickers and book covers with puppies, rainbows and unicorns all just waiting for me to purchase them. Apparently my bibliophile addiction started at a young age. One thing I could not resist, other than Lisa Frank anything, was Choose your Own Adventure books. There was something exciting about choosing how the story would unfold or the ability to go back and choose differently so my character didn’t fall into a pit of lava or get crushed by a boulder.

Maybe that was why I was drawn to Pretty Little Mistakes. A chance to read a hundred different endings and a hundred different lifetimes. It was recommended by Miss Whitney over at Pop Candy and her tastes and my tastes tend to be the same. The book itself starts out simple, I graduate from high school. Do I go off to college with my high school boyfriend or do I head off to explore the world. Sadly neither ended well for me.

My character was willing to do a lot that I never would. Sure, I’ve made mistakes like accepting a date from that one guy or believing that the ‘wall of bangs’ and shirts with see through sleeves were acceptable and excellent fashion choices. However, I have never even dreamed of trading sex with a skeevy mechanic just because my car broke down and I am without fundage (I’d call my parents and beg before I stooped that low), though that taking meth might be fun (I work in mental health, trust me when I say I know how horrid the effects are), or choose men let alone stay with men who really like to beat the shit out of me when I show any signs of independence.

Sure, I found my happy endings on occasion, but I usually had something horrendous happen to me before I found it. I wouldn’t even call of my character’s mistakes pretty. Mostly they were ugly, tragic or stupid. My idea of a pretty little mistake does not include joining a cult. I figure overspending on my credit cards, forgetting to pay a bill, getting married too young, deciding to head to Italy on a whim with no money and no concept of the Italian language or being stuck in a dead end job and not willing to do anything about it would be my pretty little mistakes.

My character always had bad or worse decisions, neither of them really choices I would like to make. But maybe that was the point, the absurdity of it all. As a kid reading Choose your Own Adventure titles there were aliens and hidden artifacts, monsters and mysteries, absurd little things that were entertaining. Maybe this was the adult version infused with a ‘maybe it could happen’, but it is no less absurd or fantastic.

Things I loved: I loved the gimmick of it all. It took a lot to keep track of each decision and each story line. I would have loved to see her storyboard. *grin* The writing wasn’t horrible either though it did lack any real depth as far as your character goes, but then again this is more about the paths you take in little cliff notes style summaries than detailing it all.

Things I didn't love so much: It gets a bit monotonous and tired when you quickly discover that most of your ‘choices’ are going to go badly no matter how ‘nice’ or safe they seem. Sometimes you get lucky and have a sort of happy ending, sometimes not so much. But as I think about it life is not always full of puppies and rainbows. Life is about pain, anger, tragedy as much as it is about love, happiness and freedom. Most of the decisions and the lives that unfold are a bit ridiculous and surreal (part Soap Opera, part Jerry Springer, part…something else) and certainly over the top. This gets a bit tedious after a while and really makes this book one of those take a few life journeys, put the book down, go read something else and then pick it up again after a time.

Buy or Borrow: Buy if you like the novelty of it. Borrow if you’re not sure. This book works simply due to the novelty of it though I would be interested to see if I would like McElhatton’s more traditional novels.

Part of: Stand Alone. However another CYOA type novel Million Little Mistakes is out this August.

Also Recommended: Jennifer Johnson Is Sick Of Being Single also by McElhatton, The Old Choose your Own Adventure books many of them penned by R.A. Montgomery

3 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Have your own review? Let me know and I will post it.

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