WTF Friday: Choose Your Own Misery by Mike MacDonald & Jilly Gagnon

Every once in a while, as the mood strikes me, I like to indulge in those titles that are a bit odd . . . a bit different . . . a bit bizarre . . . and a bit freaky. These are books that don't always get a lot of press, and which rarely benefit from any prominent retail shelf space.

They're often an underground of sort of literature, best shared through guilty whispers, and often with embarrassed grins. These are our WTF Friday reads!

If you're at all like me, you probably have fond memories of those tattered paperback Choose Your Own Adventure novels in the school library. They were the literary equivalent of text-based adventure games like Planetfall, Wishbringer, or Zork - only instead of swapping random floppy disks, you scrambled back and forth to random pages. We used to read them at a frantic pace, just to see who could find the weirdest ending.

Of course, if you grew up in an era that didn't begin with 19-something, you probably have no idea what I'm talking about, but that's not the point.

Anyway, when I came across an ARC for The Office Adventure, the very first Choose Your Own Misery book, I knew I had to give it a read. Mike MacDonald and Jilly Gagnon have tapped into a sweet spot of nostalgia here, even managing to capture the essence of those cheap paperback covers. All that's missing is some yellowed tape along the spine, dog-eared pages, a pop can ring-stain on the cover, and smear of bad pizza on the page edges.

My first read through the book, I called in sick, created a bronchitis panic, made the mistake of being honest with my doctor about a lump on my back, tried to cut out own tumor, and ended up in hospital with men from the insurance company waiting to talk to me. My next time through, I slept in, pretended to work from home, got caught out by a lisping IT guy, agreed to prostitute the homely woman in HR for a clean slate on my vacation accrual, ended up claiming her for myself, got knocked out, and salvaged a half deal out of it.

Sore jaw and loneliness aside, that was probably the best ending I could have hoped for.

A third read through had me call in sick again, backpedal on my bronchitis story, puke all over my shoes in a badly drive taxi, completely blow it with my office crush, get called into the CEO's office (a case of mistaken identity), arbitrarily fire half the staff, and get the guy I was mistaken for fired as a result of my choices, only to take a sip from desk flask,and wake up where I started.

I always loved those weird meta endings that allowed you to do it all over again.

Since these books are like crack, a paper addiction that can't be denied, I had to try once more. My last read had me called in sick, own the bronchitis panic, and then sneak in late, only to create a scene with the receptionist, make the boss think she's crazy, get her fired (causing a fatal heart attack), and get myself promoted - which meant, of course, I was suddenly saddled with actual work and couldn't come in late or hungover anymore.

Misery has indeed been chosen.

While it lacks the fun of Who Killed John F. Kennedy? (a Lose Your Own Adventure book), The Office Adventure cleverly puts a sadly sarcastic, grown-up spin on what was always a childish diversion. If you've had a chance to give it a read, meet me out by the big tractor tire in the schoolyard (you know the one with the steel belts sticking out and the mosquito-infested water inside?) and we'll compare notes on how may endings we can find.

Paperback, 300 pages
Published January 2016 by Diversion Publishing


  1. An adult version of the Choose Your Own Adventure style books? That one might be too close to home. (Although I'm not that kind of worker at all.)


Post a Comment