Pick the Plot: Story Thieves, Book 4

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Pick the Plot: Story Thieves, Book 4 Book Poster Image
Readers choose heroes' fate in wildly creative fantasy.

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age 10+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Not much in the way of educational content, but the process of the pick-the-plot narrative leads to some interesting perspectives on storytelling.

Positive Messages

Strong messages about helping your friends, self-sacrifice, problem-solving, using resourcefulness and teamwork to get yourself and others out of trouble.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Owen is resourceful and determined, if often helpless, to escape his assorted prisons and timelines and go help Bethany (who, per the earlier books, is being held prisoner by the evil Nobody). His sidekick, the fictional and time-bending Kara Dox, is brave and self-sacrificing, determined to keep herself in a time prison because she thinks she'll destroy the universe if she's free.

Violence & Scariness

It's all cartoonish and snarky, but there's a lot of mayhem. Villains split characters in two, kill people in creative ways (e.g., by aging them to death), and destroy entire worlds by disrupting their timeline. T. Rexes devour hapless prisoners. Depending on the plot you pick, the story can come to a swift and lethal end. In one startling scene, the daughter of a villainess gets fed up with her mom's abuse and freezes her in time, then kicks her for good measure.

 

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Pick the Plot, the latest installment in James Riley's Story Thieves series, ups the ante on the storyline by putting the readers in charge of young protagonist Owen's fate. Their end-of-chapter choices could get him eaten by a T. Rex, aged to death with time magic, or otherwise done in by villains and monsters -- or eventually get him down the path leading to Worlds Apart, the final installment, due in March 2018. Cartoonish villains and violence aside, there's not much to worry about here other than zealous promotion of the rest of the series.

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Teen, 15 years old Written byGrand Admiral Thrawn August 16, 2018

Not for you if you don't like Meta stuff

This is an amazing book, with a very unique setup. The book is technically a Choose Your Own Adventure, but there is only one ending. This is not a CYOA in term... Continue reading

What's the story?

Following the chaotic events of Book 3, young protagonist Owen (who's acquired a longed-for superpower at last) wakes up to find that the nefarious Nobody has stuck him in a PICK THE PLOT novel, and his future is entirely up to the readers. Nobody, in one of his frequent asides to the reader, thinks it will serve Owen right to be a fictional character entirely at the author's mercy. That's as may be, but meanwhile, Owen and time-traveling comic book heroine Kara Dox are stuck in a time prison when he needs to be in whatever world friend Bethany has been kidnapped to, before something terrible happens, like Nobody splitting her (and the worlds she unites) in two. Whether he and Kara succeed or suffer assorted awful fates depends on the choices readers make at the end of each chapter.

Is it any good?

Bring your Post-it notes, your bread crumbs, and a compass, because you're going to need them to get young Owen through a twisty and dangerous maze to the setup of his next Story Thieves book. It's not always easy to remember where you took the fork in the road that led to our hero's latest violent death, because sinister narrator Nobody is typically inconsistent on the guidance.

The Pick the Plot structure will be loads of fun entertainment for many readers, and simply an annoyance to those who'd just like to get on with the story. But like Owen himself, the reader is stuck with Nobody's hijinks and might as well make the best of it.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the concept of Pick the Plot books. Do you think they're fun, or would you rather have the author just tell you the story?

  • How would you like it if the world had only science to guide it, and no imagination?

  • If you could put yourself in one of your favorite stories, which one would you pick, and what would you do?

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