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Item - Mystery of the Maya (Graded Reader)

(back cover, preview edition)
Series: Choose Your Own Adventure Graded Reader Series
Adapted From: Mystery of the Maya (Gamebook)
Authors: Montgomery, R. A. (original)
Benevides, Marcos (adaptation)
Date: 2012
ISBN: 0071327827 / 9780071327824
Length: 80 pages
Number of Endings: 29
Demian's Thoughts: Mystery of the Maya was never one of my favorite Choose Your Own Adventure books. It's just not that memorable -- I'm sure I read it a few times during my childhood, and obviously I revisited it in the late 1990's or early 2000's when I wrote my ultra-brief review of it ("slightly below average"), but the only thing about it that sticks in my memory is Manuel's absurdly oversized nose in Richard Anderson's illustrations (something that, for better or worse, is no longer present in the reissues and adaptations of the book). In any case, the forgettable nature of the book allowed me to approach this new adaptation of the story with few preconceptions.

For an English-speaking reader, there are some disadvantages to picking up a graded reader. The text is intentionally simple and repetitive, since its purpose is to reinforce common vocabulary and sentence structure. This leads to slightly absurd text like "Amanda is your best friend. She is also a very good adventurer." Obviously this is helpful when the book is being used as a teaching tool, but it is a bit distracting when it is being read purely for entertainment.

Apart from simplification of language, another major change for this edition of the book is the elimination of suggestions that the protagonist is a child. "You" are now an adventurer, and given some of the situations you can get yourself into, it makes the book considerably more believable (if the word "believable" can ever be applied to a Choose Your Own Adventure book). Some might argue that the child role can still be felt in some paths, particularly when "you" hesitate to participate in acts of violence, but whether this seems like a problem will really depend on the reader. Given that I'm a pacifist vegan, I didn't personally find any of this objectionable or suggestive of immaturity, but others' results may vary.

Other changes include significant revisions to several of the endings; I wish I had time to map out a thorough comparison with the original edition, since conversation with the editor reveals that some touches I particularly enjoyed here were actually not in the Montgomery text (such as the ending on page 24, which I won't spoil here). Unfortunately, some artful touches here and there don't really turn the book into a more satisfying whole, but they do make it a little more rewarding than it used to be.

Bottom line: I can see how this would be very powerful as a teaching tool; if I had to learn another language, I'd certainly rather do it with a gamebook than with some of the sorts of dry, repetitive texts often associated with language learning. However, that doesn't make Mystery of the Maya dramatically better as a Choose Your Own Adventure. Even though edits to make the protagonist more mature slightly increase the plausibility of the (extraordinarily implausible) story, and there are a few nice moments, it's still a bit of a mess, marred by numerous abrupt, inconsistent endings.

More reviews by Demian

Special Thanks:Thanks to Marcos Benevides for the sample copy.
Users Who Own This Item: Gamebook, katzcollection (standard edition plus preview edition containing catalog on reverse side)

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