If you’ve been here since the beginning, you know that I’m a fan of Dana Schwartz. She’s one of the funniest people I know of online, and I’ve been low-key following her for so long that everything she writes is an automatic must-read. That explains the selection of Choose Your Own Disaster for reviewing on this blog…not only do I rarely read memoirs, but even if I did, it feels odd to me to write about someone’s real life. Since I do find writing about someone real to be weird, it’s only because I really, really loved this book that I’m reviewing it.
Choose Your Own Disaster is Dana Schwartz’s tell-all of her high school, college and early adult life in the format of a choose your own adventure book, with personality quizes fit in to guide you while reading.
I love to read, but it’s rare these days to read a book in one sitting. I did that with this one. It was absolutely riveting. I was hooked within the first couple of pages, and couldn’t put the book down after that.
This isn’t a light, cute-sy story. It has some lighter chapters, but most of the book is dark. Dana is a fascinating, flawed person–and that is where the story grabs you.
Though only a year or so younger that Dana, my life experience is very different. Few things happened in this book that I can say I’ve also experienced. For a nonfiction book, I would think that would make it hard for me to identify with it…but I didn’t have a problem. Dana’s voice is so honest and raw, I felt I had experienced some of her life milestones.
She tells the highlights of her life with great passion; it’s impossible not to love reading about her first day interning for Stephen Colbert’s show. She tells the low points of her life in a reflective, sobering, emotional manner; it’s impossible not to feel horrified and nauseated about what happens to her in one particular section–you’ll know what I am talking about when you get to it.
I’ll likely never meet Dana Schwartz, not even in online conversation, but I feel like I know her after reading this. And if she wrote another memoir, I would snap it right up. There are books that I love, and then books that leave me feeling like a different person (in a good way) after reading them, and this book is both. If you like Dana’s humor, memoirs, unique book formats, or take me at my word when I say a book is amazing, you should pick this one up.
Since this is a choose your own adventure format, I thought I would bring that up in my last few words. If you follow with the format–I love personality quizzes, so that aspect was really fun–you are bound to have a different experience reading than I did. One note: it was weird giving this format a try on my Kindle. It would likely be easier to read this book then return to what you missed in a paper version. To give you a taste of what I read, here are some parts I didn’t see in my original read-through:
- The mouse/doctor bit, though I suspect that might be there to throw off those who ignore the format of the book. I couldn’t think of any section that would lead into this bit.
- The Lawyer, or otherwise known as the BDSM period of Dana’s life. Somehow I don’t think he was even mentioned in my first read-through. If he was mentioned, it was so brief I immediately forgot about it.
- A girl “coven” forms against Brooklyn Guy.
- Dana invites a local to the hostel she is staying at, and he robs other people staying with her.
- I picked Matt and lived happily ever after with him, so I didn’t meet the other guy Dana met from her online dating search.
I encountered all other key plot points in my first reading.