With the reader as the main character, Greek Mythology’s Adventures of Perseus by Blake Hoena follows the tradition of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books so popular with middle grade readers in the 1980s and 1990s. Perseus belongs to a series called “Can You Survive?” that repurposes the concept of the reader making choices by placing the stories in the context of the classics.
In this case the reader gets to become Perseus, the first hero in Greek mythology and the basis for all superheroes in the modern era (according to Hoena’s author’s note in the book.) As Perseus the reader will encounter all of the key people in the hero’s story and get to make choices that will eventually lead Perseus to kill Medusa, the snake-headed monster who turns people into stone with a single look. In order to introduce the concept of Greek mythology to the reader, Hoena begins in the present day and uses a library as the opening setting of the book.
Hoena manages to give readers all of the key events in Perseus’ life and also finds enough wiggle room within those events to allow readers choices. True to the original “Choose Your Own Adventure” format, readers won’t read the pages in chronological order but will follow the story back and forth throughout the book depending on the choices made. The constraints of a well-known story give the reader a framework; make enough of the wrong choices, and readers will end up on Page 67 with the finality of “The End, Try Again” forcing them to retrace steps and try to figure out how to succeed in the adventure.
Given the plethora of books competing for the attention of readers today (in addition to all the technology available,) middle grade readers may not ever receive conventional exposure to the Greek classics. Hoena’s book offers an alternative to teach readers something without them truly realizing it, another purpose of the original series. With simple language that doesn’t waste words, Hoena offers enough adventure, mystery, and intrigue to keep readers engaged. They’ll want to return to the book to see if they can fulfill Perseus’ quest.
A bonus feature of the book incorporates present-day technology; readers can go online to the publisher’s website and discuss how many times they “died” in the book before succeeding. This integrative concept may encourage readers to try the other books available in the “Can You Survive?” series, which includes adventures based on Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea as well as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
I recommend this book for middle grade readers and look forward to more in the series in the future.
—The Write Edge Bookshelf