Despair.com’s first Lose Your Own Adventure book, Who Killed John F. Kennedy?, is now hitting the mailrooms of over 100 journalists and book reviewers across the globe, and the early reviews have been universally great.
Popular review blog Bookriot writes:
Who Killed John F. Kennedy: A Lose Your Own Adventure by Despair, Inc.
I was so excited to find this waiting for me when I returned from Readercon! (I loved the frowny face of the Despair, Inc. packaging, too.) This clever parody asks “How badly will you fail in your quest for the truth?” Spoiler: The operative word in the title is “Lose.” No matter how you try, you’ll never figure out who killed JFK, but the possible scenarios combined with funny illustrations makes this book a winner.
Despair, Inc.’s ‘Lose Your Own Adventure’ series gets conspiratorial.Utterly unsolvable or not, you’ll want to check this (book) out, citizen. If history, as James Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus put it in Ulysses, is a nightmare from which we’re trying to awake … and if laughter really is the best medicine … then this multivalent parody, with its many terrific Paul Stranger illustrations, is just the sort of cartoonish literary methamphetamine to roust you from whatever unpleasant dreams might accompany the upcoming 50th anniversary of our beloved Jack Kennedy’s death.
And pop-culture review and news site Flavorwire said of the book:
The best part about the “Lose Your Own Adventure” book Who Killed John F. Kennedy?
is that this hilarious parody of the famous Choose Your Own Adventure books tells you upfront that no matter what choice you make, you’re going to lose — but that doesn’t stop you from playing. Even though you can’t technically win at Who Killed John F. Kennedy?, it does give you the joy of reading excellent spoof.
But as much as these early positive endorsements please us, it brings us even greater relief to be hearing raves from our own longsuffering customers, many of whom waited for a small eternity while we worked through the costly and creatively vexing endeavor of creating a Lose Your Own Adventure book that was as truly worthy of putting the Despair, Inc. name on it.
We recently received an enthusiastic and detailed review from customer Robert Wilkes, who encouraged us to share the it online with others. We are including an illustrated version of his review in its entirety below, with considerable gratitude.
A CUSTOMER REVIEW OF “WHO KILLED JOHN F. KENNEDY?” – BY ROBERT WILKES
The website best known for demotivational posters actually publishes books. If you’re a fan of that style of humor, I encourage you to explore the inaugural contribution to the Lose Your Own Adventure® series titled Who Killed John F. Kennedy?. Mimicking the styles of classic Choose Your Own Adventure books, author Justin Sewell tackles several incredible angles on the Kennedy assassination with the simple catch that “no matter how you choose, you’re ultimately destined to lose!”
The book exceeded all my expectations. Several hilarious storylines, each infused with an added layer of relentlessly-scathing humor, combine to offer a great capture of JFK conspiracy theories some of which are far nuttier than others (for instance, a reptilian shapeshifter storyline even makes an appearance). Alternative storylines offer ‘Easter eggs’ for different paths that could have been taken (for instance, the mere artwork of a magnifying glass on page 9 is itself hilarious if viewed from such a privileged vantage point). Any storyline can be enjoyed in a single sitting as the longest among them is a mere 30 pages (shortest, 11 pages), and all storylines (approximately 45) can be read in a short time if the reader takes care to map the routes that have already been explored. Additionally, due to embedded references to alternative storylines, the book offers enormous re-readability.
While its humor is the primary benefit, I think the book offers serious contributions as well. For instance, an important overall lesson a reader might take away from exposure to this book is that it might be worthwhile to doubt, or at least critically examine, anything s/he has ever believed about the Kennedy assassination. It offers an opportunity to reflect on the role of radical contingency in one’s life and in history. The book also contains plot devices that reflect the growing capabilities and roles played by recording technologies in our society. At one point, for instance, the character Jenni Mudd, a rival kid detective with FBI loyalties, demands that you wait at home by the phone for her phone call, rather than continue to investigate a crime scene:
The reader is left to wonder how much more capable a 21st-century Jenni Mudd might be than the 1960s counterpart.
By Despair’s own account, the costs to produce the book were far higher than the company initially imagined. Frankly, I’m astonished to even be able to hold this little book in my hands. For more than a year I suspected it might never leave a development hell, destined to be quietly abandoned. The existence of this book reflects a great deal of the author’s self-imposed and long-endured suffering and his efforts clearly came across during my reading. I hope it gets the shot it deserves at making some of that economic investment back.
Despair, Inc. intends to produce more Lose Your Own Adventure titles, and if this book sells well we can probably expect to get our hands on them sooner rather than later. Their next endeavor will tackle workplace sexism (titled The Glass Ceiling), and Who Killed JFK? includes reference to a Kickstarter campaign to help fund it that will be announced via their blog (thepessimist.com) on September 4th, 2013.
Thank you, Robert, for taking the time to write such a thoughtful review. And thanks also to Liberty Hardy at Bookriot and Jason Diamond at Flavorwire for shining a little light on our book. Of all the works we’ve created in our fifteen year history, we’re perhaps proudest of the one that nearly killed us to finish. (Long story- we’ll share it at a later date.)
If you haven’t yet bought the book, we hope you will. And if you have, we hope you’ll spread the word. We’d love nothing more than to be cranking out Lose Your Own Adventure titles by the truckload, even as we continue the good fight of motivational parodies, page-a-day calendars, and all the other cynical fare you’ve come to expect from the world’s foremost authority on failure, pessimism and underachievement.