Mentis College isn’t exactly Harvard…okay, it’s about as far from Harvard as Pabst is from Cristal. Still, there are plenty of opportunities to study—hotties on campus that is. And if I play my cards right, I could have a shot at my not-so-hetero roommate Zack (if he ever really calls it quits with his girlfriend), or there’s Professor Wood (who gives me wood with his huge, er, brain). Then there’s the doctor at the free clinic who could shape up into an ideal partner if only he can get rid of some serious vices. Of course, there’s the possibility I myself might like to be the top in a relationship—and Kai is just the right fit for that.
With so many men, it’s hard to know how to proceed with important life choices. Sometimes, all a guy really wants is to get super down and super dirty. Not all relationships have to be built on mutual trust…but then again, a discerning eye and a few scruples now might lead to a lifetime of loving instead of a gloriously casual fling.
So, this is a choose your own adventure story. I admire Orton’s chutzpah in going this route with a romance novel. There are basically four potential romantic outcomes, but what’s interesting is that there are varying levels of “happily ever after” for each romantic partner. For example, you can end up with a casual “acquaintances with benefits” with Guy 1, but you might also end up in a committed, marriage-bound relationship with Guy 1 depending on what choices you make. I didn’t read absolutely every permutation (that would be like solving a logic puzzle), but I got at least two different endings for each of the four love interests.
One thing that is clear in the prose is that this is not really “deep” writing. I sort of enjoyed the cutesy running theme of our main character, Joe, reacting to just about everything male by getting turned on and Orton making this extra obvious with *throb* in the prose to offset the intensity of the reaction. Less enjoyable was how the author peppered the text with a few self-references. I also didn’t understand why the narration is given in first person “I” rather than second person “me.” Choose your own adventures are just about the only time you really even want second person.
As far as the structure of the individual stories go, I was impressed with the way Orton is able to rework a scene into multiple variations to maintain continuity. For example, in one version, I met Kai at a bar and we hit it off nerding out over video games. In another variation, I met Kai and bonded in the same way, but we weren’t at a bar, but rather at a frat party. The major details pertinent to the romance thread were identical, but Orton was careful to alter or eschew references to action before and after the scene. It was also a lot of fun to lead Joe through his choices. Depending on my mood, it was pretty easy to steer him into getting “pounded like a piece of veal.” Conversely, I also liked that it took a bit more work to lead Joe into better relationships…I think I actually went through three permutations of “casual fling” before I got a meaningful relationship.
Perhaps this is art imitating life.
I did notice a couple of “trends.” For adventures where Joe/I was focused on getting him to hookup, I was pretty satisfied with the development of the characters and the plot. Maybe Joe is a bit over-the-top in terms of how hot’n’ready he is, irrespective of where I tried to lead him (sex vs. love). When all I wanted was for him to get it on, that was fine. For the romance adventures, however, it seemed like just when I navigated Joe into the role of “not a one night stand,” we get led to the final chapter where we skip into the future and Joe’s about to get married or have his third holiday season with his significant other. In other words, I felt like was sort of cheated out of seeing Joe and his guy actually falling in love.
Nevertheless, if the words “choose your own adventure” appeal to you at all, you will surely enjoy this book. If you read on a table/app style environment, it will be fairly easy to navigate (there were a couple of “broken” links and while getting back to a chapter wasn’t a problem, getting back to the chapter I was just at or the chapter I was supposed to get to was a bit cumbersome. It’s not so often that I would suggest keeping track of where you were and where you wanted to go (chapters are named AND have “index” numbers like 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 2c, etc.). However, if you want to read ALL possible permutations, I do think keeping track will help (again, given the effort Orton put into continuity, there are a few chapters where they read nearly identical even though they belong to different “worlds”).