The time immediately following high school is scary, exciting, and, most of all, eye-opening. Our first step into a larger world and first taste of freedom is often mixed with nostalgia and longing for the days that came before. Post-High School Reality Quest is one of the most unique books I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. It tells the story of Buffy, a freshly graduated high-schooler, as she navigates this awkward transitional stage of her life.
And she has a text parser in her head. Did I forget to mention that?
The thing that makes Post-High School Reality Quest unique is its second-person storytelling in the style of old text adventure games like Zork. Buffy “hears” a narrative description of a given scene, is provided with a list of exits, save slots, and even redos after some unfortunate decisions result in death. Buffy decides what to do in these situations by “entering” commands. >Examine piano, >Enter graveyard, and so on. It sounds odd, but it works so well. The narrator and Buffy are two separate characters, complete with their own forms of snark and sarcasm, bad ideas, and weird observations. The back and forth between them is so well written and is reason enough to pick up this book.
Some novels would be satisfied with this unique approach to storytelling, but author Meg Eden goes the extra mile. Throughout the novel, Buffy interacts with a group of recent high-school graduates; Buffy’s high-school friends: Tristan, Merrill, Chase, and Sephora, along with Buffy’s college roommates: Alice and Aquitane. In the beginning, they each occupy their stereotypes: the boy every girl is pining for, the pretty girl too good for everyone, the reclusive nerd, and so on. As the book goes on, layers are added, and dynamics between them are expanded upon. Each character has a story to tell and, as they come to light, it drives home the major theme of this book: Text parser in your head or not, we all get wrapped up in our own thoughts, our own assumptions about people, which may not be true at all if you dig a little deeper.
Post-High School Reality Quest is so good that I read it a second time and picked up that much more from the reread. Eden’s character work is impeccable, her writing is clever and funny, and she broke my heart repeatedly on both reads. There’s so much emotion in this book, so many hopes and regrets, successes and failures, so many points of view that it doesn’t matter if you’re a nerd or not; someone who has played every text adventure game ever made, or none at all; if you’re still in high-school, in college, or if this time in your life was 10 years ago or 50, there is something to relate to here.
Post-High School Reality Quest will be available June 13th from California Coldblood Books. For more info on the novel, including where to buy, visit their website.
Post-High School Reality Quest scored 100 out of 100 Points