There’s been a lot of buzz about Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral’s format-bending young adult novel, Chopsticks, released last week in print and as an app. School Library Journal‘s reviewer Allison Tran called the book a “sophisticated…fascinating puzzle” that’s both “spellbinding and inventive.” We asked her to take a look at the e-version. Her review follows.
Gr 9 Up-Chopsticks, an intriguing mystery told primarily through images, is as captivating as an app as it is in the print format. The pictures, which include photos, drawings, and paintings, are gorgeous, sharp, and luminescent on the iPad. Navigation is intuitive and there’s a “how to use” section with instructions, just in case.
The app’s interactive components are experienced by tapping the animated musical notes subtly floating around the screen. Included are video clips, songs, sound effects, dialogue captions, and animated IM conversations mimicking the appearance of actual messages as the characters type them.
Some of the interactive features add more value to the story than others. Youtube links that were clunky in the print version are, of course, easier to access in the app, and the video clips effectively bring readers into the story as participants, as they watch cartoons and TV performances along with the characters. Other interactive components feel unnecessary; why require viewers to tap on the screen to access dialogue captions?
For the most part the app offers the same content as the book, and teens who have read the print version will be disappointed if they expect a dramatically different experience with the app. (Since the app contains audio, they may wonder why the story isn’t narrated.) A few additional photos and videos not found in the book will pique viewers’ interest, but don’t break new ground. The most touching and surprising bit of extra content is an audio file of the main character’s deceased mother singing to her as a baby, accessed by touching the image of a cassette recorder.
Read in a linear fashion, the story leaves unanswered questions, so viewers will be delighted to discover they can shuffle the pages of the app and experience it a different way. Will a shuffle reveal new aspects of the story? There’s sure to be speculation.
Both the print and the e-version of Chopsticks will have their fans. The story is fascinating and complete in either one. Without question, the app stands on its own as an enjoyable multimedia experience.—Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, CA
Read the full text of School Library Journal’s review of the book here.