Deb Mercier

By Melanie Stegner

Pope County Tribune alum and Alexandria author Deb Mercier knows firsthand how hard it can be to keep young readers engaged in reading. She is changing the game by creating an interactive experience, allowing readers to choose their own paths (and consequences) throughout some exciting new middle grade novels. We’ve all been there before — correctly predicting the end of a subpar thriller and catching the killer before the plot has been wrapped up. But imagine YOU’RE the one in the driver’s seat.

 According to a Book Ad Report, “the mystery, thriller and crime genre is the leading book genre in the U.S., as nearly half of American consumers prefer this genre.” 

Young readers (and old, like me) can dive into the mysteries in The Empty Cabin and The Ghost of Old Central School (being released on Oct. 11, 2022, from Lake 7 Creative) in the Choose Your Path Detective: YOU series, aimed to keep them on their toes with high-interest plots and engagement strategies that will have the most reluctant readers coming back for more. The adventures are reminiscent of Encyclopedia Brown novels but with a twist. The reader uses the clues in the story to create an experience, and depending on their choices, the end of the story can differ. 

In Mercier’s book The Empty Cabin, she creates the perfect setting for a mystery. The cabin resort your parents own is the perfect place to spend a summer. There’s swimming, fishing, birding — and a steady stream of visitors who, from week to week, pass in and out of your life. Except for Loretta, a regular guest of Cabin #4. So, when you find her cabin empty one morning, you know something’s wrong. Build your case and use deductive reasoning to determine what the crime was, how it happened — and whodunit.

Being released at the same time from Mercier is The Ghost of Old Central School. Old Central School is closing for good because it’s reportedly haunted! The incidents have gotten so freaky that parents refuse to send their kids to school. Yet Irene Gorter, a student there, doesn’t believe it’s true — and she’s hiring you to prove it. Choose your supplies, and let the investigation begin. But be careful; one wrong choice could lead to your doom! 

According to Mercier, “I grew up reading stories full of mystery and adventure, including the Choose Your Own Adventure series. When the opportunity to write a new interactive series for Lake 7 Creative cropped up, I jumped at the chance! You are the main character. You make the choices (and hopefully solve the case)… but beware. One bad decision can have dire consequences!”