Willie’s Redneck Time Machine, by John Luke Robertson with Travis Thrasher
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]
I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or not that this book reminded me of my own writings and childhood. The first book of four books (so far) in the “Be Your Own Duck Commander” series by John Luke Robertson with Travis Thrasher, where the reader is invited to pretend that they are Willie Robertson and make decisions that lead to wildly divergent fates, ranging from those which feature very minimal effects, to others which are full of high drama, to still others which are grim and disastrous. This book, which is full of pop culture references from Dr. Who to modern dystopian teen fiction , is designed to appeal to adventuresome preteen readers, and it would have appealed to me very strongly as an 8-12 year old. Even now I find a bit of child-like pleasure in reading the book and seeing what drastic changes result from small decisions, a lesson that has applicability in our lives as well.
In fact, this book appears to be a contemporary version of the sort of book that I read a lot when I was a preteen myself, which was called “Choose Your Own Adventure.” These books share a similar structure, in that the plot skips ahead to certain pages based on a certain limited set of choices. Usually, as is the case here, the results of those choices vary on the author’s view of the moral justice of cause and effect as well as the level of wisdom or folly that is indicated in those choices. Depending on your choices, there will be either a triumphant reunion with family, visits to dangerous and deadly historical situations, or even tragic involvement in a future rebellion against a totalitarian state that views the Duck Commander and his family as mentally deficient, playing to the stereotypes that are common of people of the Southeastern United States as being unintelligent and backwards.
As might be expected, this book is full of silliness and adventure, many references to songs and hairstyles, the goings on of the wacky Robertson family (the reader, if he or she is familiar with the Duck Dynasty television show, will likely be wary of anything suggested by Uncle Sy, and it would be a wise idea to avoid gambling either). A few years ago I wrote a play whose plot device depended on a traveling portable toilet not unlike the plot device in this story, and it was appealing to think that I thought along similar lines to the authors of this entertaining and humorous work. If you are looking for reading for an 8-12 year old that involves adventure, humor, gentle moral lessons, and assumes a high degree of pop culture knowledge, this is a good book, and likely one that will be enjoyed by many young fans of the series that inspired it, as well as those who may only be young at heart.
 Much of which is referenced also in my own writing. See, for example: