‘Multiple Choice’: Test or a captivating novel? (Review)


Maddison Young

This book is written entirely in multiple-choice format. The novel offers readers a personal and engaging experience.

Let’s just get one thing straight: I hate standardized tests, and until recently I was not the type of person to pick up a book in my free time. However, Multiple Choice left me speechless.

The novel is broken into five sections: excluded term, sentence order, sentence completion, sentence elimination, reading comprehension. There are a total of 90 questions, followed by a series of multiple-choice format responses.

The structure is based on the Chilean Academic Aptitude Test that the author Alejandro Zambra took in 1993. This was an exam, consisting of 90 multiple-choice questions in five different sections, that was required in the years 1967-2003 if you wanted to apply to Chilean universities.

Writing in this format forces the reader to think. Everything becomes much more intimate. You can see inside the author’s brain and see how their mind works in a way that is difficult to achieve in traditional story writing.

Everything Zambra writes is brutally honest. He does not sugar coat how he feels or how he sees the world. The lessons taught throughout the novel are conveyed in poetic language, which makes the reading experience even more captivating.

Being that Zambra is from Chile, the novel was originally written in Spanish and translated to English two years after its publication. Some of the novel speaks about the history of Chile and the changes it has gone through since the narrator was a child.

I do not have a much of a grasp of history in general, especially not about Chile. This lack of background knowledge did not make the historical references in the novel any less comprehensible or impactful. Even though I did not understand the context until researching online, I was still left anxiously turning pages, caught up in the intensity of Zambra’s writing.

Experimental ficition like Multiple Choice is often a risk, but Zambra pulled it off with creative insight and intense honesty.