A mulligan is a do-over, and I’m sure everyone, at some point, wishes for a chance to do-over some life-changing stupidity. I suspect l’esprit de l’escalier is mulligan-like wishful-thinking: in our imaginations we are much more clever than we are in reality, and when we tell others that particular story about ourselves, we’ll be sure to make us look good. Hypothesizing alternate universes may also be a type of mulligan — in another world, another me made a different choice and is happier/wealthier/etc.
Heather Slee’s Seven Chances (2013) tells what happens when bullied high schooler Abby is given the opportunity for seven mulligans — seven chances to rewrite scenes in which she is victimized. By paying her bullies back in kind, her mulligans will make the torture stop, and she’ll be able to return to her pre-victim life.
Or so Abby thinks. Rather than devolving to status quo ante, each rewrite instead sends her life careering in a new direction, ratcheting up the pain for herself, her friends, and her tormentors.
I’m not sure I approve Slee’s implied recommended response to bullying: don’t tell an adult, and act as if it’s not important. It takes near-adult maturity to slough off adolescent cruelty as if it were nothing, especially of the cyber variety. Why shouldn’t these actions be reported? Why shouldn’t bullies be punished? Slee’s main tormentor has her own problems, but these don’t justify her treatment of Abby.
Despite my objections, I enjoyed the story, rooting for Abby at some points and groaning about her choices at others, yet always hoping she’ll find the solution to her problem. This is how a writer wants readers to react, so Slee has done her job well.
Full disclosure: I was given a free copy of this book by the publisher, North Star Press.