Remember Choose Your Own Adventure Books?

Remember the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series of books?

I do.

Choose Your Own Adventure was a novel series geared towards children and young adolescents.  These books were not like regular books.  First, the reader was the main character, which fancy people call the “second-person.”  An opening sentence would be something like:

“You are a world famous scientist”

“You find a satchel filled with a million dollars”

“You are born to a family of complainers”

A Choose Your Own Adventure book would begin just like a regular novel, but when at the end of the first scene, “you” would be faced with a choice between two options, or between three options if you happened to read the super deluxe version before I took it out of the library and then left it on the table at Fuddruckers.

“Go to the left (turn to page 28)” versus “Go to the right (turn to page 1,139)”

“Follow the strange man” versus “Tell the strange man you’re not allowed to drink soda during the week”

The reader was always a different character. I remember one where I got to be a monster, and another where I was a gunslinger in the Old West. I also recall one where the reader was that furry creature from the Punky Brewster cartoon, but I could just be making that up.

The first choice would lead to another scene with another choice, and on and on, such that each book had numerous endings. Some of the endings were good endings. Others were not so good. There were endings that ended in death. These were a little disturbing. There were also endings that ended ambiguously and open-ended.

“You follow Boink to the planet Cereal, and spend the rest of your harvesting Rice Krispies.”

“You commence a lawsuit in state court.”

They should have “Choose Your Own Adventure” books for adults. The characters would be appropriate for adults:

“You are always cold.”

“You are a tier-three pensioner.”

“You are one of those people who winks at everyone.”

And the choices would be adult choices:

“Arrange to get your tax refund by direct deposit” versus “Wait for the check in the mail!”

“Pay the full balance on your credit card” versus “Ignore the letter and get another credit card!”

“Go gluten-free” versus “Step in front of oncoming traffic.”

I do not think the Choose Your Own Adventure series for adults would sell very well. No adult would want to read them. The characters would be too real, the scenes too close to home, the choices too much a reminder of the difficult choices that all adults must make in life, but without the ability to turn back a single page.

That, and the fact that it would be a series of books.

26 thoughts on “Remember Choose Your Own Adventure Books?

  1. Haha great idea!! I always cheated – read both options to see which one was more exciting. We actually have a book at home about Super Mario – I haven’t tried it yet, it’s really old (haha), and was my boyfriends when he was a child. Never have I seen a game-based book like that!!

    1. I also used to read both options. Sometimes I would peek ahead, turning the pages ever so slightly, to see if there was a “The End” at the bottom of the page. Anything to keep the adventure from ending. That’s interesting about the Super Mario book – does it give you the choice between Mario, Luigi, the Princess, and Toad? I would always be Toad.

      1. I think so. I haven’t read it yet, but flipped through it when we found it in a pile of old stuff. I should scan it ! I am pretty sure it’s in Norwegian too – that must be even more rare! Now I really want to read it!

  2. Once, I accidentally killed Batman by getting him locked in a phone-booth the Joker had filled with poisonous gas. I didn’t know the expression at the time, but WTF, Choose Your Own Adventure?

    I always thought it was funny that teachers felt like they had to say that CYOA’s didn’t count for BookIt. I don’t think anyone ever thought otherwise. It’s not like we’re talking about MadLibs. (Can we, please?).

    Remember Superfudge?

  3. Yes! I was a CYOA maniac. Years ago, a friend and I were talking about writing one for adults, kind of like you say here. We were going to do a night out and have random social interactions where you could decide if you wanted to talk to that girl or go home with…you get the idea.

    Great stuff man.

  4. I freaking loved this series, my favorite was “Hyperspace” followed very closely by, “The Bermuda Triangle.” I love your blog, Mark !

  5. I loved those books too. They definitely should have counted for credit in class as they were actually 20 books in one.

    My goal was always to read through ever scenario and every page without having to go back to the start. It took a real feat of dexterity to keep a finger on every page where my story branched off. I ended up holding those books like one would hold a bowling ball.

    The one where you got to an Alien planet was pretty dark: “You end up working as slave labor in the Gabnor mines for all eternity”, “Prince Grabnarok dislikes your response and has you beheaded”, “You and the rest of your team fall into a chasm and never see your parents on Earth again”.

    1. Lol re holding book like bowling ball. I hear that. And sometimes different story paths would lead to the same ending. I would be like, “Oh not page 89 again. I know that’s where I drown in a lake of tapioca pudding.”

  6. i totally remember those books..i didn’t know they were a series. sometimes i would cheat to the end and go backwards to get the ending i wanted..

  7. I recall a shorter-lived series just like CYOA. I think it was called Time Machine. The only specific one I can remember involved going back to get stomped on or eaten by various dinosaurs. Still a lot of fun!

    p.s.- Punky’s furry friend was named Glomer…he was definitely NOT on the live sitcom, though. Remember when Cherry got stuck in the discarded refrigerator? I was on the edge of my seat.

  8. Oh, I love(d) those. Read all of the ones at my school and public library, bought everyone I could find. I cheated pretty much all the time (didn’t we all?) and had bookmarks for every choice to go back and see what would have happened if… my favourites were the sci fi ones. ^^

  9. I know of these! They’re in our library’s children’s section, and they’re a little bit old-looking. I know I never liked them very much. I don’t like having to stop and think in the middle of a story! I just like to be immersed in it.

    …Now that I think of it… this has reminded me of the huge pile of books I got at the library yesterday.

  10. You know, I think a CYOA for adults could work. So I created my own series! I call it “Click Your Poison” and the first title is INFECTED–where you can find out if YOU will survive the zombie apocalypse. It’s longer, more complicated, and darker than the books for kiddos. Plus, as an ebook, you just click links for your choices–no flipping pages.

    Thanks for posting and if you’re interested, you can check out http://www.clickyourpoison.com for more info.

    -James

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