Monday, November 15, 2010

Non-Leisure Reading--Choose Your Own Adventure books

Time for another book series! Because I was (am) a geeky child and had many more books than I did toys.

The Choose Your Own Adventure novels were published from the late 70s to the late 90s, and were written in second-person format—because YOU were the protagonist. It was sort of like trying to take a video game and make it into a book. And kids apparently responded to it, as over 250 million copies were sold.

Basically, a story is introduced and the reader is asked to make a choice as to their next course of action, and to turn to a corresponding page. ‘If (Option A), turn to page 4. If (Option B), turn to page 6.’ From there, the plots branch out like a tree, until you have several different ending options, some ‘winning’ ones and some ‘losing’ ones.

Honestly, reading these books could make you dizzy. “No, no! I don’t want to be stranded on Terror Mountain! I must frantically turn back to page 31 where I made the choice to bring my mittens and instead must bring my boots…drat! Still stranded! Now I have to go back to page 21…” On the positive side, you were purchasing one book but really getting several stories, depending on the actions that you chose. Therefore, it took much longer to ‘finish’ a book, as you could go back to the beginning and choose different options that would ultimately lead you to different resolutions.

The books that were published around our time contained more intricate plot lines; therefore, the number of possible endings could be as few as eight (versus over forty possible endings for early novels). The downside to putting several different stories in one novel is that they were really more like short stories—they were about the size of a regular, non-interactive book and therefore the plots had to be at least somewhat simplistic.

But these books were a good option for kids who weren’t so much into reading, or had a shorter attention span—it was more like a game (thus the completely appropriate category of ‘gamebook’) and helped to keep their interest by allowing them to take part in the story. Amusingly enough, it didn’t even try and disguise the fact that the protagonist was supposed to be a stand-in for the reader, the way many young-adult novels do, for example—no, the protagonist was simply ‘you.’

Choose Your Own Adventure, in my opinion, does stand the test of time. It was different. It was fun. It was exciting. It was…confusing, at times, yes, for those of us who were fans of the more traditional linear reading (which perhaps the writers knew—one book consisted of an ending that could only be reached by ‘cheating’ and either skipping around in the book or by reading it from front to back, as no plot line led to that ending). It was long-lasting, compared to most popular children book series, and they’re still around today. Kudos to the creators for gently trying to steer children away from the video games and trying to promote literacy (just kidding, we all know it’s all about the Almighty Dollar in the end!).

1 comment:

  1. omg, these are the best. i would always back peddle and choose a different path once i made a poor choice and died or something.