Friday, September 3, 2010

Choose Your Own Book

Who else remembers Choose Your Own Adventure books? Was there anything cooler in the 80s and 90s? Forget the slinky or the Rubix cube, pass me a box of those slim, white-covered tomes. Never has the second-person point of view been so popular and beloved. You could go anywhere or do anything. How else could you pilot a space ship and then go on to become a prisoner of the dreaded ant people all in the same afternoon? Now that’s magic.

For those of you who missed this phenomenon, Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) books allowed you to become the protagonist of the stories. At the end of each scene you got to choose what course of action to take. Do you hide from the goblins or go in sword swinging? Do you try to rescue the martian slaves, or do you take up trade with their captors? The choice was always yours. And often, if you picked a “poor” path, you died gruesomely. Hence the need to read with your thumb in the pages as you skipped around. If you were a cheater like me that is. What can I say. I tended to explode from my own heroics.

Part of the charm of CYOAs was the re-readability of them. Sure, one story was usually a short event, but you could read the same book over and over and it would be different every time (assuming you changed things up). As I aged I found myself wishing they made something similar for adults. I even toyed with the idea of writing one myself, but other pursuits always won out. A few authors did try, but never with much success. (Example: Pretty Little Mistakes by Heather McEltatton.) Why adult CYOAs never took off will always be a mystery to me. I suppose videogames had something to do with it, but that is just a guess. Well, imagine my surprise when I heard this week that there is a growing popularity online for what are being called word games, which are in all rights grown-up CYOAs for the digital age.

Choice of Games just released their newest contribution to the realm of online CYOA reading, Choice of Romance. While I don’t read romance novels I think the idea of a CYOA romance is sheer brilliance. How many times have you chastised a character for going with the wrong man/woman? I know I have more times than I can count. So here is your chance to set it straight. Think the Duke is a tyrant and prefer the soldier? The choice is yours.

So my question now is this: are we finally ready for adult CYOAs? Will the trend reach a resurgence? Will I be happily clearing shelf space in the future for a new section? Or should we renounce all of this? Keep books squarely in the realm of the passive, and leave our adventuring for other modes of entertainment? What do you think?

If you’d like to read new and exciting adult CYOAs, turn to page 42.

If you’d like to read only standard books, turn to page 11.

(Note: CYOAs came out in 1979 and they continued to release new titles until 1998. You can still order reprints both through us and through their new publisher, and we currently have several of the lovelies in stock here at the Firehouse, if you are so moved. Happy reading!)

- t


  1. Wow! How did I miss this whole phenomenon? Perhaps I should give it a go with one of the new adult CYOAs.

    Julie Magers Soulen Photography