I’ll admit it right now… I’m not much of a reader. In a blogosphere full of aspiring authors and bibliophiles, I stand out like a Hustler magazine in a library. Even if you count collections of short stories (which is about all my attention span has time for), I can probably count on both hands the number of books I’ve read since I hung up my school career 16 years ago. At least one of those books was about my favorite subject! The internet is to blame for my lack of attention to the printed word, as I’ve spent the majority of my free and not so free time hanging around the vast timesuck of cyberspace since the turn of the millennium.
But we’re in Flashback Friday territory now, and with no internet to eat up the plethora of boring hours I had as a kid, I found I did occasionally pick up a book and read it. Unfortunately, living with four younger sisters, a lot of the reading material around the house was Little Golden Books or My Little Pony style shit (NTTAWWT, of course). But I was fortunate to be able to get my hands on a few books in one of the more unique, popular, and totally 80’s young adult literature series that was out there.
The Choose Your Own Adventure series was debuted by Bantam Books in the late 70’s, and was one of the biggest kiddie lit hits of the 1980’s, with most of the stories being penned by authors Edward Packard (who created the series) and R.A. Montgomery. While almost all literature since the beginning of time has been written in either the first or the third person, CYOA books were unique in that they were told from the perspective of the second person. Yes, YOU! You were the protagonist of these little pocket adventures, not some kid who is so much more awesome than you’ll ever be. But what truly made these books unlike anything else out there was the fact that the story often came to a fork in the road…. and you got to make all of the critical decisions that affected the plot!
At times, the story would give you two or three paths to take, directing you to turn to certain pages to pick up the story. Because of this, if you got cute and just read the book cover to cover, it was kind of like a time altering psychedelic trip since you’d be weaving in and out of various locations in the story’s timeline. Because each CYOA story had numerous turning points buried within it that you got to control, there were multiple ways the story could end. Some of the choices folded upon each other and created the same result or brought you back to an earlier part of the story. Sometimes your choices ended the story within minutes, and other times your choices would drag on the adventure for an hour. And there was one undeniable fact that was true of most of the CYOA books…. about half of the endings wound up with you meeting some untimely demise.
Of course, we didn’t let those morbid endings phase us one bit back in the day. We were part of the first video game generation, and knew that death was just a temporary inconvenience towards the goal of attaining the happy ending. So we tracked back in the book to that fateful decision and chose the other option, which of course generally also led to you getting shot by a gangster, crushed in a collapsing cave, or impaled by a unicorn. Hey, this was the same decade that gave us all of our favorite campy horror movies, so fictional death was nothing new to us. The pussified generation, we were not.
Choose Your Own Adventure books pretty much died by the time Two thousand zero zero was upon us, and in this age of Facebook and smartphones, do kids even read anything not online these days? Yeah, I know, I have room to talk. But back in the caveman days when we kids needed something to keep up occupied, the CYOA series was there to deliver with its re-re-re-re-re-readability and more gruesome ways to die than the entire Final Destination series. We here at The Nest would like to thank the creative minds who brought us these twisted tales of self adventure that taught us the importance of making good decisions.
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