Freedom Of Choice


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 flashback fridaycollections 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.

Why read when you can spend all day drawing cartoon rodents?

Why read when you can spend all day drawing cartoon rodents?

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.

Behold the awesomeness!

Behold the awesomeness!

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!

To blast ES's head off, turn to Page 87.

To blast ES’s head off, turn to Page 87.

To boil ES in water, turn to Page 53.

To boil ES in water, turn to Page 53.

To zap ES with 1.21 gigawatts, turn to Page 152.

To zap ES with 1.21 gigawatts, turn to Page 152.

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.

Now how do you like being the protagonist, huh?

Now how do you like being the protagonist, huh?

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.

Give us CYOA books, or give us death!

Give us CYOA books, or give us death!

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.

If you want to end today’s Flashback Friday post, click here.

If you can’t get enough of Flashback Friday, click here.

If you just want to see awesome masterpieces of sciurine artwork, click here.

the birth of mbrs

Excellent choice!

About evilsquirrel13

Bored former 30-something who has nothing better to do with his life than draw cartoon squirrels.
This entry was posted in Flashbacks and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Freedom Of Choice

  1. Juliette says:

    CYOA was after my time and before my kids. Fun stuff.
    May I see more awesome masterpieces of sciurine artwork if I promise not to try to sell you any books?

  2. merbear74 says:

    CYOA…I had all of those as a kid! Very cool post usual. 🙂

  3. I’ve read of couple of CYOA that my dad has, really interesting indeed.
    I gotta be honest, I don’t like reading online or on an iPad, I still like to read the good old books the way they’ve always been.
    Sometimes I print longs post that some bloggers write and just read them when I’m traveling, very green right?
    MBRS as Venus is great!

    • I don’t think I’d enjoy reading any real literature online or on some electronic device. Short articles and posts are no bother, but like you, for longer reading, I’d want a hard copy. MBRS says thanks!

  4. goldfish says:

    Sweet! I loved CYOA books, and when I got my first PC, we had CYOA games on cassette.

    “You come to a door. Do you open it? Y/N”

  5. The Cutter says:

    I had a bunch of these. I’ll admit it: I would often cheat, and go backwards to find the right path to take.

  6. C.K. Hope says:

    Those books were great!

  7. The boy informs me there is an app of this. He is 13 so rarely wrong! I love real books! I also like reading online. Great post!

  8. fransiweinstein says:

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could control the ending in real life? If, for everything that happened, we’d get 3 choices? My mind boggles with the possibilities!!!

  9. I had a few similar books when I was younger. I thought about writing one – I was gonna call it “No One Gets Out Alive” – but I couldn’t figure out enough gruesome ways to die that hadn’t been used already.

  10. vengeance4 says:

    Hahahaha!!! While most of my generation does indeed hate reading, I am a rare exception. I currently own over 500 books and am always buying more. I’ve even read the CYOA books!! I actually own a few of them. The one I remember most is the King Arthur adventure. I always die by fire or something….

  11. psquirrel says:

    This is a super sweet post – I LOVED these books as a young squirrel and read every one I could get my paws on. Thanks for including my artsy squirrel post as one of the choices!!! I feel honored!! =)

  12. No problem, I was happy to find a way to work your post onto my blog! I’m sure everyone who read my Choose Your Own Adventure Post picked that option!

    • psquirrel says:

      I actually got the most likes on a post I’ve ever gotten, probably driven from the traffic you directed there with this post. =) Who knew blogs could be so fun?? =)

  13. Dylan Dailey says:

    Those books were the shit. You know, the fact that you die in them was such a turn-on. I was introduced to CYOA by a fourth grade teacher reading aloud to the class, and when we got gunned down at the end of the tale (the book was the western one), we went nuts!
    I think I’m going searching for CYOA now and read some of them. Thanks for the reawakened memory, ES! You’re the best!

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