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What are Choose Your Own Adventure Books?

Jessica Ellis
By
Updated May 23, 2024
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Choose Your Own Adventure books are a beloved series throughout the world. The unique idea behind the series is that the reader makes all of the heroes’ choices, not knowing where they lead. Choose Your Own Adventure books were originally published between 1979-1998, and have been reprinted in the 21st century.

The first of the books was called Sugarcane Island, written by Edward Packard in 1969. The book, which had begun as a bedtime story for Packard’s children, was submitted unsuccessfully to several publishing agencies before coming to the attention of publisher R.A. Montgomery of Vermont Crossroads Press (VCP.) The format was originally published as Adventures of You, but in the late 1970s, Montgomery contracted with Bantam Books to produce at least six new titles now called Choose Your Own Adventure books.

The format for the Choose Your Own Adventure books was not entirely original, having been used with varying success by several European authors in previous years. Each book is written from a second-person perspective, so that when the hero does something, the book says “you” do it. At the end of each segment, the reader is given two or more choices, turning to a different page depending on their choice. Choices may lead to rewards, monsters, unexpected endings, or death. Books contained between 8-50 different possible endings to they story, so that the book could be read repeatedly for different experiences.

The draw of series lies in its ability to put the reader into the story. As video role-playing games (RPGs) have developed, this desire to be the hero of a story has evolved into major video game franchises. When Choose Your Own Adventure books were released, however, video gaming was in its infancy, and very few RPGs were made for early gaming systems. Choose Your Own Adventure books are considered partially responsibly for the RPG genre, as well as the popularity of other game-books such as Dungeons and Dragons.

The original series contains 185 books, beginning with The Cave of Time and ending with Escape From the Haunted Warehouse. Packard and Montgomery each wrote about 60 Choose Your Own Adventure books each, with other contributors making up the remaining amount. The series spawned several successful spin-offs, such as Choose Your Own Adventure For Younger Readers, Choose Your Own Adventure: Walt Disney Series, and Choose Your Own Nightmare, based on scary stories.

In 2005, Montgomery began releasing Choose Your Own Adventure books under his new company name, Chooseco. The books feature new artwork and plans to add new titles to the series. A website, www.coya.com, is run by Chooseco and features online content and secret online endings to many of the re-released titles. Online innovation appears to be the direction the company is heading, with some fans suggesting that internet-enhanced versions of the books will be possible in the near future.

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Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis , Writer
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for Language & Humanities. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.

Discussion Comments

By irontoenail — On Dec 13, 2013

@bythewell - I've read attempts by authors to write "literary" versions of Choose Your Own Adventure stories and they are very difficult to read. The problem is that it's only really an illusion of choice and a good author should be creating characters who could only ever make one choice in a particular situation.

That's what most authors mean when they say that their characters have wills of their own. The character is so well defined that it is almost predictable.

If you put the reader in charge of the character's actions, then you take something away from the story. Not to mention it seems like a very diluted version of a computer game.

By bythewell — On Dec 12, 2013

@Iluviaporos - I don't think people who wrote those kids story books expected them to be read over and over or they would have included a better story. Generally they were a very basic story without any kind of real characterization or anything like that.

There were other versions of this kind of book that you could get that were for teenagers and even adults, where you had to throw a dice to see what kinds of outcomes happened to your character. I think they were based around the Dungeons and Dragons games, but I'm not sure. They were quite fun, but still not exactly literary reading.

By lluviaporos — On Dec 11, 2013

I loved these when I was a kid. They always had such funny endings.

In the end I would always get impatient with just reading the whole book over and over and would skip around the endings though, so a book that might have lasted a couple of weeks if I was more patient, usually only lasted a couple of days at the most.

Jessica Ellis

Jessica Ellis

Writer

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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