For the control freak in you: Choose Your Own Adventure books

In the mid-80s, my school librarian introduced me to the control freak’s dream series: Choose Your Own Adventure books.  I’ll be honest, it was a slice of Nirvana for me, a control freak from a tender age. 

Here I was, an essentially powerless kid, yet I could control the destiny of book characters.  I may have had to go to bed at 7:30 because my mom said so, but I could control the outcome of a book?!  Can I get an amen for my new God Complex?    


Admittedly, this series was a bit dated by the time I showed up on the scene–originally published in the late 1970s while I didn’t come upon it until 1985 or so.  To my chagrin, many of the plots seemed geared toward a more masculine readership, but a few years later I discovered Choose Your Own Adventure-style books with boy-crazy story lines…just my speed.

I’m guilty of rewriting my character’s destiny (many times over) by flipping ahead, turning back and weighing the outcomes of my options before making an ultimate decision.  I was a kid AND a control freak…what can I tell you?

Were you a fan of the CYOA series?  To tell me about it, turn ahead to page COMMENTS.  If you don’t want to tell me, turn back to another blog.

28 responses to “For the control freak in you: Choose Your Own Adventure books

  1. I loved CYOA books, but I don’t think I ever read these. I’m sad for my childhood.

  2. I’ve seen the series around but never got into them as a kid! I did love the Goosebumps variation of them, though — those giant books where you can pick out what happens to all the creepy crawly things in there.

    And, as an adult, I read a CYOA novel of a different variation — Heather McElhatton’s Pretty Little Mistakes. Since each of my choices seemed to involve my becoming the mistress of an Italian crime lord, dead in the gutter at age 25 or becoming a drug addict, I quickly tired of that one, though! 🙂

  3. I loved these books a lot. There is a new series for kids, which I have picked up for my own children (although they don’t seem as obsessed–must be my husband’s genes tempering mine) and I have a few recent girly grown-up ones for myself.

    Did you ever find yourself going back adn re-choosing if you didn’t like your outcome? I totally did. Becauze by golly, if I was in charge, then I could call a do-over whenever I wanted to get the outcome I wanted most!

  4. I vaguely remember books of this nature. Going back a long time now.

  5. Oh wow!!! I LOVED this series as a kid and took every single one out of our school library. I’m also guilty of re-writing the endings, and would try all the different permutations of choices. What a flashback!

  6. I loved these books. I am a control freak and was as a child- first born of four kids. I would never let myself die because I would never fully commit to one adventure. I’d run three or four at the same time, flipping back and forth, it was ridiculous.

  7. CYOA books annoyed me SO MUCH because I ALWAYS died within, like, five pages. I had to cheat to get to the end of the storyline.

    Did you know that the CYOA line been bought by another company who’re rereleasing the old ones and making new ones? 😀

  8. Love the pics! Oh yes, I was a huge fan as well. Never made the connection that it might have something to do with my control-freak nature. Hmmm. . . 🙂

  9. I missed this series when it came out but I love the concept.

  10. I was an adult when these came out, but my son loved these books!

  11. I absolutely loved this series in grade school!! I would try out all the possibilities, too. I wish I still had my copies. They were so tattered as I remember. The rest of the ones I read were borrowed from my friend who had almost a complete collection.

  12. I admit it! I loved them! I even wrote a few of my own that have, thankfully, been lost to the several moves of my childhood and the handful leading up til now. I know I would cringe to see what my 8 year-old-self thought was suspenseful!

  13. I absolutely loved these books growing up! What was nice was being able to pick again if I didn’t like the way my first suggestion led the character.

    It’s funny you should bring this up because I was trying to explain them to some of my Indian friends at work. One was going home and he was hoping to return married to the girl he loved. Unfortunately her father wasn’t too keen on him. So, I told him that it was like he was going on a choose your own adventure – Indian wedding addition. Yeah, they think I’m crazy – but they love me anyway. 🙂

  14. LOVED LOVED LOVED these books. I have mentioned them in previous posts many times. I recently picked up a book called ‘Pretty Little Mistakes’ by Heather McElhatton and it is called a ‘Do-Over Novel’. Basically an adult CYOA with the same style format as the original – two choices and different pages to turn to. I’ll let you know how it is. I see up above as I type that Megan has already mentioned this. I like to add my two cents and then read other comments. Oooops.

  15. I was a huge fan of these books (although I think we had slightly different versions in Australia). I loved being able to go back and start again if I didn’t like what had happened. Now, if only real life could be like that…

  16. Yep, loved them! My favorite one (which I still own and read to my oldest) is The Mystery of Chimney Rock!

  17. I was just talking about these books the other day! Unfortunately, the person with whom I was speaking is significantly younger and had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. So happy you do!! And yes, I was a fan, for a short time. I became frustrated by how quickly the stories ended and how simplistic they were. I don’t know what age I was, but they were obviously geared for someone slightly younger, or with a less detail-oriented imagination. I never noticed that they were geared to boys.

    My reading process was the same as yours, though, too – flipping back and forth to see which story options were the best. It created a life-long habit of flipping through a book to various random pages and reading one or two to determine whether I’m going to like a book or not.

  18. I’ve never even heard of these books! And yes, they had books even in the boonies of Oregon where I grew up.

    I think I need to talk to management (my mom) about this oversight.

  19. Oh I loooved these as a kid!

  20. How I used to love these as a kid…especially if I am remembering correctly the ones that were a bit mystery related. I hope that when my son get old enough that he gives them a try. Thanks for reminding me about these!

  21. I loved these books! I was like you, I would read ahead to figure out what endings I liked best and then making decisions. FYI…I’m a control freak as well.

    My boys (who are 15) recently picked up these books at the library and read them our road trip from MN to KY. They loved them. I guess they are timeless 🙂

  22. I loved these books as a kid! It took a while for the librarian to find one but I really wanted my daughter to read it…and she wasn’t as thrilled as I hoped she’d be. 😦

  23. My brother LOVED these!!

    PS. Stop by my blog NOW…I think you’ll be pleasantly (very much so) surprised :)!!!!!

  24. I was a Choose You Own Adventure addict…My Father cleaned our local library and I helped (a la shake and bake style) but instead of doing my jobs (usually either dusting or sweeping) I always found myself reading instead…but to my Father’s dismay considering he had lost his worker to piles upon piles of books…but I’m sure it was better to lose me there than a video arcade or something!

  25. I loved these books, especially those with sci-fi story lines. I still own the Deadwood City book – it’s upstairs on my son’s shelf.

  26. I’m so happy you put up the classic covers! As a kid, I owned one of those (By Balloon to the Sahara) that must’ve been a leftover from my 13-years-older sister. Those had a comeback when I was in grade school (mid-90s).

  27. I loved loved loved these!! Seeing those covers just brought me back to my childhood! And I recently got one out of the library and read it with my son … he loved it!

  28. Wow, what a flashback. I read a ton of these with my sister way back when- we used to try and come up with every possible adventure/choice combination in the books. I even recognize some of those covers- especially the Cave of Time.

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