“Choose Your Own Adventure” books were an easy way to feel accomplished as a child. In a few short, simple pages, you could make the decisions which would ultimately kill your character and you could count it as an entire book read — all the way through. Book that, Pizza Hut.
If you had more time to kill or wanted to go on another adventure, you could just crack the book open again and find a new way to die. Either way, you know how these books end.
It should be simple to go back and revisit these books now that we have a lifetime of experience from which to help guide us and make decisions. Suddenly it’s a lot easier to break your friends out of Nazi Germany or get that secret message to George Washington. And now it all makes sense why your character died so often — some of these books give you absolutely terrible choices.
No matter what, it prepares you for a life of making bad life decisions.
No, they did not make a book from a Beastie Boys song (though that would have been awesome and could have explained so much). Sabotage places you in 1942 Casablanca, where you are an agent for Secret Forces. No country, just Secret Forces. You’re working with the French Resistance to break some friends out of a castle prison in Nazi Germany, but the notorious SS Agent Kruptsch is out to foil you.
Your handler gives you an envelope you’re supposed to open when you’re about to enter the castle and sends you off with Resistance operatives Simone and Raoul. Getting to the castle is really difficult because the Germans keep surprising you. When you get to the castle, the envelope lets you know why: Raoul is a double agent. There’s no explanation for why Secret Forces let him continue being a double agent or why they didn’t tell you that in the first place. But that doesn’t matter because if you take too long getting to the castle, your friends escape on their own anyway. Thanks for your help, chummmmmmmmmp!
2. Spy for George Washington
The American Colonies are in open rebellion against Great Britain. You are too young to enlist as a Continental Soldier, so a man you know enlists you (a child) to deliver a message to General George Washington about the British attack on Philadelphia. That’s not nearly as dangerous, right?
You are given every opportunity to tell everyone from Royal Navy Captains to strangers on the street about your super secret mission. The book lets you make that choice. And every time you avoid direct confrontation, you are waylaid and/or eventually killed off. The lesson here is Americans don’t avoid fights, even as spies.
3. Gunfire at Gettysburg
You are a bossy jerk of a kid in 1863 Pennsylvania who is more than a little confused about the ongoing Civil War. On one hand, slavery is wrong, but on the other, the Rebels are fighting in their homeland. I’m not kidding, this is your rationale, your great conundrum.
You just happen to be on the battlefield when the Battle of Gettysburg starts and your sociopath best friend implores you to stick around and watch for a while. You’re held at gunpoint by a Confederate officer who gives you the option of helping the Rebels with your knowledge of the local terrain or making a break for it. You consider helping the Confederates because — and I sh*t you not — you want to meet General Lee.
The author clearly has some kind of man crush on Robert E. Lee. With blazing speed you are given so many options to betray your country. If you try to help slaves escape, you lose. Eventually, you are staring, dumbfounded, as the battle rages around you. The endings where you actually survive always finish with a Southern loss, but your character always looks back wistfully at what might have been.
4. UN Adventure: Mission to Molowa
Only a book for kids would be naive enough to think the UN is anything more than a bureaucratic nightmare. But “to start on tomorrow’s paperwork, turn to page 91” doesn’t make for good reading.
Anyway, you are representing the U.S. in a model UN in New York. You meet a friend there named Achmed from the United Arab Emirates and a girl named Benati from Myanmar at a Middle Eastern restaurant down the street. For some reason the UN Secretary General calls on you three CHILDREN to solve a civil war in Africa and settle a nuclear arms deal with a dictator from a fictional breakaway Russian Republic.
Achmed disappears entirely and you drive into Molowa in an armed convoy to negotiate with five warlords. In true UN fashion, unless you stop to talk, negotiate, or barter with people, you are either left to starve in the wilderness or are eaten by hippos.
You are on a field trip to Washington, DC when the Alarin Cartel, a crime syndicate, threatens the White House. Your bus is then taken captive by the worst terrorists ever. They immediately leave all hostages alone on the bus.
If you act unilaterally and immediately, you can escape in no time, leaving your classmates to whatever fate. The terrorists are after a deadly virus the government is making anyway — they don’t really care if anyone lives. In some endings, the virus is cured by antibiotics (which is medically impossible) and in others it spreads around the world.
You will either work with the President of the United States to force a surrender (while completely glossing over this blatant American violation of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention) or join the terrorists in South America. All in all, the only decisions you make are really awful, just like the ones you make in real life. At least the cartels have free booze.