Growing up, I never read “choose your own adventure” books, and didn’t even knew they existed till about high school when they were mentioned on a Family Guy episode. All I’ve had are assumptions: they’re kid books, it’s too easy to flip back and forth to get the good ending you want, and there’s nothing preventing you from that flipping. My thoughts on them so far have been “what’s the point?” The only comparable thing that I can think of are making choices in video games: once you make a choice, if it’s a game where choices matter, the game usually saves so that you can’t go back and change it, creating that barrier and forcing players to live with their consequences. With a book, the only thing stopping kids from going back is their own will power, which they usually don’t have a lot of.
I understand what Alana Semuels is saying about the effects of these books on kids. Going back to my assumptions, since I knew they were books for kids, I figured the “bad” choices were rather PG: maybe you get caught up in some vines and have to wait for help to come, maybe you get caught by police and get taken away before being released. I didn’t know it was straight up death. I guess it can be argued that this was the beginning of exposing kids to graphic content, before video games were widely developed. I can definitely see what Semuels is saying about the books giving children misinformation about making decisions, and anxiety about decision making in the first place. If I had grown up on content where big decisions could lead to a gruesome death or the opposite expected outcome, I’d probably be scared to make big choices too.