Violence and children: these days, we aren’t quite so keen about introducing the latter to the former. Choose Your Own Adventures flung grim death around as if it were magnolia paint, however. Was there any internal discussion back at HQ about all this murder?
“I don’t recall discussing it,” Packard tells you. “I largely avoided ghoulishness and gore, though I often used mock pathos and humor, such as in Sugarcane Island, where you may become submerged in quick sand. If you make the wrong choice, the last line is “Glug, glug, glug.””
“Glug, glug, glug,” isn’t the half of it, actually. Almost all the Choose Your Own Adventures offered a little amusement for the twisted. You could be chopped in half, crushed under rocks, or eaten by hungry aliens. You could fall to your death, fly to your death in a balloon, or even be fried to death by the weather. The Rock and Roll Mystery lets you expire in an road traffic accident – and that’s in a book about starting a band.
All that dying, but it doesn’t really matter. Why? Because maybe children’s fiction should have a little darkness in it, just as video games should make you earn experience points instead of just handing them over for watching a training video. Sure, you may have gone through your teens convinced that the world was a fiercely calibrated death trap after one too many nights reading Who Killed Harlowe Thrombey?, but you also had an active, energised, well-fed imagination to power all of your new fears. That seems like a fair trade, Mr Thrombey.
Why else? Because you can turn back time. You can restart, or revert to your last save. You know, like a video game where death is not the end, but just one crucial part of that vast celestial tutorial. You die in order to live another day.
You have been gored by a swan. Go to THE PRESENT DAY.