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  • Melanie Notaras

What GAMEBOOKS are and WHY they are so VERY (VERY) GOOD

I love gamebooks. I started reading them when I was about 10 years old and it was my favorite genre for a long time. Every page an unknown risk, every book a surge of adrenaline. I was the central hero of an incredible adventure story – and I every couple of minutes not only did I have to decide what happened next in the story, but live through the highs and agonies of whether I’d survive my decision.

Did my character die? Aaarghhh! (Yes, all the time. I’ve been eaten by dinosaurs, lost in a time warp, clobbered by robots, captured by aliens, mummified, and frozen to death on the side of a mountain.)

Did I ever cheat? Absolutely . . . unlike life, you can turn back the pages of a book ;)

Gamebooks are a genre of stories that involve a branching plot structure, with a multiple number of possible endings – not just one. Written in the present-tense, second-person perspective (‘you’) together with a fast-paced narrative, they're an action-packed and immersive experience for the reader. Primarily a children’s fiction format (though they’ve been used in non-fiction and adult fiction as well) gamebooks differ from standard novels in that the reader MUST make a plot choice – marked either at the end of a paragraph or a page – in order to progress with the story.

And they’re not a recent invention. According to Wikipedia, gamebooks were conceived nearly 90 years ago. While the one of the earliest titles, Consider the Consequences! by Doris Webster and Mary Alden Hopkins was published way back in 1930, the gamebook genre really became a worldwide phenomenon with Bantam’s Choose Your Own Adventure series that exploded onto the scene in 1979. To the original authors, Edward Packard & R. A. Montgomery, we thank you.

They're fun, but they're not just fun - there's an educational value in game structure. Kids love learning through experience. They love the creativity of the interactive choice. R. A. Montgomery once (see explained the power of the genre quite simply: “The reading happened because kids were put in the driver’s seat. They were the mountain climber, they were the doctor, they were the deep-sea explorer. They made choices, and so they read.”

There’s a gamebook for everyone! Boys in particular love them, and the branching plot really motivates reluctant readers. So give them a go! Try your luck on one (or all) of these major children’s/middle grade/YA series:

* Choose Your Own Adventure - General / every type of adventure. Books are independent of each other within the series. 185+ books, written principally by Edward Packard & R. A. Montgomery.

* Twistaplot - Sci-fi, fantasy & horror, various authors. 18 books.

* Pick-A-Path - General adventure, some horror. By Jack Heath. 17 books.

* Fighting Fantasy - Fantasy realm, uses roll of the dice at times to make decisions. 59 books in the main series.

* Grailquest - King Arthur’s realm of Avalon. You play Pip, a farm girl/boy who goes on quests on behalf of the magic wizard Merlin. By J.H. Brennan. 8 books.

* The Way of The Tiger - Ninja series set on the fantasy world Orb. By Mark Smith and Jamie Thomson. 6 books.

* Clash of the Princes - Fighting/fantasy, only 1 book in this series but notable because it's a two-player/reader gamebook - read it with a friend. By Andrew Chapman and Martin Allen.

* Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Gamebooks - Be Spiderman, Captain America etc in their adventures. 8 books. Published by Marvel.

* Lone Wolf - Fantasy realm. Dangerous at every turn, for older readers. 29 books. By Joe Dever.

* Be an Interplanetary Spy - Aliens/sci-fi. Light hearted, for younger kids. Contains puzzles. 12 books. Multiple authors, published by Bantam Books.

* Virtual Reality - Fantasy adventure/defeat overlords/sci-fi, set in the 23rd Century. Complicated branching plot system. 6 books. By Dave Morris or Mark Smith.

* Click Your Poison - Murder mysteries, pandemics. 3 books (a modern series, written in 2010s, might continue). By James Schannep.

* Give Yourself Goosebumps - Horror. 42 scary books. By R.L. Stine.

* Clue - Solve mysteries, “Nancy Drew” style. 18 books. By A.E. Parker.

* My School Adventure - School-based fantasy adventure, by M.A. Notaras. It’s also the first gamebook that can be customized to schools! Modern series, second book to be released late 2018. Buy first in the series The Art Show That Came To Life At Bundock Primary School at Amazon (print or ebook), Book Depository or via

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