As a kid, I loved reading these books for their endless possibilities. A fantasy scenario was laid out on the first page and at the bottom, you got to choose which path you would take. Before the story even began, the reader was warned that there was no guarantee you wouldn't fall prey to some frightening creature, find yourself in a dangerous situation that could lead to death, or not reach your ultimate goal. But the thought of exploring numerous options and being presented with the opportunity to go back and change my path if I'd gotten on one I didn't like was too much to resist.
I was always fearless in the beginning. I chose the path that I most certainly would have avoided in real life, knowing that I could have as many do-overs as I wanted to. I lived vicariously through myself, trying to be brave and avoid an abrupt ending simultaneously. I hated it when I turned to a page that marked the ending of that path. No choices set forth at the bottom of the page, just 'The End' stamped below the final paragraph. If I were reading in the car, I would turn the page away from my brother so as not to let him know I'd made a choice that ended my journey before I could go back and start it over.
My eldest daughter has discovered these books at the library and wants me to sit with her while she reads. She is intimidated by choices and asks me to make the decisions for her - living vicariously through my adventurous spirit and knowing that if we die, she can blame me. These days I choose the path I deem most risky for her benefit, hoping that she will become increasingly comfortable with the notion that it is just a story and we can go back at any time.
Although I know it is important to take into account the consequences of our decisions, for ourselves and those who surround us, experiencing these books as an adult has reminded me that I can be more courageous with my choices. I can opt to do something I'm afraid of, take a path whose end I can't be sure of, and enjoy the sights along the way. If I hit a dead end, I'll just come back and see where the other path leads me. Of course, I'm not exactly desperate to avoid the abominable snowman in my daily life, but I do tend to take the safe route, the predictable route, the habitual route. Maybe I'm up for an adventure today instead...