Think back to your elementary school years when you first laid eyes on a Choose Your Own Adventure book. You probably thought, how cool, in one book there are multiple endings. Well, the Choose Your Own Adventure series is back in graphic novel format. The newest installment is called Eighth Grade Witch by Andrew E.C. Gaska and Eric L. Thomas. The adventure begins with a family who moves into a new house right before Halloween. You meet neighborhood kids Astrid and Felix who warn you that the house is haunted. One of them leaves their phone behind, and during the family dinner messages begin popping up talking of a secret meeting. Your first choice is to continue reading or go to the meeting.
From there I found myself immediately meeting a ghastly end. I backtracked and continued to watch a secret meeting to summon a witch by the new neighbor, Astrid. That, too, ended in my character’s death. I went back further to the beginning and tried a new path. It eventually led back to “The End”. This reminded me of one of my pet peeves with the Choose Your Own Adventure series: how difficult it is to find that one thread that leads to an enjoyable story arc. It is so easy to make the wrong choice and have the story end too soon. This problem was exacerbated by my reading it in PDF format—I assume that in finished eBook format it will at least have embedded links to help jump between choices. One of the joys for me when reading a Choose Your Own Adventure book in print is sticking my finger in between the pages so I can easily flip back and continue the adventure.
The art features greyish brown overtones that makes everything look slightly dark, giving the reader a hint that something sinister is afoot. The kids seem harmless enough in the beginning—Astrid is a plucky redhead in flannel. Later on, when she becomes possessed, her face turns green and her eyes glow. Her brother Felix has a little cherub face that is quick to anger.
The character you play is mixed race. Her mother is Black and her father is White. Her mother likes to call her Rabbit; her actual given name did not seem to be included in the text. Rabbit has a gorgeous white cat with a poofy tail named Teacup that follows her on some of the adventures. Ghosts, witches, and lizards abound in this story. I enjoyed the look of the lizards as they had very expressive faces and eyes.
While I love the concept and enjoy the Choose Your Own Adventure format, I can’t recommend the Eighth Grade Witch. The story of a family moving into a haunted house has been done before, and I didn’t feel like anything new was added to make it unique. One thing that took me aback was the amount of violence and blood featured in the story. It seemed gratuitous at times, and took me out of the story. There is a scene of animal sacrifice that I found a bit grotesque. I would skip the updated version and, if you can find it, check out C.E. Simpson’s original Choose Your Own Adventure book that this is adapted from.
Choose Your Own Adventure: Eighth Grade Witch
By Andrew E.C. Gaska, Eric L. Thomas
Art by Valerio Chiola
Oni Press, 2021
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11)