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Literature / What If... (Gamebooks)

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The What If... series is a series of Young Adult Gamebooks by Liz Ruckdeschel. In the first one, fifteen-year-old Haley Miller moves from California to New England and is installed in her first public high school at the start of sophomore year, and the reader is asked to make her choices.

The form of gamebook is fairly simple. There will be a chapter after each choice, in which Haley's story changes due to the repercussions of the previous choice, and the chapter will end with either a choice, a proper ending, or, if the reader has made a particularly bad choice, the storyline will reach a dead end, and the reader is told to start over. Each story begins in such a way that it loosely connects to the previous story.

You may be looking for a trope called What If?, or another work by the same name.


The book series currently consists of:

  • What If... Everyone Knew Your Name: Introduction to Haley Miller, a fifteen-year-old girl of average height, average weight, and a below-average sense of style. And you are in charge of her life. Every choice Haley faces, you have to make for her.
  • What If... All the Boys Wanted You: After fall break, Haley Miller returns to her home with a new haircut and wardrobe, but the same problems have followed her. Populettes Coco and Whitney have ditched Sasha and want Haley to be their new BFF. Sasha's in major trouble now she's on her own, and she needs help to get her life back on track. The artsy crew is on their way to long as Haley can get permission from her mom. Teacher's pets Annie and Dave are finally dating, but the arrival of another super-smart girl threatens them. And just who is stealing from the cafeteria?
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  • What If... You Broke All the Rules: Haley's dad is busy with his newest project, and her mom is way too wrapped up in her latest case. Haley finds herself in a world without rules. Will she go wild, or grow up a little?
  • What If... Everyone Was Doing It: Summer has begun, and everyone around Haley seems to be changing. Coco's begun to adjust to her lower status and is concentrating on becoming a tennis pro, while Whitney has broken her shoplifting habit and is designing and making her own line of clothes. Dave and Annie are getting closer, but when Sebastian's ex-girlfriend Mia shows up, Haley might have lost her chance at him. Best Couple Johnny and Sasha look like they might be losing that title, just as they gained it. And is Haley's relationship with Reese really a good idea? You decide what Haley should do.
  • What If... All the Rumors Were True: As junior year approaches, Haley has a lot of new choices to make, especially with all the rumors going around. Should she join the drama club with Irene, Shaun and Devon? Should she join the debate club instead, with the cute but infuriating Alex? Is the popular group really as stable as it seems? And why are there so many rumors about hazing?
  • What If... Your Past Came Back to Haunt You: It's winter in Hillsdale and things are changing. While Whitney and Sasha have become best friends all over again, Coco is busy planning her seventeenth birthday. As for Haley, her life before the move has been a mystery, but now there's a new website, and a particularly embarrassing moment for Haley has gone viral. And she's not the only one...if Haley wants to keep the damage to a minimum, she better make the right choices.
  • What If... All Your Friends Turned on You: On Christmas Eve, Haley receives several photos of the boys from her school, wasted and making out with girls, while they all have girlfriends. But even though the ice is melting, the girls' hearts won't. Haley has to choose whether to join the sisterhood, get back her boyfriend, or go in another direction entirely - and quickly, before she winds up with no group at all! note 
  • What If... All Your Dreams Came True: It's nearly the end of Haley's junior year, and prom is coming up. She's got a few different choices about who to go with, what to wear, and what to focus on first. These may be the hardest choices she'll ever have to make. That's why you need to make them for her.

What If... provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Divided School: Coco decides which uncool kids to invite to her birthday party by cutting up a yearbook and picking their names out of a hat.
  • Alliterative Name: Annie Armstrong, Mitchell Miller, Luke Lawson.
  • Alpha Bitch: Coco de Clerq, the most popular girl in school. Subverted, as she is actually not as pretty as her friends, and there is generally no reason for her to be so well-liked. She does attempt to mend her ways, but only after she loses her popularity, and she returns to her old ways after regaining it.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: During the first four books, Mitchell Miller, Haley's little brother, insists on talking in a robotic monotone. He doesn't even seem to realize he's changed his manner of speaking when he starts to talk normally again.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Book #7 has one choice of whether to confront Coco about the slimming pills she's taking or to go to the school nurse. If you choose to talk to Coco first, you reach a dead end which tells you Haley should have gone straight to the nurse, so you know that you need to do that next time. You can, however, skip both chapters entirely and things can still turn out all right, where the dieting stops around Valentine's Day.
  • Break the Cutie: The start of the second book for Sasha. Her dad has gone missing in Atlantic City, and Sasha's stuck living with her boyfriend's band's lawless guitarist who's been stealing from the school, and her best friends have dumped her because they don't approve of her boyfriend. In one ending, it turns out that the band are also dealing drugs.
  • Break the Haughty: In the third book, Coco gets drunk on New Years' Eve, embarrasses herself in front of pretty much the entire student body, and sends herself roses on Valentine's Day. Taken up to eleven in one ending when Haley puts a video of Coco on New Years on the Internet.
  • Child Prodigy: Hannah Moss turns out to be three years younger than her peers in the third book, and still one of the smartest sophomores. Her grades at the end of sophomore year are the highest average in the class.
  • Can't Hold Her Liquor: Coco only drinks alcohol on New Year's Eve. It is clear that she isn't used to it.
  • Darker and Edgier: The bad endings of the seventh book are darker than previous ones. There are still minor ones, like Haley losing her boyfriend over a game and getting caught staying over with a boy at night. But the worse ones include Haley being severely dehydrated while slimming, taking diet pills and being sent to a psychiatric ward, and getting into a car with a stranger who gets pulled over for drink-driving. Each ending points out that Haley was extremely lucky to survive. If Coco is taking dietary pills and Haley tries to talk sense into her instead of going to the nurse, it ends in Coco having to be rushed to hospital, with the book telling you off for not taking the situation more seriously.
  • Dumb Blonde: Whitney is not dumb, per se, but weak and ditzy. It's also hinted that it's not natural, since Coco mentions that if Whitney stopped bleaching it, her hair might stop falling out in the shower.
  • Fallen Princess: Coco de Clerq only drinks on New Years' Eve, and it really shows when she embarrasses herself in front of half the school.
  • Friendly Local Chinatown: In the second book, Haley and her friends visit one of these in San Francisco. They even go to a restaurant there that Irene's parents wanted her to go to.
  • Whitney can swing between this and Rich Bitch, but the heart of gold shows up more when she's free of toxic influences.
  • Lighter and Softer: The final book is lighter than its predecessor in tone like the other books, but takes it to extremes. Although there are three bad endings, only one of them asks you to start over. Haley has the chance of prom night going wrong in two endings, but neither of those ask you to return to the start.
  • Lovable Alpha Bitch: Sasha Lewis. She's friendly, extremely beautiful, and actually deserves her popularity. She does become distracted and aloof on her worse days, but usually comes off this way.
  • Playing Hard to Get: Irene suggests Haley do this to get Devon's attention, treating him like he no longer matters to her and barely giving him a second glance. [[spoiler: It works. One bad ending has Haley ignoring Irene's advice and Devon making it clear he considers her a stalker. If you continue playing this to the end, Haley realizes that she doesn't like Devon's puppy love and you can either cut him loose and be honest (which leads to a dead end), or try being nice to him again so that he cools things, and he even admits to the intensity of the relationship being his own fault.]
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The dead ends that redirect you to the start often belittle the reader for making stupid or dangerous choices, like hazing younger girls, taking slimming pills, or trying to force a weak friend to stand up for herself.
  • Strip Poker: Haley, in one "start over" ending of What If... All the Boys Wanted You, takes off everything except her bra and panties in a game of strip poker. She still loses, and ends up on the internet, and gets teased about it for the whole of high school and college.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Coco constantly treats Whitney badly, lowering her self-esteem. Consequently, Whitney acts more like Coco. Her rekindled friendship with Sasha later on helps her self-esteem and makes her a much nicer, healthier person.
  • What Were You Thinking?:
    • Often said by the author when the audience makes a bad decision. Sometimes it's directed at the reader, but it does often go to Haley. Book #2 even has a dead end that opens with asking you why you left Haley alone with a delinquent, and listing the awful things that happened because of it. Book #7 also opens a dead end berating you with this, telling you that you shouldn't have made Haley take slimming pills and she was lucky to end up in a psych ward and not the morgue (aka dead).
    • Also inverted when the author congratulates you in some scenes. Book #6 tells you that it was very generous of you to help Mia (if you choose to) because Haley will get good karma from it. Consequently, if you consciously choose for Haley to ignore the situation, you reach a dead end.
  • With Friends Like These...: Mainly Coco to Whitney, but Haley can sometimes be this, particularly to Irene or Annie. Instances include entering one of Irene's sketches in a newspaper competition without telling her and allowing Coco to test Annie's loyalty.
  • You Are Fat: Coco in the seventh book tries to do this when one of the girls doesn't follow the cleanse to the letter, telling Haley off for eating a small piece of chicken, and calling Sasha fat for saying some calories are important. Both girls are of a healthy weight.