Fate, Destiny, and Choices – Parallel Life Books

Posted September 24, 2015 / Discussions, Features / 11 Comments

fateI think I’ve talked about this in so many reviews that it’s finally time to bring this topic to its own discussion post. I’ve also touched on it quite a bit during my read-bait series (that will be revived again, I promise) and as a guest post for Andi during Parallel Time Loop. It’s a topic that I think about A LOT and, as a result, love reading books about. I’m going to talk a bit about what guides us through life: fate or choices. Are we destined to reach the same final destination in life, regardless of the decisions we make? Or does each and every choice impact us in some way, where one decision changes everything? I’m not sure we’ll ever know the real answer to this, but some books I’ve read within the past couple of years definitely bring it up in different and interesting ways. I’ll share what piqued my interest in this topic, my thoughts on it, and then some books that deal with it.thoughts fateI think I should preface this conversation with the fact that I am not religious at all. When I sit here talking (uh, typing) about fate and choices and all that jazz, I’m not implying in any way that I think God is the mastermind behind all of it. I’m thinking more along the lines of some grander plan out there. I don’t know what or who or anything… just something bigger than us. I just wanted to clarify that first because I think usually this topic can get tied up with religion in some ways.

What got me interested

There was an episode of So Weird back in 2001 called “Pen Pal” that was about this topic, and that sparked my interest. In it, Annie makes a simple decision before school in the morning: orange juice or grapefruit juice? With the choice, her world splits into two without her realizing. There’s one world where she chose orange juice, spilled it all over herself, was late to school, and ended up with detention. In that world, she mixes in with the wrong crowd and it changes her whole future. In the world where she picks grapefruit juice, she has no issues and goes about her normal day. The two worlds end up colliding and causing problems, which is kind of beside the point, but this was definitely my first foray into this idea. I kept thinking, wouldn’t that be crazy? If every decision we made created different universes that were totally different from one another?

I saw this topic show up again on TV recently in my all-time favorite episode of Community that appeared in 2011. In this episode, “Remedial Chaos Theory,” the gang explores this topic in another way. They all get together to play a game and use the six-sided die to determine who has to get up and get the pizza from the delivery boy. Abed explores that there are six different potential timelines depending on who it lands on and warns Jeff that this will happen once he rolls. The episode shows each of the different timelines as a result of who it lands on; they all have surprisingly different results. I won’t get into each timeline or spoil the ending, but this was another reason my interest in this topic continued. They talk about the “prime timeline,” which is the one that actually happened, and the “darkest timeline,” with the worst possible outcomes.

In both of these episodes, the main characters explore the fact that multiple timelines or universes exist based on every single choice that someone makes. Some may yield positive results – some may have terrible results. Both, though, imply that choice is what guides us in life… not fate or destiny.

Personal thoughts on fate vs. choice

For someone who is really interested in this topic, it’s hard for me to figure out what I think is actually true. I would like to believe that we all aren’t just walking around and have no control over what happens to us… but I’d also like to think that there is some predetermined destination that we’re headed to. I think the biggest thing I pull from books like this is that everything happens for a reason. I explored this a bit during my guest post on Andi’s blog:

I’ve always been a firm believer in fate and “everything happens for a reason.” It may not be clear at the time it happens, but each event in our lives has the opportunity to show us a new lesson or offer us a new opportunity. The decisions we make allow for us to, eventually, make it where we need to be in the end. I’m not sure that each decision actually makes a separate alternate universe – but how cool would it be if that were true?

It seems like, a year ago, I believed a mix of the two. Each decision we make helps lead us to the place we are supposed to be. But I wonder: is that place predetermined? Are all of the decisions predetermined too? Ugh I don’t know if my brain can handle it. I definitely think everything happens for a reason and all of the choices we make impact us in some way or teach us some lesson, but I don’t know beyond that. I think the biggest reason I read books like this – about parallel universes or dual timelines or even time travel – is to help sort out those feelings. I mean, it feels nice when I think that I’ll end up where I’m destined to be no matter what happens… but who knows if that’s true!?books fateAlright, now onto the books! I’ve read quite a few in this genre (definitely more than the last time I wrote about this for my read-bait post) and there are certainly more to read! I’ll give you a run-down of the books and will hide the endings in spoiler tags! I think the endings of these books are what proves one point over the other, so I have to mention it somehow.

Books I’ve read

17190935Book: Just Like Fate by Cat Patrick and Suzanne Young
Rating: 4.5 stars | Goodreads
Type: Dual timeline: choice made by the character splits the book in two
Set-up: Alternating chapters with “stay” or “go” on the bottom to keep track of which decision the chapter is about

Summary: Caroline’s grandmother is sick and she has to decide whether or not she’ll stay with her that night, or go to a party with her best friend. The book alternates between the two choices and shows the different things that happen to her in each. She also has some family drama that unfolds in the two timelines.

Ending & Moral: View Spoiler »

16090645Book: Ask Again Later by Liz Czukas
Rating: 4.5 stars | Goodreads
Type: Dual timeline: coin flip made by the character splits the book in two
Set-up: Alternating chapters with “heads” or “tails” as the chapter heading

Summary: Heart decides to flip a coin to decide who she’s going to go to prom with: heads and she goes with her brother’s friend as a favor; tails and she goes with her friend from theater who has a secret. She lives through the two timelines at prom and deals with the consequences of each coin result. This book was definitely funnier and less serious than the previous book I mentioned.

Ending & Moral: View Spoiler »

one past midnightBook: One Past Midnight by Jessica Shirvington
Rating: 4.5 stars | Goodreads
Type: Parallel life: lives two different lives and is aware of it
Set-up: Alternating chapters about each life and its location

Summary: Sabine lives two completely different lives: one she’s in a wealthy Boston suburb with a rich family, and in the other she has a poor family in a different town. Every night after midnight, she wakes up in the other life. The summary implies that she’s going to “choose” which life she wants to live in permanently, instead of switching back and forth. The biggest difference is that she’s aware of the life-switching, unlike the two books above.

Ending & Moral: View Spoiler »

dissonanceBook: Dissonance by Erica O’Rourke
Rating: 5 stars | Goodreads
Type: Multiverse: each decision made creates an alternate universe
Set-up: Standard format with no alternating chapters

Summary: This book is more about the concept of a multiverse, rather than a main character experiencing different universes based on a decision or something. Each decision creates another universe that needs to be kept in tune and not get too close to other universes.Del works for the Walkers, who go between all of the infinite universes and keep them going.

Ending & Moral: View Spoiler »

maybe in another lifeBook: Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Rating: 5 stars | Goodreads
Type: Dual timeline: choice made by the character splits the book in two
Set-up: Alternating chapters with no chapter labels

Summary: Hannah moves home to LA and is faced with a decision during her first night out: go home with her friend, or go home with her ex-boyfriend? The two timelines become wildly different right off the bat, with consequences no one would have expected. The question is: will the two timelines lead to the same end result and soulmate?

Ending & Moral: View Spoiler »

split pivotBook: Pivot Point and Split Second by Kasie West
Rating: 5 stars and 4.5 stars | Goodreads
Type: Dual timeline: results of a choice splits the book in two; two characters
Set-up: Alternating chapters with no chapter labels; alternating chapters between the two main characters

Summary: Addie can see and live through both decisions when making a choice, in order to see which has the better outcome. The story alternates between the two decisions (living with her mom inside their special compound or living with her dad in the “real world” after a divorce). The second book alternates between two POVs instead – her and her best friend.

Ending & Moral: View Spoiler »

Books on my TBR list

Thankfully there is no shortage of books about this topic. There are quite a few on my TBR still to read, which I’ll highlight here quickly:

Now That You're Here (Duplexity #1)A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird, #1)ParallelIn a World Just Right

Now That You’re Here by Amy K. Nichols | main character jumps into a parallel universe
A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray | Firebird is developed to go between parallel universes
Parallel by Lauren Miller | collision of parallel universes and alternate timelines based on a decision
In a World Just Right by Jen Brooks | main character can create parallel worlds

summaryWhat do the books tell us, then? Are we ruled by our destiny or do we have control over our futures? I think we like to believe that we have complete control over our lives and that it’s possible to make right and wrong choices… although, it is kind of nice to think that we can go with the flow at times and we’ll end up where we’re meant to be. I won’t share the specific details about each of the books end, but I will allude to the overall message I get from all of them. You have been warned, if you consider that a spoiler!

Through most of the books I’ve read (some not included here), it seems to me that the most common theme is that you’ll end up in the same destination regardless of your decision. There are some up there that definitely have the opposite ending. I generally go into books like these expecting that the character ends up with the same boy in both timelines, or they just have the same final result. I like being surprised, though, so it’s nice to see when the opposite happens.

What do you think? Do you believe we’re all driven by a predetermined fate, or our choices impact our end result? What do the books tell you?

11 responses to “Fate, Destiny, and Choices – Parallel Life Books

  1. This is such an interesting question, isn’t it? I don’t really know what I believe. I don’t believe in God or anything like that, so I think maybe we get to decide everything. I’m not sure the universe really cares about each individual living being. I think it’s all up to chance.

    I do want to read a bunch of these books though! I love the idea of one choice having such a large impact.

    Kate @ Mom's Radius recently posted: The Lunar Chronicles Read Along: Scarlet
  2. I personally believe in both fate and choice. I believe there is a pre-destined path for each and every one of us in the world, but I also believe we can make choices that will change that path over the course of our lifetime. It’s a confusing set of beliefs, to be sure, but that’s how I feel (at the moment). I really liked reading your thoughts on this!

  3. I love this post! I love the idea of fate and parallel universes, and I think it can be leveraged really well in YA books. I own Pivot Point by Kasie West but haven’t read it yet (I haven’t had the best luck with her contemporary romances) but maybe this will be much more interesting…?

  4. […] about those favorites over and over again at this point! My favorite sub-genre are books about parallel lives, parallel universes, and anything involving something weird happening with time. I’m not the hugest time travel fan, compared to other elements of manipulating time for […]

  5. Lauren

    I have been grappling with this concept for some time. I was reflecting (agonizing) on it tonight, which led me to do a google search on if there are any books about this topic, which led me to this blog post. I appreciate your insight and it feels good to know I am not the only person who thinks about this stuff. I haven’t read it in a while but this post reminded me of The Five People You Meet in Heaven. I think it kind of relates to this topic and would recommend it if you haven’t read it already. As much as I would like to think that we are all driven by a predetermined fate (and hey, it would be cool if we are), I think our choices have a larger impact on our end result than we can even realize. It’s so much to think. I’m starting to think maybe I need to just chill and live my life and try to make good choices, and see what happens.

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