The Keys To My Heart #7: Parallel Universes

Posted September 11, 2014 by Debby in Discussions, The Keys to My Heart / 19 Comments

This is a periodic discussion feature here at Snuggly Oranges about the bookish things that steal my heart.

#7. Parallel Universes

If you’ve been around the blog and have read my Top Ten Tuesday posts, you’ve probably noticed a trend among some of my favorite books. I am in love with the concept of parallel universes. It instantly puts books on my radar and more often than not, I absolutely love them.

What I define as a parallel universe story: basically, the main character goes through two different timelines or exists in two (or more) worlds that are very similar, but differ in some way. For example: they show what would happen to a character if they chose to live with their mother or their father after a divorce – both paths, which end up shaping them in different ways. They explore the what if questions: what if I took him to Prom instead of this other guy? What if I study at this college instead of working? Then they go through the different paths. Most people immediately reference the movie Sliding Doors, which I actually have never watched, whoops, but so yeah, it’s like that.

But in a broader or more fantasy/sci-fi genre, this can just mean variations of one universe. (Which makes this definition so confusinggggggg.) There could be a parallel universe of Earth but with the existence of magic. Or where aliens have visited us. And then characters can traverse those universes and have different adventures in different worlds. So as opposed to the previous definition, this is less about a character’s personal choices and character development. In researching books for this topic, I found the definitions differ muchly across the internet, because sub-genre classification is haaaaaaard. Buuuut I’ll give some examples, primarily of the former type, because that is what I’ve encountered most that I’ve absolutely loved.

My Favorites

Pivot Point (2) Parallel Ask Again Later

I think we all know by now how obsessed I am with Pivot Point, and yeah. It’s just amazing with its exciting, twisty plot and distinct character growth across the two different timelines. And I loved how those timelines intertwined, and the reveals in one timeline affected the events of the other one. My mind was blown. Add in a heartbreaking romantic arc, and you’ve got one of my all-time favorite books.

Parallel I’ll continually refer to as being underrated, because it’s a book that stayed with me for MONTHS after reading it. I may not have totally liked the science aspect when I first read it, but the messages about soulmates and friendships were so heartbreakingly beautiful. I’m not a big believer in fate, but I really liked how that brought the parallel universes back together in this story.

Ask Again Later is pretty much just a fun, fluffy contemporary, and I would not name the parallel timelines the key selling point of the book. But it was really fun to see how the romance developed in both timelines and then came together in the end. So many shippy moments in both paths!

To Be Read or Coming Soon

Before I Fall Untitled-7.indd Undercurrent Dissonance Tandem relativity A Thousand Pieces of You In a World Just Right Now That You're Here

Why I love them so much:

More than anything, the themes of these books always come down to the power of choice and the way that one choice could change everything – for better or worse. Usually this creates awesome character development arcs, with lots of depth, and when done right that can make me FEEL ALL THE THINGS. It’s also about fate – whether it exists or not, and whether you can fight it or not – which I find super interesting to think about.

Also, because of their mysterious nature, these stories can be very addictive because you feel the need for the characters to find their way to the right path. I mean, we know how obsessive I am about Pivot Point. That story really kept me on my toes and had quite a few surprises. So there’s just a lot of potential for exciting plot twists and intrigue and I loooove that.

To top it all off, it’s fun to think about your own life and the choices you’ve made. How would your life be different if X happened? It usually has a lot of smaller consequences that you might not consider at first. Especially with my almost reaching a quarter life crisis, I can spend hours thinking about it. What if I didn’t study marketing? What if I stayed in the US for college? What if I never picked up The Hunger Games and started to like reading? In case of the latter, I wouldn’t be here right now. And that would be sad.

Let’s Talk!

Do you like parallel universe books? What makes them appeal to you (or not)? Do you have any suggestions of good titles to add to my TBR?

Let me know in the comments!

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19 responses to “The Keys To My Heart #7: Parallel Universes

  1. I have to admit I don’t like parallel universe books at all. In fact I try to avoid everything that deals with weird time issues as they just don’t work for me. Maybe I am too rational or demand an explanation that makes sense for me, but most often I find I can better avoid them altogether. I have read a few books that dealt with time issues that I did enjoy, but I don’t remember any parallel universe book from the top of my mind. I enjoyed reading what you did like about this genre and always find it interesting to learn that others can love genres which i try to avoid and vise versa.
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    • Those are definitely not parallel universe stories. Parallel universes show different paths or lives that a character may face as a result of some decision or event, for example: at a divorce, deciding whether you will live with your mom or dad. A parallel universe book would show the results of both choices, which can shape the characters in distinctly different ways depending on which path is taken. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

      • They’re a different kind of parallel universe, I think, from the ones you are talking about. Instead of in Ask Again Later, where we see what happens depending on what the MC character decides, in His Dark Materials, it’s sort of what these different worlds would be like depending on many peoples different decisions. Sometimes these same people take the path going right, and other times they take the path going left. But we don’t see what happens in the characters lives depending on their decisions. We just see the characters going to these different worlds. So it is kind of confusing.

        And you’re right, the first book’s really is all in one specific world. It’s not until book two were they travel to different worlds.

        But anyway, I do recommend them! 🙂
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  2. I like the idea of this premise but, in reality, I haven’t read that many books that use it. I was so bored by Pivot Point that it was a DNF for me (sorry). But, on the other hand, I loved Before I Fall

    The only other book I can think of that’s sort of similar is InterWorld by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves (which was more about parallel versions of the main character than parallel worlds). It’s a middle grade title, and I thought it was pretty weak… so I wouldn’t exactly recommend it.

  3. Amber Elise

    I’m such a sucker for Parallel universe books too, but the breaker is always when the author tries to over-explain the world and it loses its magic.

    Before I Fall is such a beautiful story, be sure to have the tissues nearby! 🙂 I don’t think I have any books to rec, I’m just happy to gush about parallel universes!

    Oh I read Tandem and it is a decent read, not perfect, but interesting at least. And I can’t wait to get my hands on the new Claudia Gray!

    Happy reading Debby

    Amber Elise @ Du Livre

  4. I enjoy parallel universe stories, so I’m adding a bunch of these to my tbr 🙂 I didn’t really think Before I Fall was a parallel universe kind of book -more like a Groundhog day.
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