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Just Like Fate
We watch curiously as Mr. Pip lumbers over, wiping his perpetually sweaty forehead as he goes. He opens the door two feet at best, and I almost expect him to ask the woman in the hall for a secret password. She whispers something, then hands over a tiny piece of pink paper. I know that pink: It’s a hall pass.
Someone’s getting out of here early.
“Caroline Cabot, please report to the office,” Mr. Pip says in his nasally voice. At the sound of my name, I drop the piece of strawberry-blond hair I’m twirling and, eyebrows furrowed, look across the aisle at Simone.
“What’d you do now, Linus?” she asks with a twinkle in her dark eyes. The guy one row over wakes up when she speaks. Simone’s like a half Asian Marilyn Monroe with Angelina Jolie lips—guys are constantly checking her out.
“You should talk,” I say, reaching down to grab the backpack stuffed into the basket beneath my seat. “You’re the one with the monogrammed chair in the principal’s office.” Simone’s had detention three times this year already, but as far as the office is concerned, I’m a good girl.
On my way out, I look back at Simone and waggle my phone in her direction. She makes a face to acknowledge that texting me later is obvious just before I slip out of sight.
I think of detouring through the science wing for a glimpse of Joel, but the rule follower in me takes over and I head straight to see the principal. On my way there, I picture Joel and Lauren breaking up—maybe she has a fling with a guy her own age at the community college—and him falling madly in love with me. I laugh at myself as I push through the doors of the main office.
Then I see the look on Principal Jones’s face.
Immediately I feel it: Something’s wrong.
“Caroline,” he says, his deep vibrato at odds with his soft expression. “Your mother called.” He stops, motioning at the chair near the window. “Here, sit.”
My stomach twists. Principal Jones is nothing short of intimidating, and this unprovoked kindness is like a flashing neon sign that reads BRACE YOURSELF. I slowly lower into the chair, even more alarmed when my principal turns to face me.
“Your grandmother’s in the hospital,” he says. “She had a stroke and your mother—”
I don’t hear the rest because I lean forward, my head between my knees like there’s an impending plane crash. My throat seizes, and I make a sound halfway between a moan and a whimper. I was just with my grandmother this morning, rolling my eyes when she told me to put my cereal bowl in the sink. Why did I roll my eyes?
“Is she okay?” I ask, tears coming faster than I can blink them away.
“I’m not clear on the details. But your mom said your brother would be here to pick you up and then—”
“I can’t wait for him.” I stand, pulling my backpack over my shoulders. “Which hospital?” Panic has my heart racing, my skin prickling. Principal Jones is stumbling over his words, but I don’t have time for this. I have to see Gram. “St. Mark’s?” I ask impatiently.
When he nods, I dash out of the office, not stopping even when the assistant calls after me from the front desk. I’m a bundle of fear loosely held together by purpose. As I jog through the empty halls, I take out my phone and text my brother.
DRIVING MYSELF. SEE YOU THERE.
• • •
The hospital is a massive maze, and at the very moment that I wonder how I’m ever going to find Gram, Natalie appears out of nowhere.
“Where’s Teddy?” she says, grabbing my arm from behind like a mugger. My sister’s wearing jeans, a black turtleneck sweater, and her dark-framed glasses. As usual, she looks more forty than almost twenty.
“I drove myself.”
“You were supposed to wait for him,” she snaps.
“Well, I didn’t,” I snap back. It’d be nice if our animosity were a result of the tension of the moment, but unfortunately this is our brand of sisterly love. Teddy is the older sibling who took me to R-rated movies before I turned seventeen; Natalie’s the one who told on me for sneaking out. In a nutshell, she sucks.
“Where are we going?” I ask, looking around.
“Gram’s on the third floor,” Natalie says through permanently pursed lips. “Come on.”
We ride the elevator in silence. When the doors open, my sister walks purposefully down one long corridor, around a corner, and down another. My stomach clenches tighter and tighter with each room we pass. I try not to look at the people inside—to wonder how many of them are dying.
I try not to wonder whether Gram’s dying.
She was already weak from the chemo treatments she finished a few months ago. But she was better. The doctors assured all of us that she was better.
As warm tears run down my cheeks, I’m suddenly twelve years old again. I’m on my grandmother’s front porch with a suitcase, asking if I can live with her. My parents’ divorce is getting uglier by the day, and I don’t want to be their pawn to hurt each other. I’ve opted out. And when Gram agrees, I am struck with relief and gratitude. She’s always been my rock; I can’t lose her.
“Here,” Natalie says, gesturing toward a door open a crack. I nod and take a deep breath of antiseptic air, then follow her in. I can’t help it: I gasp. Seeing Gram in a hospital bed is like a punch in the gut.
“Hi,” I say, desperately trying to keep the despair out of my voice, the tears from my eyes. But when Gram raises a skinny, veiny arm and waves, I can’t hold back. I rush to her bedside, crying the kind of tears that don’t care if they make you look ugly.
“Stop that now, Caroline,” Gram says, reaching out to hold my hand with the arm that’s free from the IV. Her hand is the same one that makes me breakfast, but it feels alien. Cold. Frail. Even worse, her words are coming out funny—slurred somehow. She sounds like she’s drunk. “I’m going to be fine,” she says, but “fine” sounds like “fline.”
“Yes,” I say, knowing if I say more, I’ll start blubbering again.
I’m still holding Gram’s hand when Mom walks in with my little sister, Judith.
“Where’s Teddy?” Mom asks when she sees me. Apparently, whether or not my brother is inconvenienced is what’s really important here. The funny thing is that Teddy won’t care—he’s the most laid-back one of all of us.
“She didn’t wait for him,” Natalie mutters to Mom in that annoyingly soft voice she uses when she’s only pretending to be discreet.
“Well, you’re here now,” Mom says, sighing at me.
“Coco!” Judith says, dropping Mom’s hand and rushing toward me. She hugs my leg, and I squeeze her as best I can without letting go of Gram. I run my palm over her baby blond hair and smile.
“Hi, Juju,” I say. “How are you?”
“Mama gived me juice,” she says proudly. At two and a half, she’s all belly and bum; she stands like an adorable troll doll, beaming at me. Then she looks at Gram. “We bringed you juice, too, Gamma!”
Judith runs over and grabs a juice box from Mom’s gigantic purse, then returns to the bedside and tosses it up onto Gram’s lap. Gram beams back at her. “How thoughtful of you,” she says. “Thank you, Judith.”
I look away from Gram’s face when I realize that one side is sagging lower than the other. Thankfully, a nurse comes in right then and says he needs to check her vitals.
“Let’s all step out for a minute,” Mom says, giving me a look that tells me I’m coming with her, whether I like it or not. “We’ll go get a snack and be back in a few minutes, Mom.”
“All right, then,” Gram says, releasing my hand. It feels like I’ve just taken off my coat in a blizzard. I want to grab hold again, but the nurse has already moved in with his pushcart full of tools. “See you.”
I swallow down the lump in my throat and follow Mom, Judith, and Natalie out of the room. Teddy is walking toward us from the elevator, and when he joins our group, he’s the only one on the face of the planet who manages not to give me crap about driving myself. Instead he nudges me with his elbow and whispers, “She’ll be fine, Coco.”
And that makes me cry all over again.
When Judith is preoccupied, hopping from tile to tile in the hallway, my mother talks in a detached voice. “I didn’t want to say this in front of her, but they did a scan.” Natalie’s eyes are round as saucers and Teddy crosses his arms over his chest, listening intently. I feel light-headed.
Mom sighs heavily. “The cancer has spread. It’s throughout her abdomen, her lungs. Her brain.”
“Oh my God.” It’s all I can manage. Natalie reaches for my mother immediately. I look at Teddy as he shakes his head slowly.
“She’s weak from the stroke, and the cancer is everywhere,” Mom continues, letting go of Natalie. “The oncologist says she’s too far gone—that there’s nothing they can do but make her comfortable.” My mother takes a deep breath and meets my eyes. “She doesn’t have long.”
I want to ask specifically how long that means. I want to ask why the chemo worked but then didn’t. I want to ask a million things, but everything stills—even my vocal cords. In that quiet, my thoughts are noisy: I’m losing my confidant. I’m losing my best friend.
“Coco?” Teddy asks, like he said something before but I didn’t hear him. It pulls me out. “Are you okay?”
“I don’t know,” I say. My ears are ringing.
“Do you want to sit down?” he asks, nodding to the chairs near the wall.
Natalie huffs, wiping the tears under her glasses. “It’s always about you, isn’t it,” she murmurs.
The anger in my sister’s voice lights a fire in me. I’m so sick of her telling me what to do, acting like I’m some inconvenience to the family. She’s been like this ever since the divorce. I spin toward her, ready to strike back.
Teddy steps in before I tear into her. “Please,” he says to both of us. “I can’t referee right now.” His shoulders are hunched, and I realize that even my always-steady older brother is crumbling too. We fall silent and wait until the nurse leaves before crossing the hall. My mother pauses outside the doorway and turns to face us.
“Not a word about what I told you,” she whispers. She grabs Judith’s hand and walks back inside the room.
Posted September 21, 2013
If you're thinking of picking up Just Like Fate, there is one thing you MUST know before you open the book. By chapter three, the chapters go from "Stay" to "Go". Two mildly different stories. Early in the book, the main character, Caroline, has to choose between staying with her dying grandmother or going to a party with her best friend. And that, ladies and gentlemen, I got massively confused. The chapters show the paths that both decisions will take Caroline. If she goes or stays. I didn't know that and I was confused for the first 33% of this book.
Just Like Fate is a surprisingly deep story of how how one decision can change your life in many ways and how, in the end, it will all work out.
The main character, Caroline, is pretty cool. I didn't find her annoying at all and at times I really, really liked her. She was relatable.
I didn't like Joel at all. I didn't really have a reason other then just a feeling at first but then has the book went on, I really didn't like him.
Natalie was so unnecessarily horrible. I feel like the writers made her so evil and mean and just horrible (sometimes I felt like crying because she was so mean)that it made her unbelievable as a character.
Now, one character was... I have no words for how much I loved him. And that character is Chris and I'm telling you right now if I had to pick one book character to spend my life with in real life, I would pick Chris. Thank you Cat Patrick and Suzanne Young for bring Chris Drake into my life.
Okay, but seriously, Chris is really great. He's believable and nice and kind and funny and he's not controlling or brooding. He's great.
And I felt like this book had really believable characters.
When you read Just Like Fate, you'll pick your favorite chapters. I loved the "Go" chapters. And up until the end, I kinda skimmed the "Stay" chapters. I hate Joel and I love Chris so made picking which chapters to read to the fullest really easy.
Overall, I felt like Just Like Fate was a really cool concept, great characters, and exciting. I really enjoyed it.
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Posted September 20, 2013
I loved this book! I liked Caroline. I could relate to her. I saw a lot of things that she did is something I would do. Sure she made mistakes but that's the beauty of this story. This books takes her into two different alternative lifelines depending on one crucial decision involving her grandmother.
She makes one choice and it takes her on the path where there was Chris. He was witty and just seemed like he's the sweetest (I was partial to him ♥). The other one included Joel. He's artsy and keeps to himself until their relationship evolves. She had a crush on him forever but I personally didn't care for him much.
I liked that no matter what lifeline she was in, fate had a way of coming to a similar end. I also like that each lifeline focuses on different members of her family and how her relationship builds with them. It's just a great book everyone should read!
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Posted April 27, 2015
Caroline has been at Gram's bedside since her stroke--just like the rest of her family. The only problem is that Caroline's closest family is Gram. She barely knows her mother and she can't speak to her older sister without it turning into a fight.
Caroline wants to be there for Gram the way Gram has always been there for her. But she also wants desperately to get away for a little while. Just one night.
When her best friend invites Caroline to a party she has to decide if she should stay with Gram or go to the party.
Both paths will lead Caroline down different roads with very different results. One might bring closure and one might bring something unexpected. But only one is the right choice in Just Like Fate (2013) by Suzanne Young and Cat Patrick.
Just Like Fate is part of a spate of recent books featuring alternate universes and parallel lives.
Unfortunately unlike other books this one doesn't have any science basis (or even a magical one) for Caroline's living two lives. It's not an ability or an artifact. It seems to just be a thing that happens.
While the story is still interesting, alternating between "Stay" and "Go" chapters, it was never quite as compelling as my current favorite alternate universe book Pivot Point.
Although we meet them at a low point it was nice that Caroline had a non-traditional family in Just Like Fate as well as supportive friends. There are two endearing male leads. And Caroline is an approachable heroine even if you might not agree with all of her choices.
The main problem with this book for me personally (and possibly for other readers) is that Caroline's grandmother is dying in the wake of cancer and a stroke. My aunt died suddenly from a stroke this fall. I thought enough time had passed to be able to read this book. Then I started to hyperventilate and tear up when the aftermath of the grandmother's stroke was described.
While I'm sure Just Like Fate is delightful for other readers and will appeal to anyone who likes the idea of living two different choices, my personal experiences made this book a very difficult read.
Possible Pairings: If I Stay by Gayle Forman, Parallel by Lauren Miller, Fair Coin by E. C. Myers, The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski, Pivot Point by Kasie West
*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2013*
Posted March 13, 2014
I haven’t pick up a book that carries a somewhat supernatural plot line. When I read this synopsis, I was immediately intrigued.
Plot: This is a story that showcases two different paths. Though the main character is unaware of it, the reader is. It kind of reminds me of the choose your own adventure stories but only this time you get two stories at once. The chapters switch back and forth. One chapter would be one decision she made and the next chapter is the what if she choose something different. Both authors did a great job in letting each chapter flow well to the next without confusing the reader.
Love: In both paths, Caroline mets two guys. Though one may seem right for her, as I read on I was starting to see that maybe the guy I thought would work for her doesn’t. I strongly believe in fate and the choices we make. I believe all choices leads up to where we are today but I do think that no matter what choices you make, some things are meant to be.
Ending: The ending of the book is precise and clean. I think the way it all came together in the end is well done. I have to say that I’m impressed with the way it was written and how it concluded.
Overall, this is a great book. I like that the reader can see two different paths yet fate does take some control. An inventive yet creative read, Just Like Fate is great!