Opposite of Always
by Justin A. Reynolds
E-ARC, 321 pages
Published March 5th 2019 by Katherine Tegen Books
Jack Ellison King. King of Almost.
He almost made valedictorian.
He almost made varsity.
He almost got the girl . . .
When Jack and Kate meet at a party, bonding until sunrise over their mutual love of Froot Loops and their favorite flicks, Jack knows he’s falling—hard. Soon she’s meeting his best friends, Jillian and Franny, and Kate wins them over as easily as she did Jack. Jack’s curse of almost is finally over.
But this love story is . . . complicated. It is an almost happily ever after. Because Kate dies. And their story should end there. Yet Kate’s death sends Jack back to the beginning, the moment they first meet, and Kate’s there again. Beautiful, radiant Kate. Healthy, happy, and charming as ever. Jack isn’t sure if he’s losing his mind. Still, if he has a chance to prevent Kate’s death, he’ll take it. Even if that means believing in time travel. However, Jack will learn that his actions are not without consequences. And when one choice turns deadly for someone else close to him, he has to figure out what he’s willing to do—and let go—to save the people he loves.
I received this book from publishers through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Time travel has always been a fascinating element in science fiction; the idea that you can go back to the past or the future is tempting, but so does the danger of disturbing the time continuum. Many stories revolve around the “making things right” premise, but soon our heroes realized that changing the past may not always resulted in a better future.
The premise of Opposite of Always reminds me of that one episode of Smallville, where Clark had the chance to go back in time to save Lana’s from death. In this book, our protagonist Jack had the same chance to go back in time to save Kate, his crush, from dying, as well as helping his friends. They both soon realized the same lesson other heroes learned, but for Jack’s case, he got stuck in the time-loop so he had many trials and errors in making things right.
With each repeat, Jack tried his best to do the most for everyone he cared about. He has to figure out how to save Kate without jeopardizing his friendship with Franny and Jillian. I love how each repeat is viewed through different lens of love and presents different sides of it: romantic and platonic, from taking chance on love to try to let them go if it makes them happy. Again, it doesn’t always work out, but it’s a refreshing way.
I also enjoyed how present and supportive Jack’s parents are. Not only they are present for Jack and wouldn’t hesitate to reprimand him when he’s in the wrong, they are also close with Franny and Jillian. They actively trying to get to know Jack’s friend and made them feel welcomed and loved by them. In return, the teens respected and love them equally. It’s such a positive environment and reading experience.
Despite how adorable I think Jack and Kate is, I didn’t like how insta-love they are. Jack fell for her literally since the first time she spoke. Especially since in the progress of the story, he ditched his friends and family a lot for Kate. It just really annoys me.
To be honest though, I never really clicked with Jack. I think he’s very sheltered and close minded. He tried to do the best for everyone, yes, but he also couldn’t see how it would hurt them. In most scenario, his choices would hurt Franny and he knew it, but he still took it. When being called out by his parents, Jillian, and Franny, Jack had the nerve to use “love worth having” and “I thought it would help” scenario. He did learned some things, but at the end of the book, I didn’t think he was a different character than before.
Another thing is how Opposite of Always is more of a character driven than plot driven book. With me not liking Jack, obviously the approach didn’t really work for me. This book also has a different message than what I assumed it would have after reading 90% of the book. The last chapter really took me by surprise and I was like “wait… so this is what it’s all about??” I felt like I was missing something after reading that last chapter.
Opposite of Always sounds like a perfect book for me: a blend of adorable romance, tenacious characters, and a dash of fantasy. While those things are present and true in this book, the execution didn’t quite win me over. It was more of a character driven rather than plot driven story, and the plot itself went to a different way that what I expected while reading. I enjoyed the writing style and the premise though, so I will be keeping an eye on the author’s next release!