[Review] Opposite of Always – Justin A. Reynolds

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(Justin A. Reynolds, 2019)

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.

(via Goodreads)

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What I Liked

  • Opening line
    • Wow. “My face is mashed sideways against the trunk of a police cruiser when Kate dies for the third time.” I don’t know about you guys, but that line alone had me HOOKED. It was definitely a sign that this would be a book that I enjoyed just by reading that first line. There is so much to unpack, and so much drama! Right away, we are in an altercation with the police and a character has died, apparently for the third time! And it all seems so nonchalant, like, does this happen on the regular for this character? I have GOT to know more.
  • Dialogue
    • I was a fan of the dialogue between characters because it was quirky and fun, but also a huge fan of how the main character (Jack) spoke with the audience. It was like we were completely on this journey along with him, and I don’t know, it fit the story, and his character really well to have that as a part of the book.
  • Writing style
    • Along the same vain as the dialogue, I just really vibed with Reynolds’ writing style. I liked the way he phrased things. It felt like a new, fresh perspective and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Enough to make him an auto-read from here on out.
    • Jillian’s award-winning, one-woman I’m super annoyed with Jack show is still playing in theaters everywhere. And there appears to be no end in sight.

  • Characters
    • I really liked these characters a lot by the end. I think that they were well developed, believable and super diverse. I loved that through the different layers of story we were given the opportunity to really understand the workings of how these characters interacted with one another.
  • “Groundhog day”
    • I LOVED this as a story concept. Everyone (at least I think everyone) knows the movie Groundhog Day. But in case you aren’t familiar, basically Billy Murray starred in a movie in 1993 where his character relived the exact same day over and over again until he could get it “right.” He starts out as a terrible person but by the end sees the value in getting all these extra chances, and ends up much happier because of it. Opposite of Always also suffers this same fate (in that events are relived until done “correctly” by the main character, only the main character is not sad or terrible at all. In fact, you root for him the entire time! At first I thought that this may contain some science fiction/time travel aspects, which seemed weird for what I thought was supposed to be a contemporary, BUT it isn’t time travel at all. In fact it is an eerily more believable version, and it worked really well for this story.

What I Disliked

  • Mushy
    • There, I said it. Some of it was just too mushy for me to handle. I like me a good romance here and there, but everyone in this story seemed to be hopelessly (and sometimes nauseatingly, i’m looking at you Mr. & Mrs. King!) in love. And I get that love is a focal point, a driving force for this plot, but it just got a little too much in some parts.

You can try your hardest to change something — exhaust every possibility — and sometimes it is still not enough. But almost means you were there. You did all you could. In the end, it’s the smallest decisions that matter most. The seemingly insignificant choices we make every day.

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Final Thoughts

My face is mashed sideways against the trunk of a police cruiser when Kate dies for the third time.” With an opening line like that, I really am not surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. It is a story of a teenage boy who is always just short of something great, at least he thinks so. His parents are loving, and involved, even taking in his friends when they have nowhere else to go. His best friends are great, better than you could hope for, except for the fact that Jack has been hiding feelings for one of them for years now. Oh, and throw in the fact that they, the best friends, are dating each other. I thought it would be a messy love triangle, but I was thankfully proved wrong. Instead, Jack falls head over heels for this cute college freshman he meets at a party. Jack spends the rest of the book wooing said college girl, and in turn trying to save her life, multiple times. Even though it had a vaguely supernatural element, this book still felt extremely real. The characters were insanely diverse and represented beautifully. Right down to the disease that Kate suffers from, Reynolds formulated a really well thought out story, and did his characters justice. You may not understand or agree with some of the decisions Jack makes in order to “get this right” but it all comes together in the end. I will be looking for Justin Reynolds’ books in the future because this was so fresh and fun, and I really enjoyed myself reading it.

 

For those keeping score, I predicted in FIF that I would rate this 4.5 out of 5 stars, and was wrong! I gave it the full 5 because I liked it so much :]

7 thoughts on “[Review] Opposite of Always – Justin A. Reynolds

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