Review: Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds

Rating: ★★★

When Jack and Kate meet at a party, bonding until sunrise over their mutual love for cereal, Jack knows he’s falling in love – hard and fast. Kate isn’t like anyone else he’s met before. Soon, he’s driving to meet her almost every day, she’s meeting his best friends and they’ve got big plans for prom. That is, until Kate dies (trust me, this is not a spoiler). Really, that should be it but Kate’s death sends Jack back in time to the moment they first met on the stairs. Jack doesn’t understand what’s happening but maybe this is his second chance to prevent Kate’s death and save her. However, actions have consequences and Jack learns this the hard way. Opposite of Always is a novel about the choices we make, the people we choose and the sacrifices we endure for love.

I cannot deny that this book has wonderfully-crafted characters and writing. The writing was playful, quirky, heartfelt and comic. I loved that we had two black main characters as the leads with developed, fleshed out side characters that were just as significant as the main protagonists. Franny and Jillian were hilarious, with background stories and conflicts of their own that sucked you in. I especially looked forward to seeing how Franny and The Coupon’s relationship panned out. Even Jack’s parents – sweet, loving, supporting and understanding. It’s rare that you get to see the parents in a novel but Reynolds did a brilliant job of bringing their love and their support for Jack to life.

But the character that really made the novel was, of course, our protagonist Jack. Jack is the strength of this novel – he is funny, he is caring, he is supportive but he also makes mistakes. He’s realistic and relatable. It was very interesting to see what he learned from each loop and how far he would go to save Kate but at the same time, his guilt that he felt toward his family and friends as he let them down with each decision he made. At one point I was so very frustrated with him for how he made Franny felt I wanted to throw something at him. Jack has character growth and development, he’s real and he’s relatable and that really makes this novel a hit.

Image Credit: @whatbooknext via Instagram

However, there are things I disliked. I’ve always found time travel loops to be difficult to enjoy as a reader. They tend to get quite tedious and repetitive as you experience the same situation over and over again. Unfortunately, this novel suffered with this. There were moments where I was just so sick of Jack making the same mistakes, almost to the point where it was almost predictable what he would do next. There was no edge, no waiting to see what happened because the loop made it so that I knew what would happen.

I also think the whole time-travel aspect was lacking development. We never get a reason or explanation as to why he can time-travel because Jack himself doesn’t care. Even the ending? I don’t understand why he didn’t go back again? And sadly, I just couldn’t get behind Jack and Kate. While Jack was developed and nuanced, Kate was not. She was nothing but a mere cereal-loving, Mighty Moat enthusiast who just so happened to be sick. She became defined by her illness and because of that, I couldn’t get behind the love story or behind her in general.

Yet, despite this, the book does have some lovely moments that make you ponder on the choices we make and the possibilities at life. Opposite of Always makes you think about never giving up and how hiding things to protect others can only end up hurting them even more. I genuinely think one day, we will see this book on the big screen – it has potential as a movie but for me, as a novel, it didn’t wow me. That being said, it didn’t disappoint either.

If you’re looking for a novel with excellent characters, this is it. The friendships, the family dynamics, the character developments – it’s all there. However, it lacks a plot that will keep you gripped and a love story I just couldn’t get invested in.

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