Opposite of Always by Justin A Reynolds

I’ve been on a bit of a roll of time traveling books lately – Recursion by Blake Crouch, the Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver – and they’ve all been phenomenal. So when I saw there was a YA rom-com time travel book coming out, I got really excited about it and couldn’t wait to see the author’s spin on the trope. Plus, I don’t seem to read many books in YA genre with male narrators, so I was excited to get a bit more diversity in my reading. Unfortunately, this book relied far too heavily on the time travel mechanism and failed to really tell a story. It’s deeply repetitive, the romance feels forced and inorganic, and none of the characters are likable. Altogether, this is a nonsensical take on a fun narrative mechanism.

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.

But then 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. 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 to save the people he loves.

This author is a debut this year and I was pretty excited to see to try out a new voice. I often fall on the right of reading the same author is over and over so it’s nice to discover new ones who have potential. Unfortunately the writing quality of this book was pretty subpar. It was pretty simplistic and felt like it was pandering to the audience. I can’t stand when books try too hard to have big poignant moments or create quotable moments. From random inner monologues to the narrator addressing the reader, this whole book just really felt like it was trying to end up quoted on Tumblr (a la John Green). Also, the narrator kept trying to be funny and inspirational – none of it landed. As I mentioned before the time traveling mechanism was not well implemented – the book to felt very repetitive and really lacked a lot of content because it kept repeating the same events over and over. It’s a hard mechanism to use and unfortunately this author just couldn’t pull it off. Plus: it’s never explained why Jack can travel in time, which is a pretty massive loose end.

One of the major faults in this book is that it assumes you have emotional connections with characters very, very early in the book. For example, Kate dies early in the book (and then goes on to die multiple times because of the time loops) and I really couldn’t care less that it had happened. The reason for this was the fact that her character (like the rest of the characters in this book) was super underdeveloped and as such, I had no empathy or emotional investment in her. When a character dies I expect to care and have that plot point really carry the story forward, but in this book, it just felt cheap and inconsequential. I also found the ending wasn’t satisfying and honestly I kind of regret not DNFing this book.

The narrating character is Jack, a senior in high school who’s getting ready to go to college when he meets a girl named Kate during a house party. Right off the bat the two didn’t have much in common and it’s clear Kate was not feeling it. At some point Kate decides to pursue something with Jack and then changes her mind. What really bothered me about Jack was he didn’t respect Kates boundaries at all – it felt like borderline harassment at times and it just wasn’t cute. I also really didn’t like the fact that he treated his friends like crap throughout the book. He tread all over their trust and disrespected them over and over for the sake of a girl he had just met. The worst part was that he really didn’t work at all for their forgiveness or except responsibility for his actions. As I said before Jack and Kates relationship was forced at best and pretty annoying. They didn’t have any chemistry and now the whole situation felt contrived.

I would recommend giving this book a hard pass – it’s a mess from start to finish with zero payoff. It’s got the feel of a cheap Disney Channel original movie from the 90s, but without any of the heart that makes the camp worth it. If you’re looking for a better time travel book I would highly recommend Recursion by Blake crouch or if you’re looking for a good YA romance I would recommend Tweet Cute by Emma Lord. 1/5

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4 Comments

  1. Wow this sounded like it was going a certain way and then when you mentioned Kate dying and it sounded like a mess from there on! Thanks for sharing x

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