I was kindly sent a copy of Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds via Netgalley. All views are my own.
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.
Trigger warnings: death, hospitalisation
There will be spoilers in this review.
I have a lot of mixed feelings about this book. I’ll start with the positives!
I like the time travel concept. Yeah, it’s not the most original in the world, but there’s something about it that I’m a sucker for. It’s a great structure for a redemption arc, as it allows our protagonist to change his ways, find new paths. (And yeah, our protagonist Jack really needed it. More on that in a minute.) It did make the novel a little bit repetitive, but I think the author strayed on just the right side of repetitive so it wasn’t boring. I will say that the pace of the novel was a bit slow, so if that bothers you, this might not be the book for you.
I also really enjoyed the theme of friendship in this novel. Jack’s friends Franny and Jillian are actually amazing. Franny in particular is a very well-rounded character, who I was a little bit in love with. He’s one of those characters with a heart of gold, and honestly I wish that he was in a different book, because he doesn’t deserve the way that Jack treats him throughout this one.
Jack’s love interest, Kate, is also brilliant. I want her to be real so I can be friends with her. It could be said that she’s a bit of a manic pixie dream girl, but I still liked her nonetheless. She has sickle cell, which she dies from a couple times throughout the book. I didn’t know much about this genetic disease, and particularly its prevalence within the black community.
But Jack himself? He’s a dick. As soon as he meets Kate, his priorities completely shift. He treats his friends, particularly Franny, horrendously. Like I get making sacrifices for loved ones, but I don’t think it should be at the expense of other people. He also completely takes advantage of Franny’s dad, who has recently returned home from jail. And all in order to save Kate – and therefore also further his own personal development. And although he does get better, Jack spends too much of the novel being ridiculously selfish for me to like him at the end.
Overall, this book was okay. I liked the fact that it was a romance between two black protagonists, and the side characters were great. It was just Jack and his selfishness that disappointed me.