Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds
Genre: YA Contemporary, Romance, Science Fiction
Publication: March 5th 2019 by Katherine Tegen Books
Series: None. Standalone.
Length: 464 pages
Format: ARC from the publisher
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: This book mentions a lot of sensitive stuff like absent parents, and death. If these topics are known triggers for you, I highly suggest that you tread carefully should you choose to read this book and/or this review.
I consider this book diverse because it’s #ownvoices for Black people.
Huge thanks to my friends from HarperCollins International for sending me a review copy of this title in exchange for an honest review. This did not, in any way, affect my overall opinion of the book and/or the story.
What’s that? How did I hear of Justin A. Reynolds debut novel, you ask? Well, when I first saw it’s cover making it’s rounds on Twitter, I literally gasped at how radiant it looked. Then, a few days (or weeks) later, I found that it’s blurbed by two of my favorite authors—Angie Thomas and Becky Albertalli. And then, after a quick search on Goodreads, I realized that what most of the early reviews had in common is that they all mention that this would be a well-recommendable read for fans of Nicola Yoon. I mean… What other reasons do I need to take an interest in this, right? And so, with a hopeful heart, I wrote to my friends from HarperCollins International, asking for a chance to review and feature this specific title here on BFR. And I absolutely adored Opposite of Always! I finished it in under a few days, surprising myself, and by the time this is posted, I’m sure I’ll still be shouting about this everywhere. So read on to know what I thought about this fabulously-written novel.
Opposite of Always is the story of Jack King, a self-proclaimed King of Almosts, and a high school sophomore with an unrequited crush on his best friend Jillian who happens to be the girlfriend of his other best friend, Franny. He goes to this party and then meets Kate Edwards, who we’ll later on get to know as the actual love of Jack’s life. And after we see their relationship develop, Jack then witnesses Kate’s death and is brought back to the night they first met, having the chance to do things differently in efforts to save Kate.
First, let’s talk about the romance. Jack and Kate’s relationship gave me all the swoons and kilig, there’s no doubt about that. Every scene that featured them being dreamers, hoping for the best made me feel warm all over. From the moment they met, it was like they were meant for each other. Their journey might have been repetitive—seeing that all they had were 6 months together, redone over and over again—but I can’t help but feel like what they had, at least in Jack’s eyes, was real. And there’s something so utterly heartbreaking (in the same way that The Fault In Our Stars was heartbreaking) about being with the one you love knowing very well that s/he is about to die. I mean… F*ck, man, how dare you make me cry, Justin A. Reynolds? (Just a quick segue, I was reading this while I was on my way to work a few weeks ago and DUDE, I was practically bawling while I was walking towards the office. I saw a bunch of people looking at me funny!) But seriously. Their chemistry was great, and even though there were certain scenes when Jack prioritized Kate too much, he’d end up disappointing or breaking his friends and/or parents’ hearts, it still felt like he wasn’t doing anything wrong. SERIOUSLY, just… My god, I literally have no words to describe and do it justice.
Okay, next! The family and friendship dynamics. You guys, give me an entire day and I can talk about just how much I obsessed over Jack, Jillian, and Franny’s awesome trio in complete detail! It was obvious, at least to me, that they were going to be the only constant thing in this whole story. Give Jack the chance to re-do everything just to save Kate and he’ll make sure to maximize it—he’ll try to save Kate AND satisfy his best friends too. His love for everyone was bigger than his love for himself, and if that doesn’t get him enough points to be the most attractive person ever, then I don’t know what will. It was entertaining and heartwarming to see just how much Jack, Jillian, and Franny loved each other, in whatever timeline they might be, and I can’t help but feel jealous of their friendship. They were perfectly imperfect people, and that’s what made them relatable and easy to root for, at least in my opinion. And the same goes for Jack’s parents. Their support and enthusiasm over their son’s life meant a great deal to me because like I’ve mentioned countless times on my reviews, seeing great family dynamics in books never gets old. Seeing just how concerned they were with Jack’s upbringing brought a smile to my face because, well, who doesn’t want a family like Jack’s? Franny’s father is a whole different conversation though. He was imprisoned for almost a quarter of the 6 months in which the story happens, and so his presence somehow balanced out the aspect.
Let’s talk about Jack’s character improvement next. See, here’s the thing about having a story told over and over: no one gets better. Jack’s an exception in this case. He’s given multiple times to change his actions and decisions to save the love of his life and in the five times we see him redo things, he gets a whole lot smarter and braver every single time. I don’t want to get into detail as to what he did differently each time he got a do-over to keep this review spoiler-free but you have to trust me when I tell you that in under 400 pages, Jack, who at first seemed like a shy teen with little to no grit, became a hero who had his mind set in doing things that were admirable and oh so completely selfless. I mean, come on, it was hard for me, as a reader, to see him go through Kate’s death over and over, and as the story progressed, it wasn’t just that he had to experience. He witnessed so many hearts getting broken but he powered through all of it. I admire the man that he became in the end, and… where can I get a Jack King?
“Justin A. Reynolds debut is a story about young love, the undying powers of friendship, the utmost importance of familial bonds, and the unpredictability of our future. It’s a wonderfully written novel that took me on such a wild and emotional ride full of tears, heartbreaks, laughs, and swoon. It played with two completely distinct genres and I thought it was amazing—how it’s both a science fiction and a contemporary love story. This book reiterates the importance of living your life bravely, knowing that all of our decisions come with different consequences, and accepting what this means for the things we want to achieve and attain. And yes, I agree with everyone who says that this would be a perfect read for fans of Nicola Yoon.”
Also, check out this aesthetic board I made inspired by Jack and Kate’s story:
Have YOU read Justin A. Reynolds’ debut yet? If so, then how was it for you? Let me know what you thought down below in the comments section! And if you haven’t gotten yourself a copy of Opposite of Always, be sure to do so as soon as possible and come back here to discuss!
Justin A. Reynolds has been a pest control operator, night security guard, steel mill janitor, NASA intern, salesman of high-end faucet fixtures, and carpet-flooring installer. He was most recently a registered nurse, before trading his stethoscope for a pencil, but likes to think both instruments reveal the heart. He lives in northeast Ohio, home to snow, Lake Erie, and the Cavaliers.
Opposite of Always is his debut novel.
Until the next one!