REVIEW: Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds

Opposite of Always is a time-travelling YA novel. I was so impressed by how he was able to keep me hooked throughout the entire story!

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Opposite of Always is a time-travelling YA novel and for this to be Justin A Reynolds’ debut? I was so impressed by how he was able to keep me hooked throughout the entire story!

Cover of Opposite of Always by Justin A Reynolds

Genre: YA contemporary

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books

Length: 451 pages

Content Warnings: Death, chronic illness, abandonment, racism

Rating: ★★★★☆

Debut author Justin A. Reynolds delivers a hilarious and heartfelt novel about the choices we make, the people we choose, and the moments that make a life worth reliving.

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.

The Plot

In The Opposite of Always, we follow Jack, who meets Kate, who ends up dying. Jack relives the period they meet up to her death over and over again to try and save her. Think Groundhog Day meets About Time kind of vibe. It’s refreshing to see that this book has main characters who are Black and facing racism isn’t the plot of the story (Black people’s stories shouldn’t boil down to just facing racism).

I love how this book acknowledges that there are other struggles Black people face that don’t directly link to racism. Reynolds addresses this with the reason why Kate is dying. I’m not sure if it’s a spoiler but I was able to guess why Kate was dying very early in the book and anyone probably could if they knew the disproportionate statistics on Black health. We see Jack make interesting and stupid decisions and it’s frustrating yet intriguing to see what happens in the end!

The Characters 

Jack is a likeable character and you can really tell that he cares about the people he loves. He was in love with his best friend Jillian since they basically met but also loves his friend Franny, who is also Jillian’s boyfriend. This sets up a weird love triangle situation that is kind of unspoken of between them but they know it’s there.

Although Jack caring deeply for his loved ones is a good personality trait, we see that it eats him up a bit. He’s really determined to help Kate but his thoughts get clouded with the thought of her dying and in turn, he starts making bad decisions that affect his friendship with Jillian and Franny. Even though it’s really frustrating, I think it’s very realistic. His actions in response to everything that happens are definitely how a young adult who believes they’re in love for the first time would react. 

We don’t get to know much about Jack’s parents, but we learn a lot about Franny’s family situation. There are secrets that get unpacked and family figures who I absolutely adore and it makes Opposite of Always so wholesome. 

With Kate, I didn’t feel like her character was fleshed out as much as I would have liked. We get to know her at the beginning of the book but as the story progresses, she mostly just becomes the character who Jack needs to save and that’s all there is to her. I have mixed feelings about it because although this book is about Jack’s time-travelling journey, the whole reason for the journey is Kate. So getting to know more about her would’ve added more depth to her character.

The Writing Style

What I love the most about Reynolds’ writing style in Opposite of Always is that he writes in a way that’s relatable. The book is told from Jack’s perspective and everything he says and thinks is exactly what a person his age would say and think. One part that I definitely related to was when Jack was telling his dad that sometimes things happen earlier than you expect and sometimes you don’t have to wait to acknowledge or react to it. This story just flows really well and was such a fun read!

It has been announced that Opposite of Always will become a film adaptation in the future. But in the meantime, I’ve been enjoying the Webtoon adaptation!

Have you read Opposite of Always? What did you think of it?

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