Goodreads: Opposite of Always
When Jack meets Kate at a college party, it’s love at first sight. But then Kate dies. And Jack finds himself stuck in a cycle of time travel, repeatedly living the months between his first meeting with Kate and her death. Can he find a way to save her without ruining the rest of his life?
Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds is an uneven book with a slow start and a fast-paced finish. It begins in media res, with the protagonist Jack running from the law. Once it starts back at the beginning, however, readers are treated to long stretches of nothing but Jack and his new crush flirting. I almost DNF’ed this book about a third of the way through. I had nothing else to listen to on audio, however, so I kept with it and, eventually, found myself actually interested in the outcome of the story. Some readers may enjoy this more than I did. However, for me, Opposite of Always kept the best for last–a move that risks losing readers at the start.
Opposite of Always is decidedly a book for people who love romance. The gist of the story is that our hero Jack falls in love with a college girl named Kate. However, when Kate dies, Jack finds himself sent back in time to the moment they met. He has to keep repeating the same couple of months, each time ending with Kate’s death. Jack keeps trying to change the future, but he often messes up events instead. This may sound interesting, but Jack has very little in his life besides Kate and he spends most of his time mooning over her, plotting how to save her, flirting with her, and ditching his friends and family for her. He’s unhealthily obsessed, and it gets to a point where it’s not clear it’s even romantic anymore.
What this means is that the first third or so of the book is literally just Jack and Kate flirting. And it’s not amusing. It’s the kind of flirting that is (presumably) only sweet or funny if you are actually there, doing the flirting. For onlookers, it’s boring. Jack, I am afraid, is not as witty as he thinks he is, nor is Kate. Having to hear their exchanges in person, via text, and over email is excruciating. It’s the main reason I almost DNF’ed the book.
Once the time travel bit starts happening, things start to pick up. Jack spends less time recounting every text he sends to Kate and starts trying to do things to save her. Most of his plans are incredibly bad plans–which actually makes it kind of hard to root for him. He makes stupid, risky choices that harm and alienate his friends, and expects them to forgive all because it’s for Kate. It’s not a good look for Jack and at some point, he stopped (for me) being a sympathetic character. He was just a character who repeatedly makes bad choices. One would think that travel and the ability to have do-overs would improve Jack’s people skills, but it really takes a lot for him to realize his best option is every case is honesty, empathy, and transparency.
Still, by the end, I was actually wondering what Jack would do to solve his problems and end the cycle of time travel. Unfortunately, I only stuck around to the end because I didn’t have another audiobook, so, in another version of events, I would have stopped listening very early on. I am bumping up the star rating for the ending, but I rather wonder how many other people will make it that far.