When it comes to contemporary YA writers, there aren’t many better than Becky Albertalli and Angie Thomas. The fact that they both endorsed Justin A. Reynolds’ Opposite of Always was enough for me to give it a shot. Unfortunately, it doesn’t live up to those two names. Opposite of Always is cute enough, but it is nowhere in the league of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda or The Hate U Give.
What’s it about?
While visiting a college campus towards the end of his senior year of high school, Jack meets Kate and they fall in love. Sounds good, right? Wrong. Jack and Kate only have a short time together, because Kate has a genetic disease that kills her before they can have their happily ever after. But then Jack finds himself transported back to the moment when he first met Kate. Given a miraculous second chance with Kate, Jack does everything in his power to save her life only to lose her again (and again and again), and return again (and again and again) to the stairs where they met.
What’d I think?
I’ve been somewhat uninspired by my own reviews lately, so I’m going to try out yet another format. I’m also trying to keep my reviews shorter than usual, as I’ve noticed that the long, analytical ones rarely get read. Here we go!
I liked Jack’s relationships with his best friends Franny and Jillian. They are a really cool trio, and the way that their dynamic shifts with the decisions that Jack makes is far and away the best part of Opposite of Always. The way that Jack’s friends (particularly Franny) are folded into Jack’s family is particularly sweet. Franny and Jillian are their own characters even outside their relationships to Jack, and I love that the narrative emphasizes them as much as it does. They’re never get pushed to the side, and their emotional wellbeing is treated as seriously as either Jack or Kate’s, which is awesome.
I didn’t like the central romance. With Jack, Franny, and Jillian, Reynolds proved that he can write a fun, deep, important relationship. Unfortunately, however, he didn’t put that ability to work for Jack and Kate. For the life of me, I don’t understand what Jack sees in Kate. Or What Kate sees in Jack. They’re both good characters, but together they’re all kinds of bland. No matter how many times I watched them fall in love, I never got it. Forget true love, they don’t even have basic chemistry. I just do not get them as a couple. So I certainly don’t understand why their romance warrants repeated time loops to get it right.
I liked the adults. Jack’s parents are goofy and cringy and very present in Jack’s life. They’re real people, not just cardboard cutouts who only show up to parent when the plot calls for it. Likewise, Franny’s dad is a great character. Terrible guy, great character. Franny’s relationship with his dad is one of the best emotional storylines.