Time Loops & Paradoxes, oh my!
At my job, I’ve been challenged to read middle-grade and young adult novels for some friendly competition. In these last few weeks, I’ve read a ton of interesting titles. I tend to pick up books that obviously has its heart on its sleeve (I Wish You All the Best) or something with a rather quirky high concept.
Enter The Opposite of Always.
I love when a narrative plays with time. It’s why I’m such a diehard for Doctor Who and Russian Doll. But that’s not all The Opposite of Always is. If that were the case, I would find the narrative tedious as the reader is forced to see the same events over and over again.
Jack King falls in love. He has the most amazing months with Kate Edwards but then she dies. But then he gets another chance to save her when he travels back to the moment they met on the stairs.
Each step back in narrative provides another layer to the story. There’s the love story. There’s Jack’s friendships with Jillian and Franny. There’s Jack’s unrequited feelings for Jillian. There’s Franny’s relationship with his father. There’s Jack’s obsession in getting it right. When he thinks he gets it right, he fails in other ways time and time again. Seeing how Jack’s decisions influence these events and his relationships kept me hooked into the story.
Now, was there a bit of tedium. I can’t deny that. Though each loop was different, we did end up going through some of the same events. This book could’ve been 50 pages shorter admittingly.
But the heart of this story, Jack’s love for Kate and his willingness to do anything to set things right kept me reading. He’s not perfect. He makes a ton of mistakes. But seeing him push through and how ardent he feels about all the people close to him just had me cheering for him.
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.