Book Reviews

Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds


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.


I don’t read a lot of books with time travel, but I do find it cool, and the last sentence of the synopsis sounded like something I would really enjoy reading about: “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.” Time travel is a complicated thing, and there’s always the issue that the littlest things that you change could end up messing up something else really badly. Therefore, I was really looking forward to how the consequences were incorporated into Jack’s desire to save Kate.

Despite its promising synopsis, I was really disappointed in this book.

Jack and Kate’s love story begins when they meet at a party, and one small interaction between them turns quickly into them talking the night away and forging a connection with one another. Early on, Jack falls in love with Kate. They keep in touch after the party, meeting up often, until—Kate dies. Ending the future Jack had imagined.

He is devastated, but to his shock, he finds himself brought back in time to just before he and Kate met. Jack knows exactly what he needs to do this time—save Kate. But as Jack struggles to shape the future into one where Kate lives, messing up other aspects of his and other people’s lives in the process, he is faced with the consequences and must decide what exactly he is willing to do to get what he wants.

The book sounds much better than it was.

Characters are the life of the story to me, and I could not bring myself to like Jack, Kate, or their relationship. The most outstanding thing about Jack is that he is entitled. He thinks he deserves to be with Kate. Jack is supposed to be average, and unfortunately he was too average, too flat.

Then, we learn barely anything about Kate apart from the fact that she is the sick girl. What bothered me most about Kate and Jack’s relationship was that I didn’t actually see their relationship. It’s a romance… I should see the romance, right? Instead, I was told that they have this deep bond, that they are in love, but the time they spend together on the page is very limited. Jack does a lot of desperate things in this book to try and save Kate, so to really feel his pain, I needed to be in on what he was missing in Kate and the bond they had.

When I wasn’t given this, I found my investment in the book dropped severely. Sure, he was doing things to try and save her, but I felt no emotional connection to it.

Then, while the writing in this book wasn’t too bad, there were places where it read awkwardly. I felt the author was trying to hard to sound funny and cool, and it all culminated in me sitting there with a bunch of question marks over my head. I feel like this aspect is much more subjective, as some readers may enjoy the style, but I didn’t. Such as me not understanding why the author felt the need to use text abbreviations in the actual narrative.

I bust an illegal U.”

While I will not go into it because of spoilers, there was a development in the plot that frustrated me so much that I had to put the book down for a while. Jack isn’t the brightest, but his decision here struck me as plain dumb, inconsiderable, and again—entitled. And while we all make mistakes, by the end of the book he didn’t even seem to realize how bad his decision was. Instead, it was glossed over.

That brings us to the ending. I was hoping it would redeem the book, and that Jack would come out of it really changed and more mature, but… I was disappointed there as well. I didn’t see any major character development, and it was too neat.

I can’t really recommend this book, but neither do I want to yell “Don’t ever read this book!” In the end, I guess I will say that unless this sounds really up your alley, if you still want to read this you might want to consider (if possible) borrowing this book first.

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