Opposite of Always is unique take on the medical drama. Jack meets Kate at a party and their chemistry is undeniable. There is only one problem, within six months of meeting Kate she is going to die. Jack gets stuck in a timeloop that restarts every time Kate dies, and he makes it his mission to find a way to save her. But Jack has to deal with more than Kate’s impending doom, he also has to find to support his two best friends who are going through family issues, and his parents, because there are so many ways to screw up a timeline.
The four important characters of the story, are Jack, Kate, and then Jack’s two best friends, Franny and Jillian. Jack is a bit of a nerd, but a sweet one who hasn’t realised what his strengths in life are. Franny is trying to reconnect with a distant father, Jillian is dealing with family issues and change, and Kate is trying to deal with sickle cell. The story is told from Jacks perspective as he tries to balance all their lives and save Kate’s. Jack has a fun voice: slightly self-deprecating and sometimes philosophical. Mostly, he is a normal guy whose gotten caught in a timeloop.
Each time the loop repeats, a few important events happen, but are different every time, with different ups and downs in between. In total. we see three loops. The first two loops feel very similar and there isn’t a lot of difference in the outcomes of the two. The third is the most unique, and also the saddest. I didn’t find myself bored when I was reading the book, but looking back I wish there was more a distinction between the loops, a feel or theme that really stood out and kept them separate in my mind. I would have also appreciated a few montages of his other failed timelines.
I loved that this book quietly features black characters. Yay!
My one problem with this book was the ending. Spoilers ahead.
[spoiler title=”My Thoughts on the Themes and Ending”]
Opposite of Always feels like wish fulfillment. If you had a loved one who was dying, wouldn’t you play out the timeline as many times as possible in order to save them? Sure, but real life doesn’t work like that. The message of the book got lost in the happy ending.
Jack plays out the timeline over and over and the choices he makes change the outcomes for different people. The book ends when he gets the timeline perfect for everyone. Franny reconnects with his father, Jillian is happy, and Kate lives. Ta-da! The only result of seeing Jack play out the timeline over and over again is that he learns how to make everything in this one instance, this one specific situation, right. There is very little take-away he can gain from the experience, and very little the reader can take to apply to their own lives.
Opposite of Always would have been more powerful if the looping timelines represented the emotional thought process we go through when we loose a loved one, where we replay scenarios over and over in our head, and wonder what we could have done differently, said differently, to get closure. The gift of Jack’s timeline is that he gets to spend more time with Kate, he gets to create a thousand new memories with her, he gets to live a thousand different lives with her, but if he had had to accept that ultimately there was nothing he could do for her, it’s important to treasure the time we have with our loved ones, and to live your best life, then the take away for the reader would have been stronger and the emotional impact of Kate’s death would have been felt.
But maybe I am just a cynic.[/spoiler]
Despite my feelings about the ending, Opposite of Always is a cute read. Justin A. Reynolds is a master of writing adorable contemporary romance scenes, and this book is the perfect showcase for his abilities. One of the best parts of the story was watching Kate and Jack fall in love over and over again. They have some adorable moments and conversations that just make you happy. If you’re looking for a simple, feel-good novel, you’ll find it in Opposite of Always.