The Opposite of Always, by Justin A. Reynolds, for Timeslip Tuesday

The Opposite of Always, by Justin A. Reynolds (Katherine Tegan Books, March 2019), is a sweet, funny, poignant time travel YA with a lot going on in its briskly turning pages.

Jack, a high school senior, and Kate, a college freshman, meet and fall hard for each other.  Their chemistry is immediate, and their enjoyment of each other's company seems to Jack to promise the possibility to love.  Jack's two best friends, Franny, the boy he's been best buddies with forever, and Jillian, the best friend he was in love with before she started going out with Frannie, hit it off with Kate when they finally get to meet her, and all seems golden when she agrees to go to prom with Jack.  But then Kate doesn't show up on prom night, and Jack is only just able to find her in the hospital to say good-bye before she dies from complications of sickle cell anemia.

That isn't the end of the story.  Jack loops back in time to meet her all over again.  Over and over, trying to save her, and sometimes messing up his friendship with Franny and Jillian, and not saving Kate after all.  Some choices are disasters, others promise that Jack might be able to get through Kate's medical crisis to a happy ending...

Jack and Kate are a great couple, even after seeing their relationship multiple times.  Their lively banter is a delight!  Franny and  Jillian are solid supporting characters, each with their own issues (Franny's dad, for instance, is just getting out of prison, though there's lots more to Franny's story) and any reader would want to have these friends.  It's also nice to see good parents--Jack's mom and dad are supportive and present in Jack's life, and madly in love with each other, and they also are beautifully supportive of Franny.

Though we revisit the same general timeline of events multiple times, there's enough that's different in the repercussions, in the dialogue (these are some of the snappiest teens in their jokes and comebacks and banter I've read), and in Jack's growth as a character (it's not dramatic growth, but rather a growing up a bit, and realizing he can't fix things as if he were a puppeteer).

The cast of characters is diverse; as shown on the cover, Jack and Kate are both black, and Reynolds makes this clear very naturally and gracefully, without dumping direct description all over the place.  Franny is Latinx, Jillian's dad is West African.

I enjoyed it very much, and though it's well over 400 pages long, it only took a few hours to read it because the pages were turning so fast (and of course at one point they turned very quickly indeed to the end, because I had to make sure it turned out all right.  Which it does).  My only regret is that somehow Kate's death, even the first time, didn't make me all that sad, even though I liked her lots.  I'm not sure why this was; perhaps because I went it to the story knowing about the time loop, but I would have liked to have found it more moving.....

We never know why or how the time loop happens, which might bother some people (and bothers Kate herself a little bit when she finds out--she wonders why the universe would bend itself to save her--but that's not something I myself care too much about.

short answer--a really impressive debut, and a great read!


  1. This sounds like a really fun time travel book. Thanks for the heads up.

  2. Oh phew I am so glad to hear that this story ends up okay! That was going to be my question and has been the only reason I haven't read the book yet. YAY. Adding it to the list!

    1. Yep! I was reading the end right after death number 1....


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