“Opposite of Always”, the book you will remember years after reading

“I want to be in the stadium. I want back in the box. Hit or miss, I need to swing.” (Reynolds, p. 412)

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“Opposite of Always”, the book you will remember years after reading

Endless Staircase

Endless Staircase

Emma Hall

Endless Staircase

Emma Hall

Emma Hall

Endless Staircase

 

I knew I’d remember some words from this book when the female love interest, Kate, made up the word ‘craugh’ which means crying and laughing at the same time. It immediately became one of my top ten favorite words. Then, page 225 rolled around, and this book got logged into the ‘will still be thinking about it five years later’ category. And mind you, page 225 is not even halfway through this 500-page beast. 

Be ready for spoilers, but nothing you won’t be reading in the first 50 or so pages, which is not a lot when you keep in mind this book spans four months over and over. This book brings ‘time travel fiction’ to a whole new height. As in, ‘bar set for 100 feet and someone jumped to 300 feet’ new height. 

I wondered if it would be a disappointing echo to the insanely bewitched “Before I Fall” by Lauren Oliver, a book about a time traveling teen that is also around 500 pages, which I read a good three or four years ago. And then BANG! “My face is mashed sideways against the trunk of a police cruiser when Kate dies for the third time.” The first 10 pages might as well have been electricity for how much they shocked and enthralled me. 

And then page 13 rolled around. (Sorry 11 and 12, you were blank or had a new chapter title so you don’t count). Page 13, where we were sucked into the first four-month set that lasted from page 13 all the way to page 135. And then page 139 started the next four-month loop. And I have to give credit to Justin A. Reynolds. He does NOT mess around with the whole ‘was it just déjá vu?’ shtick. Nope, our main character, Jack King, knows what’s happening in loop two (poor Samantha Kingston from Before I Fall only figured this out after two or three times dying). 

“Opposite of Always” is amazing in that every four-month period is pretty much the same, but with enough difference that it never quite felt like time was repeating itself. General times stay the same. How each character reacts and feels stays the same, though they’re now in slightly altered situations with slightly altered outcomes. This might sound boring, but with every reset Jack manages to both mess up, and succeed in new ways. Which in turn makes brand new things happen.

To put it bluntly, “Opposite of Always” is the book I never thought I wanted.”

To put it bluntly, “Opposite of Always” is the book I never thought I wanted. But then you get sucked in from that first sentence, and then the ten confusing pages flip past and you forget she dies because there are over a hundred pages worth of learning about each of these characters and slowly falling in love with them. 

“I think [Justin A. Reynolds] did a really good job of creating what seemed like real friendships to me with real teenage kids… I mean, they get along, and sometimes they don’t get along, and sometimes they’re awesome, and sometimes they’re annoyed with each other. And I think that’s pretty true in life,” commented Jill Hofmockel, the librarian and founder of book club. 

This is the book idea you think of while only half-listening in class, but then immediately forget because ‘it’s not good enough’ or ‘I’m not a good enough writer’ or ‘I don’t write’ or some other variation. It’s the story idea that you think of and then let drift away without a backward glance. It’s the story idea you didn’t really think about but always wanted to see. 

I’ll leave you with one of the quotes that I believe tells you about Jack in a way I really couldn’t. Page 411 through 412, starting with Jack’s best friend’s father, called The Coupon, talking to Jack. 

“[…] ‘It’s the bottom of the ninth, two outs, two strikes, and I’m in that batter box, man. And that pitcher on the mound, I ain’t never got a hit off him, I’m zero for a million against him, and he’s throwing heat that I can’t even see, let alone catch up to. And I know what you thinking, ‘cause I’ve thought the same. Maybe if you just swing one more time, maybe you finally get that hit that’s long overdue. But I don’t ever get on base, Jack. You looking at the strikeout king, my friend.’ 

He laughs. Slaps me on my shoulders like he’s just delivered a punch line, except his eyes are wet. ‘Hell, that’s not even true. In reality, you gotta be in the game to strike out. When it comes to that boy, I’ve never even been in the stadium. I was never there. […]’ 

I think of my friend lying there, hurting, just hurting, with no one in the room that loves him. 

I want to be in the stadium. 

I want back in the box. 

Hit or miss, I need to swing.”

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