A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Opposite of Always, Justin A. Reynolds' debut novel, is a bittersweet fantasy tale about a teen caught in a loop in time between the day he meets his girlfriend and the day she dies a few months later. Jack doesn't travel through time deliberately. He just keeps finding himself at the party where they met, again and again. Each time, Jack attempts to prevent her death -- including through unethical activities like gambling on a game where he knows the outcome to get the money for an experimental medical treatment. Jack and Kate do a lot of kissing, but the way it's presented is tender and not graphic. One scene implies (vaguely) that they may just have had sex. Jack and Jillian, his best friend's girlfriend, also kiss (with tongue). Jack, an underage teen, drinks shots with his friend's dad, an ex-convict who's acted as his bookie. A teen character is shot by a homeowner while cutting through a gated community.
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What's the story?
When OPPOSITE OF ALWAYS begins, high school senior Jack King is infatuated with his best friend's girl. He's a sweet, nerdy kid who's loyal to both of them; he'll never act on his feelings. Then Jack meets Kate, and they fall in love. But their relationship is doomed. Kate has sickle cell anemia. (In people with this disease, the red blood cells are rigid and sticky, and are shaped like sickles. The cells are unable to carry enough oxygen.) Kate dies. Jack collapses and is transported back in time to the night he and Kate met. He finds himself in this loop again and again, trying different ways to get Kate the expensive experimental treatment that might save her life or to spend more quality time with her before she dies. In his desperate attempts to save Kate, can he stay true to his ethics and his other friendships?
Is it any good?
This bittersweet, poetic time-traveling teen romance shows a boy struggling to prevent his girlfriend's death from serious illness. Inspired by the death of a close friend, author Justin A. Reynolds has written an intriguing fantasy about the possibility of a do-over, a chance to go back in time and do something -- anything -- to bring a loved one back to life. Opposite of Always benefits from this emotional foundation. It's easy to empathize with Jack's feelings, from his infatuation with his best friend's girl, Jillian, to his respect for his parents, to his love for Kate and his desperation not to lose her.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how a life-threatening illness, sickle cell anemia, is portrayed in Opposite of Always. Why do you think loves stories with ill characters are so popular? Do you know any kids with serious conditions? How does it affect their lives?
Once Jack decides that saving Kate is his greatest priority, he's willing to sacrifice some of his values to help her. What do you think about Jack's decisions? Do you like stories that explore hard moral choices? Which are some of your favorites?
The author, Justin A. Reynolds, wrote Opposite of Always after a friend died. If you've lost someone -- a pet, grandparent, parent, or friend -- what did you do to start to feel better?
- Author: Justin A. Reynolds
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
- Publication date: March 4, 2019
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
- Number of pages: 464
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: April 10, 2019
Our editors recommend
For kids who love romance
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