A tale of first love, second chances, and Froot Loops.
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Why I love it
Any child of the ’90s is familiar with the time-displaced protagonist. From Bill Murray in Groundhog Day to Back to the Future’s Marty McFly, we know well these (usually white!) heroes. But thanks to Justin A. Reynolds, we have a new 21st-century time traveller: charming, heart-on-his-sleeve Jack, who yearns to alter the past until he finally gets every facet of his life right.
When Jack meets Kate at a house party, he’s pretty sure they’re meant to be … until, that is, she dies unexpectedly. But Kate’s death triggers a shift in time that sends Jack back to the day they met, giving him the chance to save her life. If you’re worried about too many math equations on whiteboards: don't be. Jack and Kate's almost love story is realistic, rooted in the expectations we put on relationships and the promise of new love that's usually not as sweet as it seems. And yet, who hasn’t met that person who they thought might fix it all, if only they could keep them from, y’know, dying?
As someone who fast-forwards through many second acts of films that are too predictable, I'm in awe of Reynolds's ability to draw and hold the reader in a story that's part love story, part coming of age, and part high-concept time adventure. Not only has he created a time loop that will break your heart multiple times, he’s created A+ supporting characters that are messy enough to be real and realistic enough to get even messier. Reynolds never loses that light subversion of a relatively trauma-free black protagonist, a black love story, and black families that anchor the character of Jack, and I cannot wait to read what he writes next.
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.