This book by Justin Reynolds was a Kindle deal a while back (and ironically it is on sale again this week so perfect timing) and I found it a charming read to keep me occupied as I journeyed home from Puerto Rico (and tried not to think about all the cold and grey weather awaiting me).
From the very beginning of the novel, I realized it was not going to be a typical teen romance because the first sentence is this: “My face is mashed sideways against the trunk of a police cruiser when Kate dies for third time.” What follows is a love story involving Jack, our narrator, and Kate. Though they have a meet-cute beginning, what follows is anything but traditional—a sort of Twelve Monkeys (the TV series, not the movie) meets Groundhog Day.
Jack meets Kate when he and his best friend, Jillian, are doing a campus weekend at the college about 2 hours away that they both plan to attend in the fall. Though Jack has been somewhat in love with Jillian ever since they met freshman year of high school, the complication is that Jillian has been dating Jack’s other best friend, Franny, for almost that entire time. However, this weekend they’ve left Franny behind (he hopes to attend the same college but hasn’t yet gotten an admission letter) and Jack wonders if now, at a college party where alcohol is flowing, is the time to admit his feelings.
Luckily, before Jack makes that mistake, he meets Kate, who both comments on the fact that he’s blocking her path down a set of stairs but also notes Jack’s fixation on a certain someone across the room. Jack and Kate hit it off instantly-bonding over pop culture references and a shared love of breakfast cereal. They spend all night and part of the early morning talking and by the time Jack and Jillian drive home, Jack is totally smitten.
Over the next three months, the relationship develops in a charming but fairly straightforward way (which I won’t give away) but then Kate dies suddenly and Jack finds himself back on the stairs at the college frat party, three months in the past. Is this a second chance to save Kate? How many more chances will he need to get things right? And by making some choices over others, what does he get wrong?
Justin Reynolds does a nice job of exploring the what ifs of Jack’s situation and the result is a story about the importance of all the relationships in Jack’s life—even if it takes Jack some time to figure that out.