Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds
Publication Date: March 3, 2019
Jack King is happy planning for college, hanging out with his two best friends and meeting the girl of his dreams, Kate. And then Kate suddenly dies and Jack sent back to the night they met. The time loop means Jack might have a chance to save Kate. Each time he comes back he has to face consequences of his actions hoping that one of the times he will get it right and save Kate and keep his friends.
Listeners will be hard pressed not to equate this to the 1993 film Groundhog Day, and the author even makes his own nod to the movie. Like Jack, narrator Nile Bullock is very likable, and his narration works well with Reynolds’ self-aware, snappy writing. Bullock captures Jack’s vulnerability and persistence in trying to save Kate or his relationships with friends, Franny and Jillian. In a story with a device that could easily go off the rails, both author and narrator keep the listeners invested in how things will turn out.
Fans of Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park, Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homosapien Agenda and F.C. Yee’s The Epic Crush of Genie Lo will easily enjoy this witty, character driven romance. Jordan getting his second, third, and so on chances this is akin to the book and movie based on Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall, Groundhog Day, and Netflix’s Russian Doll, but with its sweet hearted earnestness this will also easily appeal to fans of The Good Place and Jane the Virgin.
—Christie Kimsey and Danielle Jones
Spin by Lamar Giles
Publication Date: January 29, 2019
A teen DJ from coastal Virginia has set the music world on fire, but her quick ascendancy is cut short by her apparent murder. Paris, DJ ParSec, had left her childhood friend and technical producer Kya and social media strategist Fallon, also known as Fuse, behind in her climb towards international fame. But after Paris is found dead, slumped over her mixing board, her estranged friends work together to get the justice she deserves. The unlikely allies join forces to get to the bottom of Paris’s fractured family relationships, the shady management commandeering her earnings, and the obsessive fandom that is ParSec Nation, discovering nothing is quite what it seems.
The novel is read with great brio by Bahni Turpin, Sisi Aisha Johnson and newcomer Shawana Carter. The three powerhouse narrators alternate in voicing distinct young women with different takes on what happened to ParSec. The narrative emphasizing the democratizing power of digital technology in music production and centers women as creators.
Spin is an easy sell for readers who enjoy Giles’ past work like Fake ID and Tiffany Jackson’s Allegedly and Monday’s Not Coming. It is a solid mystery with broad appeal, strong musical touchstones throughout, realistic integration of technology, and ample social media context. Listeners will find it easy to heed ParSec’s admonition to “Calm Down? Turn UP!”
— Wendy Stephens
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