ARC Review: Early Departures

Early Departures

By: Justin A. Reynolds

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Genre: Contemporary, YA, magical realism

Release Date: September 22, 2020

Page Count: 320

Synopsis: Justin A. Reynolds, author of Opposite of Always, delivers another smart, funny, and powerful stand-alone YA contemporary novel, with a speculative twist in which Jamal’s best friend is brought back to life after a freak accident . . . but they only have a short time together before he will die again.

Jamal’s best friend, Q, doesn’t know he’s about to die . . . again.

He also doesn’t know that Jamal tried to save his life, rescuing him from drowning only to watch Q die later in the hospital. Even more complicated, Jamal and Q haven’t been best friends in two years—not since Jamal’s parents died in a car accident, leaving him and his sister to carry on without them. Grief swallowed Jamal whole, and he blamed Q for causing the accident.

But what if Jamal could have a second chance? An impossible chance that would grant him the opportunity to say goodbye to his best friend? A new health-care technology allows Q to be reanimated—brought back to life like the old Q again. But there’s a catch: Q will only reanimate for a short time before he dies . . . forever.

Jamal is determined to make things right with Q, but grief is hard to shake. And he can’t tell Q why he’s suddenly trying to be friends with him again. Because Q has no idea that he died, and Q’s mom is not about to let anyone ruin the miracle by telling him. How can Jamal fix his friendship with Q if he can’t tell him the truth?

This review will be spoiler free

I want to start by saying a big thank you to Harper Collins Canada for sending me this book in exchange for an unbiased review! I also want to acknowledge the elephant in the room here, yes I am reviewing a ARC that was released over a month ago. Due to some Covid related shipping delays and just some bad luck with the parcel delivery service in my city, my ARCS arrived a few weeks late, so I am a little behind in my reviews. However, that is good news because then you can all run out and buy these wonderful books right away and you won’t have to wait for the release date! Alright, I’ll stop my preamble now and get right into the review.

First let me say that this is not my genre. I am not a fan of contemporary so I feel that I should disclose that right off the bat for the sake of transparency. I had heard little to nothing about this book prior to receiving it in the mail so I had absolutely no expectations going in. But let me just say, WOW I have not cried that much reading a book in a long time, and I say that in the best way possible. I should probably but a trigger warning here and say that this book deals with themes of loss and grief, but it does so in a really incredible and moving way. The writing style was beautiful and really unique (again though this is not a genre I typically read so I am not a good judge of that).

Moving on to the characters which I felt were really the heart and soul of the story. I loved Jamal and Q and their friendship, I think everyone who reads this story will feel something as you watch these two go through highs and lows together. At its heart this is a story about friendship and family and the healing journey everyone who has ever lost someone has to go on, and that is a really moving story. While I said earlier that I cried reading this book, it’s important to note that it made me smile too. i don’t like stories that are too depressing and full of sorrow, and this one made sure to balance the darker times with heart and love, and that makes this really a special read.

So now you’re probably wondering “Norees, if this book was so amazing why just 4 stars? what gives?” well it’s not because I usually don’t like this genre I promise. I only had one tiny complaint with this book, and that was that it got (at least for me) too technical at times. I think the tone of the story was very whimsical and emotional (I know that sounds like a weird combo but I promise it works), but I felt that the reanimation bits got a bit bogged down with the technical aspects and it threw off the pacing of the story for me. That’s not to say it ruined the book, not by a long shot, but that is one thing that kept this book from a full 5/5 stars. I’ll also say that Jamal could be a little annoying at times, but that could be just an issue with me not liking him at times and not with the writing itself because I have friends who read this book and didn’t feel that way at all, so I didn’t deduct any points from my rating for that.

Overall, if you are a fan of contemporary, or even light magical realism, definitely go pick this book up but be sure to have the tissues ready! Let me know your thoughts down in the comments.

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