Jamal shut out his lifelong best friend, Q, after losing his parents in a car accident, but when he saw his former friend in danger, he didn't hesitate to help. Unfortunately, he was too late. However, Q was chosen for a new program, which would bring him back to life, temporarily. Given this second chance, Jamal was determined to mend their friendship, but he was also racing the clock as he tried to repair the two years of damage.
If you could, would you opt to come back to life? To take that opportunity to say goodbye? I am not sure how I would answer that question, but in theory, I think there is something really beautiful about it, and that beauty permeated this story. As with Opposite of Always, I alternated between laughter and tears as I read this book. I was filled with pain and sadness, but also a lot warmth, hope, and happiness.
It had been two years since his parents' deaths, yet Jamal was still grieving their loss, even if he didn't acknowledge it. It kept him from planning for his future and from fully committing to any relationships. He had this deep fear of losing more people who mattered to him, so he decided not to get too attached. This broke my heart at first, but at least he eventually was pushed forward in this story. I found it really special that the catalyst for this change was his best friend. That he was able to work through his pain and loss by fixing his broken friendship with Q.
I am actually ugly crying as I write this, but I swear, there is a lot of humor in this book. I smiled a lot as I spent time with Jamal, Q, and the rest of their "family". The flashbacks were especially heartwarming. I shared memories of younger Jamal and Q as they worked on their comedy show, as well as some precious recollections of his parents.
I must say, Jamal was one lucky man. He was surrounded by people who cared deeply for him. Besides Q, he had a phenomenal group of women, who pushed him, challenged him, and supported him. The relationship between him and his sister was simply extraordinary, and I could not have picked a better girlfriend for Jamal. Q's mother also played a huge role in his healing journey, and it eased my pain knowing they had each other.
This book was really emotional but so beautiful. It's about loving out loud and treasuring every moment. It's easy to think you always have more time. More time to tell or show the people who are important to you that they are, in fact, important to you. This book was a really heartfelt reminder to not put those moments off. It was about love, "family", second chances, and seizing the day. Maybe I am a bit sappy, but I was I was extremely touched by this story.
(more like a 4.5) justin a reynolds just writes how I think and I'm in love with his mind and his stories and his characters and I will purchase and love his work time and time and time again. I have nothing else to say. This book broke me into a thousand little pieces but it was so full of love and hope and joy at the same time.
First line: "In 1785, French chemist Antoine Lavoisier discovers that matter can neither be created nor destroyed."*
I fell deeply in love with Justin A. Reynolds' debut book last year. It had all the classic parts of a YA contemporary with a cool speculative twist. His follow up looked to be doing a similar thing but where the first one focused on romance, this one had grief and friendship playing much larger roles.
This story could be really tough at times and I felt a lot for Jamal who is missing both his parents and his best friend. There is still a lot of signature Reynolds humour and short chapters that make it a quick read.
Jamal never had the chance to say goodbye to his parents, but when his best friend Quincy dies, he has the chance to say all that he never had a chance to say when his friend was alive, that is if Quincy will forgive him long enough so he can talk.
This book is challenging. There are a lot of ethical questions that make for an interesting discussion. Is there ever enough time when a loved one dies? Would you want to bring back someone so YOU can gain closure? Won't it be even more painful the second time a loved one dies?
The reader journeys through these questions and more as Jamal tackles what it means to be a friend in life and in death.
Thank you to Harper Collins Canada for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a second chance, to say goodbye when you couldn't before? Wow. The premise of this book had me worried. Let me tell you that this was simultaneously the best and worst time for me to read this book. But it was so good! I love every moment. Even though Jamal could be annoying, I understood a lot of what he was going through. And the other characters were absolutely fantastic! Things that I loved about this book:
THE FOCUS IS FRIENDSHIP AND FAMILY!!! The romantic relationships are never the forefront of the story. They are there, but not the focus of the plot or for the characters. It is so refreshing to see friendship as the main focus of a story. It is all about the friendship between Q and Jamal, and the relationships they have with their friends and family. And how they all create a found family together. I loved their relationships and how they developed through the story. It was fantastic to see!
Can I say friendship and family again!?
I really liked so many of the characters! It was a little hard to like Jamal at first, as he was so caught up in his own grief through the beginning of the novel, tending to be pretty annoying and selfish. The best characters are definitely Autumn, Q, and Whit though. I loved their personalities and their relationships with each other!!
The premise. It's so unique! The idea of having a second chance, to say goodbye to someone you lost. To have that ideal moment before a person you love leaves you. I would give anything to have had that moment with people I have lost...
The things that I struggled with:
As I mentioned above, Jamal made it a little difficult sometimes to like his character. And since he was the main character, that made it all the more difficult to read certain parts of the book since it is all in his perspective...
The pacing was a bit off sometimes. At parts it felt more led by dialogue while others were more tell than show. It made the pacing a bit off for me, but it was still a quick and engaging read!
Would definitely recommend if you are okay with the content warnings!
Moderate: Child death, Mental illness, and Death
There is drowning and the death of a teenager. There are also mentions of underage drinking. Depression and grief are also large parts of the plot.
This book broke my heart into pieces and then put it back together again. Justin A. Reynolds has a way with words. There were so many quotable sentences about grief and healing and friendship. I loved Jamal's growth and his journey to acknowledging that you are allowed to grieve but you still need to live and be alive and present for the great moments that are waiting to happen. I also liked the themes of forgiveness, friendship, and family that are present in this book. This book was heavy and if you aren't in the right mindset for discussions of death and grief I would hold off on reading this book. However, I read this after someone who impacted my life passed away suddenly and while I cried so much during reading I found this book to be very cathartic and healing for me personally. Everyone is different, though, so be aware of that if you think this is something that will trigger you take the appropriate steps for your mental health. The characters are so funny that they often injected a lot of humor and funny moments in between these heavy moments that I found myself laughing and crying at the same time. I think this book is great and will be recommending it to everyone.
*I received a free review copy in exchange for an honest review of this book.
Early Departures balances grief, loss, and celebration to tell a story about the tenuous nature of life and the suddenness of death. The prose has a drifting or wavering quality early on, helping build a sense of fragility which perfectly fits the text.
Besides the obvious themes of life and death, there's a lot of grappling with discomfort and truth. When is is honesty the best policy? How much does someone really need to know something when it's bad news they can't change? This book doesn’t pretend to have the right answer, it just tells one very moving version of what a small group of people try when they get a second chance to say goodbye. It's often sad but has some very happy moments, telling and showing ways that the characters choose to celebrate life while they can.
Jamal is a fantastic MC, he feels really earnest even when the book thinks he might not be doing the right thing in his personal life, and the whole effect works really well. This feels like the kind of book I’ll come back to when I need it. That doesn’t happen to be right now for me, but it offers a certain kind of catharsis that I appreciate.
Moderate: Death and Child death
CW for pregnancy, drowning, car accident, parental death, major character death.
Disclaimer: I have voluntarily reviewed this book after receiving a free copy from the publisher via Edelweiss+; thank you!
Title: Early Departures Author: Justin A. Reynolds Rating: 4/ 5
Early Departures nearly made me cry, and that’s not something I can say about many books. It’s hard to put into words the mixture of sadness and hope it made me feel.
Jamal and Q used to be best friends. Inseparable since childhood, best comedic duo around. At least until Jamal’s parents died in an accident two years ago and he blamed it on Q’s unfortunate call. Ever since then Jamal and Q haven’t been talking much but when Q dies and there’s a way to temporarily bring him back to life, Jamal finds himself wanting to fix their broken friendship before Q dies again.
Early Departures is a hard-hitting contemporary with a minor sci-fi twist. You get into it knowing that it won’t end with a happily ever after but somehow you still end up hoping. However, even if you finish it on the verge of crying (like me), you also feel hopeful and comforted. You end up wishing to do more with your life than sit on the sofa for the whole day. You want to tell all your friends that you love them because who knows what tomorrow may bring?
The book starts a bit slow and I felt the pacing at the beginning was uneven but as soon as we get out of the introduction phase it’s a really fast read. Mostly because Jamal doesn’t have much time with Q and is trying to use every moment available to make up for the two years when he’d pretended they were never friends. It’s a story about friendship, a deep, honest one that can shake the world. It’s also a story about loss and letting go of people that are no longer with us. But Jamal and Q’s friendship isn’t the only important thing. A small found family quickly grows around Q, including Jamal’s sister, his girlfriend, and Q’s mom. It’s very heartwarming.
I find it hard to write more about this book because it would be mostly describing the emotional impact it had on me but if you like hard-hitting stories make sure to check Early Departures out. It’s a book that will leave you wanting to take on the world before it’s too late.