Have you ever wanted to go back in time and fix your past? Even just one tiny little thing you regret? It's certainly a tempting proposition. But how might that one tiny thing change everything else in the landscape of your life? In Jennifer Honeybourn's “The Do-Over,” that's exactly what Emelia O'Malley is about to find out. And fair warning: Make sure you're paying attention on page one, because this story moves FAST!
The book opens at a party. Emelia has wrangled a rare invite to hang with the in-crowd — Ben Griffin, specifically — and she's brought her two best friends and gaming buddies Marisol and Alastair along. There is alcohol and kissing. Ben invites Emelia to winter formal. Don't blink, because before you know it, Alistair is pouring out his heart to Emelia and asking her to the winter formal as well.
And then we skip ahead to six months later.
Emelia barely sees her old friends anymore. She's not having a great time with Ben, but worries that if she breaks up with him, she'll be left with no friends at all. Emelia's mom is learning Italian for their upcoming vacation, despite her dad losing his job and becoming severely depressed.
Emelia is drawn to a crystal in a palm reader's tent at a night market in town, sort of like a year-round fair. The palm reader tells her to put the crystal under her pillow and think about the event in her past she wishes she could change. But if she makes that change, she has to understand that a lot of other butterfly effects will come with it. Willing to accept the consequences, she does exactly as directed.
And then Emelia wakes up in a different life.
Her room looks completely different, her hair is shorter, and her family is no longer going to Italy. The six months from that fateful night of the party has still passed, but it's a different six months she doesn't exactly remember. Amnesiac Emelia must piece the mystery of this new puzzling life together. At the same time she's figuring out what happened, she needs to figure out what exactly it was that she changed.
Emelia's dad is now happy and making pancakes. Emelia works at Castle Hardware alongside her friends Alastair and Violet (who wasn't that close a friend before), and she's remodeling the bathroom with her father. And she knows how to drive. Surprise! Also, her mom is away in Palm Springs — and her parents are selling the house because they're getting divorced.
Worse, not only is Emelia not with Ben, she's not with Alastair either. In this new reality, he's with Marisol. Because, as it turns out, Emelia never went to that party or hooked up with Ben — so Alastair's jealous reaction and heartbreaking admission never happened.
Of course, Emelia blames herself for everything. Which is not totally unjustified, as everything in this new timeline is directly a result of something she changed ... or is it?
As she navigates this new life, Emelia frantically tries to hunt down the palm reader and find another crystal so she can undo the crazy magic that changed her world. And as her every attempt is thwarted, Emelia begins to realize how much of these new developments she'll lose if she goes through with her plan. Because not everything in this new timeline is completely terrible. Life is not just black and white.
Emelia's story is a lesson on how the most seemingly insignificant things you do can affect others. But it's also asking a great philosophical question: Exactly how much of your life would you have to undo in order to properly do it over?
“The Do-Over” is a fantastic mash-up: “Pretty in Pink” meets “Big” meets “Sliding Doors.” It contains a myriad of great dramatic tropes, but not in the order you'd expect them to happen, and the breakneck pacing pulls you along too quickly to dwell on them much anyway. There are twists as events unfold, some expected, some not. “The Do-Over” will definitely keep you on your toes and keep you guessing as you barrel your way to the end. If you're anything like me, you will not be able to put it down until you slide, breathless, into the last chapter.
Alethea Kontis is a voice actress and award-winning author of over 20 books for children and teens.
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