I flat out adored Opposite of Always. Reynolds has a knack for combining truly unique concepts with endearing and relatable characters. Early Departures has that same promise. The ideas of second chances and making every moment count. Keep reading this book review to find out how much I loved the themes in Early Departures!
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?
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Edelweiss. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
Early Departures is an emotional story about forgiveness, family, and second chances. Of taking each moment as they come, never knowing if we will ever get another. It begins with a friendship falling apart and breaking down. When words don’t make sense anymore and bonds that were thought to be permanent are broken. Jamal is still reeling from the loss of his parents. He’s angry, hurt, and in pain, lashing out at the world around him and unable to open his heart again for fear of being hurt.
For me, Jamal reflected all these moments, the mistakes we make, and the words we unleash when in pain. It was painful to see that, in some ways, this is how we lose people – when we let our fears take over – but it also felt deeply relatable. In the aftermath of a deep trauma, the ways we view our tomorrows, our existence, our relationships, and our permanence change be altered forever. But, at the end of the day, we have to figure out if we want to be defined by what we’ve lost.
At the same time, Early Departures is a story about the found family we chose, the ones that choose us because of the good and bad. Never cringing away from us. While reading Early Departures, I was immediately swept away by the emotions of it all. Not only the loss of our parent, but also those feelings of breaking and vulnerability. But as the book went on, I became entranced by the themes of mortality. How the process of reanimation can give us a little hope or control over death and loss, but how we never really know when it will happen.
Early Departures is about friendship and treasuring people. About opening up to them even though it’s the scariest thing you might ever do. Because when people leave, the pain is immense. But accepting the possibility of pain makes the moments of vulnerability precious. It’s about the way we use the time we have which determines whether we die or live, those moments and hours in between.