I’d wanted love that was better than my parents’ love, something that was built to last. That wouldn’t end with the neighbors calling the cops when my mom broke off statue-Cupid’s head and threw it at my dad. But now, I felt as heartbroken as I did on that terrible day.
The Do-Over is smart and funny: it’s a coming of age story with a sharp romance.
After living through a dumpster fire of a Valentine’s Day, Emilie Hornby escapes to her grandmother’s house for some comfort and a consolation pint of Ben & Jerry’s. She passes out on the couch, but when she wakes up, she’s back home in her own bed—and it’s Valentine’s Day all over again. And the next day? Another nightmare V-Day.
Emilie is stuck in some sort of time loop nightmare that she can’t wake up from as she re-watches her boyfriend, Josh, cheat on her day after day. In addition to Josh’s recurring infidelity, Emilie can’t get away from the enigmatic Nick, who she keeps running into—sometimes literally—in unfortunate ways.
How many days can one girl passively watch her life go up in flames? And when something good starts to come out of these terrible days, what happens when the universe stops doling out do-overs?
First of all, Lynn Painter freaking knocks it out of the park with the Do-Over. Emilie Hornby is my new favourite teen MC: she’s smart and funny and unabashedly herself. She has a lot of emotions and expectations and struggles to let them all out. She’s raw and real and I wish she had been my friend in high school. Now, I didn’t realize truly how much I love ground-hog day stories, but between Christina Lauren’s In a Holidaze and Painter’s The Do-Over, I have confirmed myself a fan of this story trope.
Emilie is a 16 year old girl going through A LOT: her divorced parents play ping pong with her and her feelings (and all she wants to do is be noticed and loved by them), she’s highly ambitious and is focused on succeeding in everything in high school, and she has her life planned out in her head and expects it to unroll as it should in real life. At the beginning of the book I just wanted to loosen Emilie up and let her relax her own expectations of herself. By the end of it, I wanted to go eat spaghetti with her and crank some Taylor Swift.
Emilie has planned the perfect Valentine’s Day for her newish boyfriend, except nothing goes as planned. After a terrible day she is shocked when she wakes up to relive it again, again and again. Half the fun of The Do-Over is watching Emilie experiment with trying to change aspects of the day in order to change the loop. Of course, the day isn’t what needs to change, but rather Emilie’s outlook on the day. Watching Emilie come to terms with her own struggles and weaknesses, and develop her own book is one of my favourite aspects of The Do-Over. She’s got a lot of support systems in place, but has to learn to use her voice to access them – which so many teens (girls especially) struggle to use.
Emilie thinks she’s in love with her boyfriend Josh. On paper they are PERFECT for each other. Throughout the repeated timelines, readers get to watch the relationship develop and un-develop partially aided by the mysterious Nick – Emilie’s chemistry lab partner who keeps showing up at the most inconvenient times. Emilie and Nick have a fantastic relationship and part of the joy of the storyline is how Emilie uses the repeated day to learn more and more about the tacturn and seemingly anti-social guy who, it turns out, has a lot of layers to him.
One of the most charming aspects of The Do-Over for me is the little confessionals that begin each chapter: Emilie knows she’s a clean-cut kid that is the type that never has worried her parents or teachers. So, she has written down everything she’s done that isn’t perfect and kept them in a box hidden in her closet, so that in case she dies people will know she still had adventures. I giggled at the beginning of every chapter. Emilie’s antics kept me reading late into the night.
Lynn’s stories always delight but also keep it real, and The Do-Over fulfills this: while it’s a light-hearted romp, it also tackles issues of anxiety and fear, grief and the poignant challenge of teens growing up and trying to discover their places in the world. This is a book to gift to your favourite teen this holiday season, but you should also buy a copy for yourself. You won’t regret it. Although you may find yourself craving a Taylor Swift lyric tattooed on your arm.
Thank you to Simon and Schuster for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.