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Backwards - Todd Mitchell Received a copy of Backwards by Todd Mitchell through the First Reads Giveaway in exchange for an honest review

"Essentially, I viewed life from the opposite direction
as everyone else. My future was their past and their past
my future, so while others perceived events in light of
what had happened, I perceived them in light of what
would happen."

Have you ever felt some sort of spiritual entity pulling you in a different direction? Perhaps changing the way you style your hair in the morning? Or how about pouring orange juice on your breakfast cereal to brighten up the day? For Dan Franklin things have not been of the normal sort lately. Well, everybody hates him at school, that remains the same, his leading of a nondescript life is still well in tact and his level of despondency remains at a high level. Everything seems normal. Then what is making him behave so strange, so unaware, so caring, so involved, and for him to act this way after what he just did, he really has a lot of nerve.

If you travel backwards long enough all wounds heal. Starting from the end and working your way back to where the trouble began. That is the purpose of this story and proves to be one where knowing the end doesn't necessarily mean your abilities to make things right have the anticipated results. So complex, so multi-layered, so many ways the story can go, it's reminiscent of a true blue, real life choose your adventure. If this is the future of video gaming be very, very afraid.

The Young Adult genre is generally one I shy away from when it comes to my "to read" and shopping list queue. I find the YA subject matter to be overly immature, the day-to-day events and the people involved to be cringe worthy, and the complexities I enjoy are absent. It doesn't mean I haven't read some good YA novels. I have read and enjoyed quite a few such as: King of the Screwups, The Fault In Our Stars, Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and one of my favourites happens to be John Green's Paper Towns. I enjoy smart, unique, and complex characters. Often times I find that in YA books the characters espouse the typical teenage vernacular throughout the whole book. It becomes tiring and warrants a yawn, I can feel my IQ dropping considerably during these exchanges. With this book I felt the intentions of the author were in the right place the execution on the other hand was lacking. The creativity and thoughtfulness definitely go without saying, it's just that the secondary features needed more polish and preparation. Part of the problem with the whole "backwards" flow of information was that you are aware of outcomes to situations, and when the character experiences the preceding event it makes reading the rest of the section somewhat redundant. Of course you learn more about the characters stories and their thought processes but to know what encouraged certain events to unfold didn't live up to my heightened expectations. One aspect I did like was how Rider's predictions influence how he is going to handle the day and correct a situation. However; at these times his conscience overrides his plan and he ends up experiencing the same conclusions as Dan just in a different way. Rider is left personal messages etched in Dan's bedroom wall beneath his calendar. These messages are a mystery to him as he is unsure if they are for him or a reminder for Dan. This feature kind of reminds me of a teenage version of Christopher Nolan's Memento. I also appreciated Rider's and Dan's appreciation of unconventional beauty at a time when if you are not popular or a cheerleader you are not worth the time.

"It's like other girls are roses or daisies or daffodils.
They're pretty but ordinary,Cat's something else entirely.
She's an Orchid growing in a swamp. You could spend your
whole life never knowing the Orchids there. But once you
see her,nothing ever looks the same."

I really felt Dan's pain as I experienced a lot of the same high school coming of age situations minus the final act. Social isolation, resentment of the expectations that popularity brings, feelings of Frankenstein's monster, the secret lives of parents, free wheeling accusations and fitting in rather than branching out. I wasn't a fan of his treatment of family but I liked how he fought for what he believed in and made his decisions according to what he thought was right. In the land of conformity, it is easy for the lesser popular students to non-conform. I mean what other choice do they have than to embrace their differences. But for an athletic, smart, handsome, and popular dude like Dan to resent the powerful sway of conformity it took a lot of guts and courage that I greatly admired.

"Everyone concealed a secret self that no one else knew.
During the time between classes, eyeglasses got crushed
beneath feet. Notes were exchanged. Drugs changed hands.
Some people were shoved or kicked. Others hugged. Some
said yes. Others, no. So much could happen in a minute,
in a second even- moments of kindness and cruelty,
declarations of love and loneliness, possibilities found
and lost- while people walked by, fumbling in their own
self-conscious world's."