I’ll admit that my first impression was that THE DO-OVER by Jennifer Honeybourn was a Young Adult retread of Sliding Doors or Freaky Friday or Big or 13 Going on 30…but I’m really glad I didn’t pass it over in an eye-rolling huff. This novel delves into realistic regrets that many teens have survived over the generations, and it details the kind of drama that feels life-changing at 15, and based on how many of us dwell on it — perhaps it is! This engaging novel about a high school girl who regrets how she treated her friends and gets a chance to “do-over” one night, is a breezy, but not shallow, read.
Emelia, or Em, has two close friends: Alistair and Marisol. She knows she has possible romantic feelings for Alistair, but is afraid of ruining their friendship. When the most popular boy in school, Ben, sets his sights on Em, she jumps into the world of popularity and boyfriends feet first, neglecting her long-time friends. As the novel jumps ahead six months, Em realizes that she is miserable and regrets ever getting involved with Ben and his popular crowd. At a summer carnival, she finds a “magical” yellow gem in a fortune teller’s tent and gets the chance to fix her regretful actions — or so she thinks.
When Em wakes up the next morning, everything has changed. Her parents are in the midst of getting a divorce and selling the family home, her friends are her friends again — although something is different, and Em has cut her hair, painted her room, started learning to drive, and gotten a job at the local hardware store. A major problem is that she only has memories of the six months she’s already lived, not the six months as they’ve apparently changed. Following Em as she navigates figuring out how she fits into her own life when everything seems upended is a whirlwind, as teen years often are. Author Jennifer Honeybourn manages to keep the various characters and events consistent and authentic. And Emelia’s realization that even though the last six months have changed in many ways, perhaps she is the one who needs to change, is told with both empathy and directness. Allowing the character to blossom into a person less self-involved and more full of hope and confidence tells us that perhaps we all should be allowed a do-over on occasion.