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If I Could Turn Back Time by Beth Harbison

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Publisher: St Martin's Press
Source: Netgalley
Rating: 3/5
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Thirty-seven year old Ramie Phillips has led a very successful life. She made her fortune and now she hob nobs with the very rich and occasionally the semi-famous, and she enjoys luxuries she only dreamed of as a middle-class kid growing up in Potomac, Maryland. But despite it all, she can't ignore the fact that she isn't necessarily happy. In fact, lately Ramie has begun to feel more than a little empty. On a boat with friends off the Florida coast, she tries to fight her feelings of discontent with steel will and hard liquor. No one even notices as she gets up and goes to the diving board and dives off... Suddenly Ramie is waking up, straining to understand a voice calling in the distance...It's her mother: "Wake up! You're going to be late for school again. I'm not writing a note this time..." Ramie finds herself back on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, with a second chance to see the people she's lost and change the choices she regrets. How did she get back here? Has she gone off the deep end? Is she really back in time? Above all, she'll have to answer the question that no one else can: What it is that she really wants from the past, and for her future?
As I said earlier in the week, I've recently read two books with similar main characters and little gimmicks to differentiate from the crowd. 

The hook for If I Could Turn Back Time was the main character going back in time to her eighteenth birthday. I LOVE 13 Going on 30, 17 Again, Freaky Friday and all those other switcheroo films so as soon as I saw this, I knew I had to read it. Also, the title is my second favourite Cher song (Believe is my favourite. You can't beat a vocoder).

If I Could Turn Back Time was witty and fast paced (but in a good way). It's the type of book that can be devoured in one sitting on the beach or a nice book for the commute. As with Love and Miss Communication, it opened strongly. In fact, it was very funny and I couldn't help but picture (and hear) Elizabeth Banks as Ramie.

Given the premise, this book could've been very predictable (you know - go to prom, get your own back on the mean girls, get the guy etc.) and whilst some of those elements were there, it was handled differently. We all romanticize our teenage years and think we were completely different people back then but one thing Ramie learns is that she's not that different at all and I suppose that's true - you can change little quirks but you really can't change your character. 

I loved all of the characters and especially loved Ramie, which is always good where the main character is concerned! Her parents were really well written - especially her dad, those scenes were very heartfelt - and she only had one best friend, hooray! Her relationship with her then boyfriend was very sweet too and it was nice that she got the chance to appreciate it even more. 

If I could Turn Back Time really made me think and I'm sure it will do the same to you. Would you go back in time if given the chance? What stage in your life would you revisit? I think I would like to go back to being 18 again just so I could appreciate it more. There were lots of quotes that stood out for me in this book - for example, at one point Ramie thinks about all of the selves we lose as we grow older or the fact that once you lose someone close to you, unexpected phone calls produce panic rather than excitement. My only criticism is that I would've liked the alternative reality part of the book to play out a little longer if only to really hammer home the fact that the grass isn't necesarily greener on the other side. 

Overall, I really like this book. It was very funny in places - there was bite to it, which I hadn't expected for some reason - and had some extremely heartfelt moments. I always wanted to read When In Doubt, Add Butter but never managed to get hold of a copy, so I'm glad I can finally say I've read a Beth Harbison book and I'll definitely look into getting some more. 

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