What if your life had an ‘undo’ button?
Arlo Knott develops the mysterious ability to reverse his last action. It makes him able to experience anything, to charm any woman and impress any friend. His is a life free of mistakes, a life without regret.
But second chances aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. As wonderful as his new life is, a mistake in Arlo’s traumatic childhood still haunts him and the temptation to undo, undo and keep undoing could be too much to resist.
Hi and welcome to my review of The Undoing of Arlo Knott! First of all, I’d like to invite you to take a good look at that gorgeous cover, because it pretty much sums up the whole story, albeit in a way you don’t really realise until you’ve read it. Also, a note on the chaptering, which is a bit funny: it starts with part 6. A publisher note explains that this is meant to reflect the time-reversing aspects of the novel. While I don’t exactly see the added value in this, it doesn’t distract from the story, nor is it confusing at any time. The chapters in each part are not neatly numbered starting from 1 either: they reflect Arlo’s age. In that way there are multiple chapters with the same number. Again, not confusing at all, and I do see the added value in this, because his age does matter more than protagonists’ ages in other books.
Right, so, The Undoing of Arlo Knott starts with Arlo, aged thirteen. A tragic accident that he’s at least partially to blame for changes his life forever and soon after he realises he can do something no one else seems to be able to: he can undo actions or events by returning in time to just before they took place.
From that point in time onwards, we follow Arlo through life, as he goes forward in time like everybody else, but also back in time. His ability to time-travel, albeit very limitedly, makes him nonchalant and brazen on the one hand, and a bit of a freeloader on the other: as a student he needs money, what easier way than to go gambling, or buy scratch cards. All the possibilities are there, all the realities are for the taking, once he has seen one reality, one possibility, it becomes real, but he can return and let it play again, or change reality by doing or saying something else.
Arlo leads a fascinating life, all the while trying to figure out what his ability means, how it might be explained, and all the while trying to stretch it, going back just a minute more, just an hour more, honing his unique skill. For a while he’s a magician, the great ArlO, raking in the money, because what he can do is as close to real magic as one can get. But eventually tiring of freeloading and his own self-centredness, and realising his ability is what got him and possibly lost him the love of his life, he decides to use it for the greater good, to help people and he starts a new career. But can he really keep meddling with people’s lives like this, even if it is for the greater good, or is he messing with fate?
Arlo’s journey is a fascinating one. His character’s arc is incredible. You see him grow as a person throughout the story and although I didn’t really like him at first, he grew on me as he was growing as a person. Knowing how he started out, that rather selfish little boy, and how the novel ends, is just… wow. This is a thriller, a family drama, a love story, an episode of Black Mirror and a Blake Crouch novel all rolled up in one sublimely plotted novel with a gasp-inducing finale that must be added to your reading list this summer, or next winter, or whatever, just add it. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I highly recommend it, especially to all the Black Mirror fans out there.
The Undoing of Arlo Knott is out on 1 August, pre-order here!
Massive thanks to Orbit and NetGalley for the free eARC! All opinions are my own and I was not paid to give them.