Begin Again by Helly Acton
Published: July 6th 2023 by Zaffre
Rating: ★★★★½ (4.5)
Genre: Adult // Contemporary Romance
Quick Thoughts: Witty, feel-good and adventurous, Begin Again is the perfect mid-summer book for escaping your life.
About The Book:
The Good Place meets Sliding Doors, Begin Again is an uplifting novel about life’s what if’s, missed chances and new beginnings.
Despite living firmly in her comfort zone, Frankie McKenzie feels unsettled. She can’t help feeling something’s missing. Is it a home to call her own? Travel? A more rewarding job? A relationship? Before she can work it out, she dies in a freak kebab-related accident after yet another dud of a first date.
But life isn’t over for Frankie. Instead, she is offered a second chance: Frankie can revisit key moments from her past to see if different choices will lead her away from that fateful takeaway and on to the fulfilling life she’s always dreamt of.
Soon, Frankie will see what her life would have been if only she’d caught that one-way flight, accepted the marriage proposal or attended the intimidating job interview. Will she finally find her Mr Right? Or discover she already had?
What would you change if you could begin again ?
I wasn’t sure what to expect from a book that was described as a mix of The Good Place and Sliding Doors because I’ve only ever seen The Good Place, but have a good idea of the gist of the movie and the image it wants to paint the book as, which is not quite a “time jump” novel (as I’ve been reading and loving a lot lately) but a “what if” book. So I was really eager to start it and see if I had a new favourite niche!
Frankie lives in her safe, comfort zone but she’s never felt so out of place. Despite having a great life, she feels like something has been missing. Is it a proper home, a steady relationship, a big family? She isn’t sure. But before she can actually figure out why she feels so lost, she dies. Not just in any ordinarily straight forward way, but in a complete freak accident on another failed first date.
Expecting to, you know, be dead, Frankie is shockingly surprised when she’s offered a somewhat “second chance” at living through her life’s highlights and moments where her path might’ve taken another route. And as she begins taking alternate roads, hoping that they wouldn’t lead back to her Takeaway-Slash-Death-Day, Frankie searches for one where she is genuinely happy and feels found. But the more that Frankie lives through missed opportunities and should’ve-could’ve moments, the more she comes to a realisation: maybe her life would’ve been different if she’d done it differently, but does that mean she would’ve been happier that way?
Overall, Begin Again was one of those books that once it gets going, you are hooked. I found myself warming to Frankie more as we reached the middle of the book after not quite getting her at the beginning, which quickly turned into rooting for her. There were so many moments that I found myself smiling or feeling a warmth in my chest at how reflective and humorous it was throughout. Whilst I can’t go into too much detail without spoiling the outcome, I will say that it was so well executed. Witty, feel-good and adventurous, it is the perfect mid-summer book for escaping your life. A gorgeous four and a half star book!
About The Author
Helly Acton is a copywriter from London with past lives in the Middle East, Africa and Australia. Born in Zimbabwe, Helly and her family emigrated to the East Sussex coast when she was 15 years old. Here, she finished school and spent her holidays in Saudi Arabia, where her father had been placed with work. She studied Law at King’s College London before following a more creative path into advertising. In her mid-twenties, Helly escaped the rat race and took a three-month career break to travel in Africa, India and Asia before landing in Australia. What was supposed to last one year ended up lasting six, and after a life-affirming break-up in Sydney she returned home to find herself the last of her single friends.
Helly threw herself into the deep end of online dating in the city and uses her experience as a single woman in her early thirties, torn between settling down and savouring her independence, as a source of inspiration for her stories.