The Undoing of Arlo Knott by Heather Child

The undoingThe undoing of Arlo Knott was a captivating  and thought provoking tale that literally made me think – ‘be careful what you wish for’.

The story gets off to a really strong start.  We meet Arlow as a young boy, gauche and awkward, a self confessed ‘mummy’s boy’ and in fact he is indeed helping his mum as she undertakes some DIY on their cosy little house.  It’s simply one of those scenes that you know, like you sometimes know it’s going to thunder, that things are going to go horribly wrong – and of course, they do.  This is a day that will have a massive impact on both Arlo and his sister.  A day of ‘what ifs’.  But, in real life there are no ‘what ifs’.  You make your choice and take your chance and that’s that.  And yet, Arlo discovers, too late to have any impact on that disastrous summer day where one moment of carefree behaviour led to a tragic accident, that he in fact can reverse time.  Maybe only little snippets at first, but eventually having a far more reaching effect – although never quite enough to go back and prevent that one big life changing moment.

Now, when Arlo discovers this special ability he’s a young boy really and so of course he uses it for all types of petty revenge not to mention abusing it to chat up girls.  He can’t say anything wrong if he can keep rewinding until he gets things right after all!  The problem is that Arlo becomes lazy.  As he experiments more and more with his special ability and understands the freedom which it brings he really, well, for a time, becomes quite easy to dislike.  If he says the wrong thing he can simply rewind it which in turn means he has very little thought in his head for anyone else or their feelings. To an extent, his ability actually has a negative impact on him. He never takes that heedless rush at things, experiments or takes chances, because everything he does comes with a ‘time back’ guarantee.  Does he really have friends or a partner that know him? And that’s what I mean by ‘be careful what you wish for’.  We have all had moments where we’ve thought ‘If I’d only…’ but having the power to rewind those moments in some way steals the real impact and the true life lessons that those moments teach us  It’s like he never really experiences anything – or at least, he does, but in ten different ways which means he never really learns anything – he knows he doesn’t have to because he can rewind.

On the face of it Arlo seems impossibly lucky.  He gets to change his career repeatedly and quite unrealistically and always becomes good at what he does.  He’s like the golden child.  His sister, who is actually incredibly intelligent and a well respected physicist has a lot less easy time of things in spite of really striving to achieve.  There is the sense of ‘unfairness’ to it all but I’m sure we’ve all had friends or colleagues who seem unbelievably lucky and Arlo comes across as one of those.  Maybe we all know an ‘Arlo’?

At the start of the story I can’t say I really liked Arlo.  He was incredibly self centred but, he really does have an incredible story arc eventually coming to the realisation that he isn’t really experiencing life the way things currently stands – which coincidentally almost clashes with another character unexpectedly wanting to manipulate his talents.

So, criticisms.  Well, there is very little, ergo none at all, explanations here.  In some ways I respect that.  This is a story of fantasy after all.  Nobody expects the existence of dragons to be explained when they pick up The Hobbit so why can’t Arlo knott and his special abilities simply exist in a modern contemporary setting?  He can, of course, but the only issue for me was that I had other little niggles.  Everytime Arlo turned back time  I couldn’t help but wonder – does that affect everyone in the world?  It surely must – but then that seems such a big deal that it practically blew my mind.  Also, there is an underlying theme of sadness – so you do need to be in the right mood for this – which isn’t to say this book won’t grab you and hold you from the get go – because it will – but just be prepared that this isn’t necessarily a rosy tale of happyness.  And, I reached a certain point in the read where it started to feel monotonous with Arlo repeating, rewinding, and repeating mistakes – that is until things change.

This is a difficult book to review in that I don’t want to give away spoilers, which is why I’ve not gone into the plot at all.  What I will say is that this is a strange tale of a young man trying to change things, who falls in love and realises that he doesn’t always need to change things – until he realises that his own constant mini-rewinds have more of an impact than he ever realised.

I enjoyed this, I was hooked, I had a blip of ‘sameness’ at a certain point but I was never not intrigued enough to continue reading and the more I reflect upon it the more I appreciate just how clever it really is.

I would rate this 4 of 5 stars.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.




12 Responses to “The Undoing of Arlo Knott by Heather Child”

  1. Tammy

    I don’t think I’ve heard of this book at all until I read your review. It sounds like a great premise! But I can see how I might come to dislike Arlo😁

    • @lynnsbooks

      Arlow has a very intriguing storyline and at certain points he feels rather shallow – but I guess that’s the nature of his gift/curse. It’s a great premise and really quite thought provoking.
      Lynn 😀

  2. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    As I read your description of Arlo’s ability to turn back time I found myself thinking wether the changes to his personal life did not also encompass changes in the rest of the world – the famous Butterfly Effect? – and was delighted when I reached the part of your review where you asked yourself the same. Which makes this story even more intriguing… 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yes, it is definitely an intriguing idea. I think it worked well even with my little niggles.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    This sounds great! Haven’t heard of this before but I am intrigued. Anytime I deal with a book which has time manipulation I am always filled with questions though, so I know exactly how you feel about wanting to know just a bit more. Could be why so many time travel books are hit or miss for me.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I think this one succeeds overall – I had a few issues that I would have liked to explore a little more but on the whole it was a good read that kept me turning the pages quickly. Plus, I enjoyed the writing style and the fact that it makes you think after you put the book down.
      Lynn 😀

  4. waytoofantasy

    This sounds like one I would love, I actually don’t mind most of the time when there are little explanations. I relish the mysterious, makes me think more, haha. I’ll have to add this one to my list.

    • @lynnsbooks

      It’s a very intriguing and quick read tbh. I had a few small issues but overall it was a really good read that left me thinking long after I put it down.
      Lynn 😀

  5. bkfrgr

    This sounds intriguing … and a little bit like the movie About Time, maybe?

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yes, I was thinking that same thing when I was reading to be honest. It is an intriguing and thought provoking book. Probably a bit more of a serious take than the film which was more light and comedic.
      Lynn 😀

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