“Play It Back” by Vanessa Lopez Aziz

“Play It Back” by Vanessa Lopez Aziz 683 1024 Reader Views Kids

Play It Back 

Vanessa Lopez Aziz
Mystic Publishers, Inc. (2023)
ISBN:  978-1948266857
Reviewed by Stephanie Elizabeth Long for Reader Views (10/2023)

Twenty-seven-year-old Carmen Santos has a charmed life—a career, supportive friends, and the love of a doting boyfriend. Her future is looking pretty bright, right? Unfortunately, fate has other plans when she suffers a head injury and loses consciousness. The question: What do you want infiltrates her thoughts as disoriented Carmen is transported back to 1999—ten years in the past—to relive her senior year of high school.

At first, Carmen is excited about the walk down memory lane; she can spend quality time with her best friends without the adult responsibilities, focus on her art, and try to connect with Logan, the boy that she will date in the future. She maintains all the knowledge from ten years in the future and tries to use this to her advantage. Surely, she could convince her best friend to come out of the closet or prevent a tragedy from happening, couldn’t she? Carmen must have been sent back in time for a reason, but what was it, and will it alter her future?

“Play It Back” by Vanessa Lopez Aziz is an engaging young adult book with a quirky premise. Written from the first-person perspective, the story follows Carmen Santos as she experiences alternate timelines. As an adult, Carmen is (mostly) content with her life but is torn about whether to accept Logan’s proposal, while seventeen-year-old Carmen must navigate dating, friendship drama, and a dysfunctional family all over again, all the while trying to prevent a tragedy from transpiring.

I was intrigued by the prospect of Carmen being transported back to her teen years. Armed with her adult knowledge and being able to draw on her past experiences, I couldn’t wait to see how it turned out. Would she forge a new path? Would she still be bogged down by the plight of being young and inexperienced?

The author did an excellent job of illustrating relevant coming-of-age issues, some of which Carmen improved her second time as a teen, like spending more time with her Lola (grandmother), and some that she unwittingly made worse, like trying to out her best friend before she was ready. Adult Carmen may have had ten more years of insight, but she was out of touch with her former self. The author skillfully taught young readers that mistakes are unavoidable—a rite of passage of being young—and to fully evolve, we cannot skip the hard stuff. We must endure.

I instantly fell in love with the time travel element of “Play It Back.” Imagine having the ability to wake up as your former self and have a do-over; I’ve definitely fantasized about this. Along with the enchanting premise, the author has crafted a relatable protagonist, shone a light on important coming-of-age challenges, and taught readers the importance of living in the moment.

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