Discussion: the groundhog day trope

Hello everyone, happy Friday! Today I’m doing kind of a discussion post.

I noticed recently that I really enjoy the Groundhog Day trope, or timeloop trope, where a character or characters experience the same day/week/month/time period several times. I don’t know what it is about this trope or these books, but I always really enjoy them.

So today, I thought I’d talk a bit about the trope and why I think I enjoy it, and then talk about the books with this trope I’ve read and ones I want to read.

Why I love the trope

I’ve come up with a few reasons for why I enjoy this trope. The first is kind of dumb but still: if I knew I was going to wake up again tomorrow with no/few consequences, it would be so fun to just fuck around. This happens in a couple of the books I’ve read, and I think is a fairly common theme is these types of books. The main character, or whoever is experiencing the timeloop, will get frustrated and annoyed with the situation and just decide “fuck it” and do what they want. It can make for fun, and sometimes frustrating, scenarios to read. I like to think of what I would do if I knew there were zero consequences.

Another reason I like these books is thinking about what I would do if I could go back and redo scenarios with the information I currently know. Would I do high school differently if I was suddenly transported back there? How would what I know now influence my decisions? If I repeated the same day over and over again, what would I do? Idk it’s just sometimes fun to think about.

I also asked y’all on twitter (go follow me!) what you liked about the trope, and Ellyn pointed out that the timeloop trope can be a great way for character development to happen. Sabrina also said that the timeloop trope in movies helps characters learn new things and develop on their own. I completely agree with both these points: it seems like characters, when repeatedly faced with their mistakes, learn what their shortcomings are and are able to develop well. The characters are able to directly see how their actions affect those around them, and can learn from their mistakes.

Why people don’t enjoy it

There are also some reason why people don’t enjoy this trope. I think the main reason is it gets repetitive. Reading the same day or scenario over and over again is repetitive, and if the author doesn’t do a good job making each instance distinct, the book will be boring.

Another is that the mechanics of the repetition are often not well explained. Why is this person repeating the same day over and over? How is it happening? Do the people around them notice? Why or why not? How is this working? Based on the books I’ve read, one common reason people relive the same day is to stop someone from dying. But, often the how is not explained. I get that if you enjoy world-building or want explanations for the magical things, not having an explanation would be frustrating. Sav mentioned this on twitter, and said that the explanations can be convoluted. I tend to find that it’s best if the mechanisms of the time loop is left unexplained, but I get that that’s an unsatisfying explanation for a lot of people.

Ironically, both of these factors are things I tend to like about these types of books. I kind of like the repetition; it can be comforting to have something constant in the book. I also like seeing how authors make the days and scenarios different. I’m also not one to worry about explanations. I don’t mind, and actually tend to prefer, if the mechanics behind the repetition are unexplained.

Something Ellyn noted that she didn’t enjoy about the trope is that often the pay-off isn’t great, which is a great point. Sometimes the ending of these books can be very meh. I find a lot of them wrap-up in often unsatisfying ways, or very quickly, or both.

Overall, it’s definitely a personal preference thing. When I was on the Goodreads pages for these books, there were two reviewers who consistently came up. One consistently rated these books fairly highly, and the other consistently rated them poorly. In one of her most recent reviews, the latter put “I guess these timeloopy books are just not for me”. Reading is subjective, and what one person enjoys, someone else may not (duh).

But anyway, now that we’ve discussed why I enjoy this trope and why others may not, let’s get into some of the books with this trope!

Books I’ve read

Opposite of Always by justin a. reynolds: this is a YA sci-fi romance, following Jack and Kate and their budding relationship. At some point, Kate dies, and Jack goes back to the moment they first met. I thought it was really fun and enjoyable, and would definitely recommend it if you like this trope.

The 7 & 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton: this follows our main protagonist as he wakes up every day as a different person at one specific party/get together, and is trying to solve the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle. It’s so fun and has a ton of twists and turns, and a really great moody setting.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver: this YA follows a popular girl, Sam, who dies in a car crash and wakes up the next morning on the day of the accident. I feel like this book is fairly polarizing, but I fall on the “really enjoyed it” side.

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire: the timeloop aspect of this book is not quite as much of the main focus of this book as it is for other books, but it’s still there and was one of my favourite parts of the book. This book follows two twins, Roger and Dodger, who were separated at birth but re-connect every few years through their supernatural abilities (and by chance). It was one of my favourites of last year and I love it.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch: this book isn’t totally a timeloop in that the main character doesn’t experience the same day over and over, but he spends an indefinite amount of time trying to get back to his reality and it feels like a time loop. If you’re looking for a fun, relatively easy-to-read sci-fi, I’d definitely recommend this one.

Books on my TBR

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig: this book is about a library that contains different versions of your life. It sounds so interesting and right up my alley, and a ton of people love it, so I’m really excited to read it.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North: this book follows Harry August who, when he dies, no matter how long he lived for or the decisions he made, comes back to life as a child. I was a little hesitant about this book when I first heard of it, and it has fairly mixed reviews on Goodreads. But, as I love this concept, I’ll probably be reading it at some point.

Replay by Ken Grimwood: as far as I know, this is one of the first books with this concept. It follows Jeff, who dies and wakes up at 18 again, with all his memories intact. It has fairly decent reviews on Goodreads, and really sounds like something I’d enjoy tbh.

Recursion by Blake Crouch: in this book, people are afflicted with a syndrome that causes them to remember false memories. I loved Crouch’s previous book (see above), and I’ve heard people say this one is even better, so I’m really interested to read it.

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl: this is probably the one I’m most excited about as it follows a group of friends stuck in a timeloop rather than just one person. It sounds like a mystery and a timeloop all in one, and I’m so excited to read it.

So there are some thoughts on the timeloop trope! What do you think? Have you read any of these books? Do you like this trope? Do you have any recommendations? Let me know!

Thanks for reading! xx

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10 thoughts on “Discussion: the groundhog day trope

  1. I like this trope when it’s done well. I’ve read Middlegame and Evelyn Hardcastle, and felt like both of those books handled it well. Smoke and Mirrors by Tanya Huff is similar to this trope in a way, because it has specific haunting events that replay themselves over and over, but it’s not truly a Groundhog Day trope.

    However, my absolute favorite story in this style is “The Tunnel Under the World,” a short story by Frederick Pohl. (You can read it for free online here: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/31979/31979-h/31979-h.htm) This is a sci-fi story from 1955, and it is very well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ooh Neverworld Wake sounds so cool! I’ve only really seen movies with just the lead character aware they’re in a time loop, so the group aspect could be really fascinating. It’s interesting you mentioned world-building, I normally LOVE world-building but for some reason I don’t really expect much explanation for the loop…maybe because it’s such a central frame/reason for existence of the story that it just doesn’t pop out to me as something that could be questioned. Also I’m cracking up because somehow I’d thought The Midnight Library was a self-help book, and I don’t know how I managed to get it so wrong 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right, it sounds so fun!

      SAME I honestly don’t care about explanations for time loops. I’m just like “yes, obviously this happens” and don’t question it.

      OMG I DID TOO for the longest time, I thought the Midnight Library was self-help and then I finally heard someone explain it in a booktube video! I think it’s because Matt Haig, the author, has written self-help in the past?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Such a great post! I had not realized I love this trope before reading your post – but it’s such a great one. I hope you LOVE Neverworld Wake (I loved it!!). The last groundhog day book I read was so bad though – In a Holidaze by Cristina Lauren. The groundhog aspect was just so boring.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is such an awesome post! I love how you really delved into your thoughts on this trope and that you even asked other people’s opinions on it!
    I’ve read maybe one or two books with this trope, but I have The Opposite of Always, The Midnight Library and Neverworld Wake on my TBR so hopefully they will help me figure out whether or not this is a trope I like 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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