Again, but Better
By Christine Riccio
Published May 7th 2019 by Wednesday Books
“Shane has been doing college all wrong. Pre-med, stellar grades, and happy parents…sounds ideal—but Shane’s made zero friends, goes home every weekend, and romance…what’s that?
Her life has been dorm, dining hall, class, repeat. Time’s a ticking, and she needs a change—there’s nothing like moving to a new country to really mix things up. Shane signs up for a semester abroad in London. She’s going to right all her college mistakes: make friends, pursue boys, and find adventure!
Easier said than done. She is soon faced with the complicated realities of living outside her bubble, and when self-doubt sneaks in, her new life starts to fall apart.
Shane comes to find that, with the right amount of courage and determination one can conquer anything. Throw in some fate and a touch of magic—the possibilities are endless.”
Again, but better. As in “do that again…but better.”
Fortunately, in my opinion, this book does not need to be rewritten.
Debut author Christine Riccio, of Polandbananasbooks on YouTube, delivers a charming contemporary novel with a delectable twist that keeps you reading until the end.
I, like so many people, was thrilled for this book because:
- Christine is a lovely person who is well loved and supported by the book community.
- As a quirky, soon-to-be college student I loved the idea of reading about someone like me.
However!! I truly try my best to overlook personal attachments when it comes to reviewing.
Again, but Better has everything I love about a contemporary romance: strong relationships – amicable and romantic, awkward interactions, semi-realistic struggles, and a great twist! If you haven’t read the book, or if you’re unsure about how you’re feeling, hold out for the twist, it’s implied in the synopsis but truly is worth the wait.
Now, for my essential review categories:
- Plot and Flow
Shane is inherently relatable. She’s not 100% confident in herself but she makes an effort to go after her passions, even if she risks a lot by doing so. I see a lot of myself in Shane, and I also see a lot of Christine.
I know Christine has said that Shane is not “her”, but the personality that comes through her videos makes it hard to not see her as Shane because they (seemingly) share so many similarities (I’m not listing them because those are irrelevant to my overall impression of the book). From that perspective, I have a weird relationship with Shane because I feel as though this fictional character I care about and relate to is a real person, and that just sits oddly with me. In a way, I felt invasive.
**This revelation doesn’t tarnish my view of Shane or Christine. It’s just something new that I haven’t thought about before.
Pilot is a wonderful guy and I love him in a different way than I did Shane. He’s realistic in that he is not perfect, makes mistakes, and is (occasionally) oblivious to female advances or hints.
Shane’s friends: Babe, Atticus, and Sahra are ICONIC and by far my favorite part of the entire book. They truly made the book for me, and their dialogue is what drove the story in my opinion. They each had enough of an established character to be independent but were so much more entertaining when combined with the whole world.
Speaking of “whole world”, Riccio really emphasizes the exploration and adventure of being in a foreign country and taking advantage of the world around you. (That said, they had a surprising lack of struggles while traveling to non-English speaking countries, I speak from experience). I really took into account my own experiences when it came to visualizing this world because I felt as though there weren’t explicit scenic descriptions outside of particular monuments or places of importance.
I didn’t feel like I was in a different world, which is fine, this is a contemporary (meaning set in “our” world). I think I’m biased towards world-building…
Plot & flow:
I enjoyed this plot because I love the concept of second chances.
To my surprise, I was not bored when Shane and Pilot returned to 2011. They were such different people by that point and I found it to be the more complex and analytical portion of the book, but there was less Babe, Atticus, and Sahra:(
This is a novel driven by dialogue which, in my opinion, gives so much life. Contemporaries can easily feel bland because they are set in the “real world” and, ironically, may seem less real than fantasies. The blot coupled with extensive dialogue gives Again, but Better life and makes it feel real, despite Shane and Pilot’s “unexpected opportunity”.
The flow of this book picked up in the second half, but the general plot was quite loose to me. The fact that she’s lying to her parents took up less conflict than I thought it would – but her confession scene really was heartbreaking to read. As mentioned — the second half of the book is where Shane and Pilot really become complex characters and their relationship is tested both as friends and maybe more.
Again, but Better was a wonderful, whimsical read that I would gladly come back to. The secondary characters stood out the most with their witty and fast-paced dialogue. Christine did a wonderful job with this debut and clearly has a knack for sharing stories that young people crave.