Book Review: “Again, But Better” by Christine Riccio

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS (AND OPINIONS THAT ARE MY OWN).

I’ve followed Christine on her YouTube channel for several years now. Her channel talks about all things BOOKS (reviews, challenges, TV/movie adaptations, recommendations, etc.). But in January of 2016, she started a new series on her channel called, “Book Writing.” She takes us along on her journey of writing a novel (her debut) and I’ve felt as though I’ve been on this journey with her.

Because of this series, I was emotionally invested in this book before any details were even released. So, naturally, I contributed to spreading the hype of her debut novel following its publication announcement. I mean, the concept sounded great, the cover was beautiful, and she’s read enough books that she should know how to write one? Right?

Wrong.

PLOT

The novel follows the main character, Shane, who is a 20-year-old college student seeking to do-over her college experience by studying abroad in London. At this point in her life, she doesn’t have any friends, she’s never kissed a boy, and she has yet to write the novel that she’s been meaning to write forever.

At her home university, Shane is a pre-med student with insanely controlling parents who basically chose her major for her. In London, Shane has lied to her parents about a pre-med track at her visiting university and is enrolled in the creative writing track instead. She’s ready to take on this new beginning and check all of the boxes for things that she hasn’t done, which is great. Like, good for her!

Don’t get me wrong. The plot is good. I relate to Shane in sometimes thinking that I’ve done college “wrong.” I’ve changed my major three times since freshman year and that’s okay. Every year, I look at it as somewhat of a new beginning to do the things that I may have been afraid to do before. For these reasons, I jumped into this book thinking that Shane was going to be some heaven-sent, relatable character for me to look in the eyes and say, “I understand.

In a way, Shane has fulfilled that expectation. However, there were also elements of her story that literally made me want to chuck the book out my window.

For starters, Shane is OBSESSED with this boy, Pilot, from the moment she sees him in their flat’s kitchen. She hasn’t even talked to him yet and she’s certain that they’re going to spend the rest of their lives together. It continues for the rest of the book (despite him having a GIRLFRIEND).

Disclaimer: I believe that love at first sight exists! But the way it plays out in this story is incredibly annoying and unrealistic, to say the least. I said what I said.

Another element of the plot that really gets under my skin is the way that Shane’s parents act toward her. Again, I know that mega controlling parents unfortunately exist, but the fact that they show up in London (unannounced) and the way the act when they find out what she’s really studying makes me want to scream. If I were Shane, I’d run as far away as I could (which I guess she did?).

Shane decides to quit her internship (even though she’s still staying in London???) and starts to isolate herself until she’s supposed to catch her flight, which she misses after a revelation that she has to talk to Pilot. When she doesn’t catch him in time, she heads home.

This brings us to Part 2 of this novel, where Shane is six years older, interviewing for jobs in the medical field, and is engaged to some random guy that she doesn’t actually like. In fact, the moment she gets engaged she decides to go see Pilot, who has been in the city this whole time????

Long story short, they meet up at this weird coffee shop that transports them back in time to 2011 where Shane has a do-over for her do-over. She and Pilot share their feelings, he breaks up with Amy, admits he’s been in the city for six years because of Shane, he plays guitar for her, they get engaged, and they live happily ever after. Bonus: she writes her book and becomes a published author.

I know. I was overwhelmed, too.

PACING

The pacing of the novel itself was alright. I didn’t feel at any given moment that things were moving too fast or too slow. But I’ll be honest. Once I hit Part 2, I was pretty much skimming through the rest of the book because I wanted it to be over. Not really a good sign.

CHARACTERS

How do I put this? The characters were a mess.

As mentioned before, Shane is 20-years-old for the first half of the novel and 26 (27?) for the second half. To me, Shane read more like a 13-year-old than an actual adult. Her thoughts were scattered, which made her narrative scattered, and a good bit of her narration wasn’t completely necessary to forwarding the story.

Shane has more flaws than likable traits. As I said, she’s scattered, she’s clumsy, she’s awkward, she doesn’t talk about her feelings, and she just goes along what what her parents and everyone else wants for her for most of the story. We don’t really see much of Shane starting to do her own thing until halfway through.

I don’t have much to say about the other characters because they’re so shallow. After reading nearly 400 pages of this novel, I can’t tell you anything about the secondary characters beyond their names and few random facts about their lives. Obviously, we know a little more about Pilot, but I wanted to like him more than I did.

PROSE

Given that the novel is narrated by Shane and I’ve already given my opinion about her narrative, I think you know what I’m going to say about the prose.

Scattered. Clumsy. A lot like Shane.

Overall, I give this book 1 out of 5 stars.

I’ve never been so critical of a book and I wanted so badly to love it.

Would I recommend it? Personally, no. But I’ve read reviews from readers that have loved this book (it has 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon). This one is entirely up to you, friend.

Here’s the full synopsis:

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.

Book Stats:

  1. Genre: YA Contemporary

  2. Plot: College do-over

  3. POV: First-person

  4. Cliffhanger: No

  5. Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

Have you read Again, But Better? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! 🙂

#blogpost #reviews #books #bookreview #yacontemporary

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