Again, but Better is a book with very mixed reviews, yet I felt absolutely compelled to pick it up for myself, because Christine Riccio was one of a handful of booktubers who inspired me to get into (book) blogging. (I even thought about doing the whole video set up, but then just was so disappointed with the light in my room, my lack of equipment, etc., I switched to plain writing my thoughts out on the blog) When it was announced that she was going to release her first book, I was all in! That book could have probably been a horror mystery thriller (a mix of all the things I do not like) and I still would have read it … maybe.
So, it shouldn’t be that big of a surprise to anyone that I did not read the blurb properly …
I just want to start out by saying that I thought and was pretty sure that this book was a contemporary YA … but it’s not? I would class this more in the NA age group, because the main character is definitely in her twenties, although it still has great coming-of-age characteristics that many of us YA readers like. But, that’s not the big shocker, I just really wasn’t prepared for there being any sort of magical element (despite it literally saying so in the blurb). It’s still very much contemporary, but it has a magically twisty component. With my expectations being so totally off for this book, I think I was just sort of thrown for a loop there. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it just felt … off?
I debated for a long time how I could possibly review this book, but I think I just have to resort to the good old “things I liked/disliked”-list situation, because I really feel a lot of different things.
WHAT I LIKED
- Shane is a lot like Christine and that’s a lovely thing! When you see Christine on the screen, it’s sometimes hard to believe that she is an introvert who struggled to talk to people at college or who didn’t date a lot. But … that’s also how I think some people see/saw me? I am pretty good at some social events and like to be upbeat and friendly with everyone, but it’s hard and took a lot of time to develop to the point where I become more confident. A big change has happened for me when I was on my semester abroad and so it makes a lot of sense to me that she would put herself in the shoes of her main character and live through her that way.
“It’s weird how we have to get a little older to realize that people are just people. It should be obvious, but it’s not.”
- The Shane and Pilot banter was spot on from the first time they met to the very last page! In general, Christine’s writing is just a lot of fun to read. It flows super easily and had me laughing out loud several times.
“Shane. Interesting name for a girl,” he teases. I narrow my eyes. “Pilot. Interesting name for a human.”
- I really, really liked that Shane hadn’t done it all at twenty. There are so many people who do not enter into romantic relationships at high school and it’s not even that they wouldn’t want to, it just doesn’t happen. It’s not that weird and I need everyone to know that, because it makes you feel like in this quote:
“The young women in all the YA books I loved were high-school age. By eighteen, the majority of them had saved the world, not to mention: kissed people, traveled, been in a relationship, had sex. At twenty I felt like a pathetic, unaccomplished, uncultured, virgin grandma. It sounds like a joke now, but at the time, around all these people my age casually discussing all of the above, I felt so small.”
- The end of the book reminded me of my own book ending (Break Up Buddy, the only story I ever finished) and I thought that was hilarious.
WHAT I DISLIKED
- A huge reason I was excited for this book was that I have done a semester abroad myself (as mentioned above). In fact, I have spent a notable time in other countries when I was 15 (the US), 16/17 (France), 18/19 (US again) and 23/24 (Canada) and like to think I know what I am talking about when it comes to those experiences. Of course, everyone is different, but some stuff just nagged me, e.g. when Shane and the others went to Italy on their first weekend in London. That’s just not realistic? No one I know would spend their first weekend in a new city NOT in the city …
Other than that, I suppose I know a lot of people who really went someplace new every weekend. Especially in the EU, travel is easy, but that doesn’t mean it’s super cheap. For college students who were all living off of internships, I was floored by what they could all afford to do.
“I suck in a deep breath as I plop one foot over the line and then exhale, knowing I’m standing on both sides of the world at once.”
- The relationship that Shane had with her parents felt very … wrong? I’d like to say borderline abusive. I am not here to excuse any of their behaviour, BUT I’d also like to point out why I was not siding with Shane in certain instances. Her parents have paid thousands of dollars for an education she does not intend to use, she also cons them into financing her semester abroad by telling them it is useful to her premed major in NY. I just can’t.
Their relationship was very complicated and Shane obviously wasn’t in a place where she could tell her parents how she really felt, but that kind of money is no joke? IF she had financed the trip herself somehow, I wouldn’t have minded at all, but that wasn’t the case and therefore just really not cool. Having never spoken to her parents about her concern before, I understand that it resulted in disappointment.
“I’ve been trying to make you happy for six years now, hoping somehow that would make me happy too, but I don’t think it’s working. You’re not really happy with me because I’m not happy with you because I’m not happy with me.”
- While it was a fast and easy read, something about the pacing didn’t feel natural sometimes. It was difficult to gauge how much time had really passed and sometimes it was just hours and then suddenly weeks.
- WHY could this girl not get up from a chair, without it crashing loudly to the floor and her flailing about??? Or, you know, put down a glass?
Lastly, I want to add that there is a significant cheating plotline. I didn’t feel any certain way about it, other than obviously not being for it, but it also didn’t ruin the book for me. I just thought I’d mention it.
So, I liked the book, but didn’t love it. I found Christine’s writing style had a great flow and made it easy to breeze through the pages, but maybe I will enjoy her next attempt more.
Fazit: 3/5 stars! Solid debut book by a great booktuber!
Have you read Again, but Better? Was it on your radar? Let’s chat!