Review: Again, but Better by Christine Riccio

again but better christine riccio
again but better christine riccio

Title: Again, But Better  
Author: Christine Riccio  
Series: Stand-alone  
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, YA  
Publication date: May 7, 2019 
Rating: ★★★ 

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.

The Queen of BookTube publishes a novel. I know it’s a controversial topic, BookTubers getting book deals. Many resent them for it, saying it’s more about their online reach than the actual book. I think it’s both? From a publisher’s perspective it makes sense to take a chance on someone with a large following, to make the “smart” choice. And it’s not like BookTubers got their audience for free. They had to work really hard to build it. So I’m proud of these lucky few for accomplishing what so many of us can only dream of.

So is Christine’s book any good? It is! It also… isn’t.

The book tells the story of Shane Primaveri, a pre-med student going to London for a semester. She is eager to get away from her dull life and start over abroad where she not only plans to finally make some friends, but also to ditch pre-med and follow a writing program instead. Before long she realises that life with friends, and also falling in love, is not as uncomplicated as it had once seemed but she is determined to make this the experience of a lifetime. To finally get out of her shell and live the life she’s always wanted for herself.

I really liked the setting, it’s the main reason I gave this book three stars. When I was in college I also took a semester abroad so everything felt very relatable. Being new and more or less alone in a foreign country, having to take care of yourself and be responsible without an adultier adult to fall back on. It’s challenging for sure but it’s also an extraordinary experience. Meeting wonderful new people, late-night meetings in the dorms, taking trips all around Europe - basically living on the edge. So I immediately felt at home in this book. It was really nice to revisit this and it’s easily the best part of the book.

That part was great. The names of the side characters were decidedly less so. I appreciate a fun creative name for a character but there is such a thing as overdoing it. Shane’s friends are Babe, Atticus and Sahra (which okay) but to top it all off, there is love interest Pilot Penn. Yes, you got that right. Pilot Penn. Ehm so yeah, no. But they were all likeable enough. They seemed like a fun crowd to hang around with and I liked Pilot. I had more issues with main character Shane. 

It’s simple, really. Christine is her main character; or the main character is Christine, whichever you choose. I don’t watch a lot of Christine’s videos, she’s just too “loud” for me, so I honestly didn’t think I knew all that much about her. Except clearly I do because I couldn’t separate Shane from her. Everything SCREAMS Christine. From Shane’s constant fandom references (Lost, The Mortal Instruments, Harry Potter, Taylor Swift) to her online username (FrenchWatermelon19) to the way she spoke and carried herself and reacted to things and people… Even their appearances are similar. I don’t think this book is supposed to be autobiographical? So that’s a problem. That’s a real problem. As an author you have to be able to distance yourself from your characters. 

Shane also suffers from social anxiety. I realise that this means different things to different people but here it felt kind of unauthentic. Yes, Shane was a bit awkward around people at first and she sure stumbled over a lot of chairs but social anxiety is more than that, I think. That could have been explored a lot better in my opinion. 

I did like the pop culture references. That really is a hit or miss with me. Sometimes it works, sometimes it really really doesn’t. But Christine managed alright. I especially liked it because a huge part of the book is set in 2011 and it was nice to be reminded of what was ‘hot’ back in the day. I never really understood the obsession with Angry Birds but I mean, we ALL had that friend.

The book is a really fast read. The writing is pretty basic but it’s entertaining and flows naturally. I liked the banter and I was invested in Shane’s journey. However I clearly hadn’t read the blurb closely enough because the actual magic in it surprised me. I honestly thought I was reading a regular contemporary. But it strangely sort of works. It was a different approach and I was curious as to what would happen.

Overall this is a quick, light read. It’s not groundbreaking but it’s not terrible either. I liked it, if mostly because I have such a personal connection to the whole study-abroad thing. And it carries a powerful message. Live your life for yourself, not for someone else. Make your own choices and don’t let someone else tell you what to do. I think that’s important. 

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