I just want to give a huge thank you to Netgalley, Wednesday Books, and St. Martin’s Press for providing me an advanced copy of Again, but Better in exchange for my honest review. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I have been following the author, Christine Riccio’s, writing journey via her YouTube channel, so this book has been on my radar for quite some time now. I’m so happy to be writing this review!
I finished Again, but Better in about two days. I knew going in that I held some biases. (I’ve been a subscriber to the author’s YouTube channel for awhile, so I went into it wanting to love it.) After flying through it, I tried to take a few days to gather my thoughts. So, without further ado…
Again, but Better is a coming-of-age young adult contemporary. We follow our main character, Shane, as she embarks on her “second chance.” She is disappointed in her college experience (no friends, no experiences, no boys) and she’s tired of being the person her parents want her to be, instead of who she really is. So, she wants to go abroad and do it (college) again, but better.
spoiler free: First, I want to talk about some of the things I loved about Again, but Better. I thought the cover art and the title of the book were absolutely perfect. After reading the book, I have an even better appreciation for how well they tie into the story.
I loved that this story had an original “twist” that set it apart from other contemporaries. At first, I thought Again, but Better was going to be very, very similar to Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss. While the two books certainly share similarities and exist within the same genre, Again, but Better stands apart. It had a “magical” element that really brought the book a uniqueness in its second half.
I also loved the overall message and theme of the book – doing it “again, but better.” I don’t want to go into more detail without spoiling it. (See spoilers below if you want to hear my full thoughts).
The reason why I didn’t full out love this one is because I had some issues with the characterization. Again, perhaps my bias is showing because I have been following Christine Riccio for quite some time, but I had a difficult time separating the author from the main character. There were a lot of similarities between the two. Some I could overlook, but others were so glaringly obvious (Shane’s blog name etc.) that I found it did pull me out of the story a little. I hardly ever read something and find I am reading the author instead of the main character/narrator. Here, it was a bit more blurry. But, perhaps people who don’t follow the author as closely may not have this problem.
Also, some of the characters didn’t feel as “full” to me. There were several secondary characters, but they felt out of place in the story. I just didn’t feel very connected to them. I was easily the most invested in Shane and then Pilot. But, even Pilot I felt I didn’t know on a deep emotional level. I felt like I had only really gotten to see the surface of his character. For me to go full on swoon for a couple, I have to be able to see them connect on a deeper level and that was missing a bit here for me.
Overall, I give Again, but Better a 4/5. I really did like this one, but there were some minor issues for me that held me back from full on loving it. Overall, though, it was a great coming-of-age story. It’s set abroad, which is exciting in and of itself. The twist here truly made the book for me.
Again, but Better is Christine Riccio’s debut novel. It’s a young adult contemporary, and it releases on May 9, 2019. It’s available for pre-order now.
get more info: Visit Christine Riccio’s website; Visit Christine Riccio’s YouTube channel; connect with the author on Instagram; connect with the author on Twitter; find the book on Amazon
spoilers ahead: So my favorite part of Again, but Better was the overall theme. At first, I thought the title tied in to Shane “doing it (college) again, but better” as she set off to study abroad. However, once I got to the twist I thought ohhh so now she’s actually doing it (her study abroad experience) again, but better. While the second time around Shane made some changes and things ended up better, she lost sight of herself and some of her personal goals. I loved how she was unable to give up at this point and the “magic” was gone. For me, this is where I related to the book the most. Instead of magic-ing herself back/forward in time and giving up – Shane was forced to try and “do it again, but better” in the present, without any magic. She ended up changing her perspective, attitude, and work ethic. She ended up with better and stronger friendships, a strong job outlook, and eventually – love. So, I loved the three “doing it again” instances. I loved the message that it’s never too late to try and “do it again, but better.” You may not have magic, but you don’t need it. You just need to be brave enough to make a change.
Again, I just wish that Shane felt a little more separate from the author. Shane’s book references, favorite bands/songs, career goals, blog name – it all felt like it was the author. (And it, in fact, kind is the author.) It wasn’t a huge issue for me, I just wish that Shane felt like she could stand apart from the author. The blog name was really when I just had to side-eye a bit. We already know Christine is the author! Perhaps if the blog name was the only nod, it would have been a nice reference. But packed in among all of other other similarities – it just felt too much.
I also wish that I had seen a bit more of Pilot. I felt like I knew him on the surface (his general likes and dislikes, his career goals), but I didn’t know him emotionally. His parents divorce was briefly mentioned in the second half, but I felt like I didn’t really get a deep emotional connection from that conversation. Also, Babe, Atticus, and Sahra – I just needed more from them. I know the book only has so much space, but they felt so two-dimensional. I honestly think that Sahra’s character could have been eliminated entirely and the story wouldn’t have changed very much.
Overall, though I really did like Again, but Better. I’m recommending it to y’all that love and enjoy coming-of-age stories and YA contemporaries. It’s a fun read and the twist really made the story for me.
Let me know what y’all think of this one when you read it!
This post is not sponsored. All opinions are my own. All links provided are for your convenience only – none are affiliate links. Netgalley and the publisher were kind enough to provide me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.