Review: Again, But Better by Christine Riccio

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What would you do with a second chance? 

41147279. sy475 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.

4 Stars

Again, But Better is a cute, quirky Rom Com from debut author and resident booktuber Christine Riccio. Let me tell you – this book has been at the pinnacle of my TBR since the adorable cover reveal. Not because Christine has such a presence in the bookish community but because Again, But Better is a coming of age story that focuses on a twenty-something still struggling to get her shit together.

This was the book I needed to read and it found me at the perfect time.

That’s not to say that Again, But Better is a perfect debut. There are some serious flaws that I’m still sort of on the fence about. The pacing felt off at certain beats and the writing style could use some developing but as a whole, I loved the cast of characters and lost myself in the mess that was Shane’s life. Despite its short comings, Again, But Better is seriously addictive with serious Suddenly 30 vibes and I could barely put it down.

Being a twenty-something is hard. Heck, being an adult in general is hard! Just like our protagonist Shane, it’s all too easy to feel unaccomplished or a little behind the curve. I’ve been reminded recently that no one’s life is picture perfect and that we all face challenges. And, as Shane herself discovers, social media is not a reliable depiction of someone’s life. After all, we only broadcast the life we want others to see. At the end of the day, we’re all trying to figure it out.

This is what makes Again, But Better so relatable and so refreshing in the world of contemporary fiction. Christine draws on her personal experiences to explore issues and conflicts new adults face.

Shane Primaveri has been “doing college all wrong”. Introverted and socially anxious, Shane comes to the realization that life is slipping by. In an attempt to make a change and to finally grab her future with both hands, Shane jet sets across the globe for a semester abroad. This is her second chance at finding adventure and this time she’s not going to screw it up.

I related to Shane on such a personal level. Finally, here was a protagonist as lost and awkward as I am! Just kidding but not really. I think Sane is the embodiment of most twenty-somethings. Prone to self-doubt and over-analyzing, Shane shows us that we are not alone in our struggles. Watching Shane open herself up to new experiences and push herself out of her little bubble was so inspiring. She makes you realize that it’s never too late for a second chance – we just need to be brave enough to take it. After all, if we close ourselves off to the unexpected how will we find adventure?

Now before I get into the writing and pacing, let’s talk about the setting because I man did I love trotting around Europe with the flat three crew! We first meet Shane mid-flight as she embarks on her program. Right of the bat Christine makes her goals apparent – Shane has a list of everything she wants to accomplish while abroad in London including travelling. So, in full Lizzie McGuire style, Shane and the squad of dreams take a spontaneous getaway to Rome and Paris. *Cue Volare*.

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But, while I loved adventuring vicariously through these characters, for the most part the travelling scenes felt under researched. That and the fact that the journal entries only worked to yank the reader from the action. Okay, maybe I’m nit-picking, but I wanted to be fully immersed in these cultures. I wanted the details!

Which brings me to Christine’s writing and the number one fault I had with Again, But Better. For the most part, I really enjoyed Shane’s voice. I just want to go on the record and say that I don’t watch Christine’s videos so you can trust that mine is an unbiased opinion. Apparently Shane is a major self-insert and that didn’t really bother me but I would definitely keep that in mind going in. Shane’s personality might not work for everyone but that’s okay.

Anyway, while I enjoyed the voice, my main takeaway was that Christine’s writing and the plot in general felt somewhat lacking. Overall, the conflict felt rushed – a lot was happening but we weren’t really given the chance to experience the fallout. Basically, Again, But Better made the mistake of telling instead of showing. A prime example are Shane’s journal segments. Christine’s prose was littered with postcards and journaling and while I can appreciate the style of storytelling it just didn’t work for Again, But Better. A convenient device to speed up the rising action, it continuously pulled me from the story.

And I’m not going to mention the mid-point plot twist. Let’s just say at first it felt very left field – I didn’t see it coming at all and it took me a good chunk to get on board with. We’ll leave it at that.

So, you’re probably very confused because I’ve whined about the writing after giving Again, But Better four stars. Here’s the thing: I didn’t hate Again, But Better but I wasn’t blown away either. The elements that disappointed me can easily be chalked up to editing and a slightly misleading premise. Despite these flaws, Again, But Better is an addictive, quirky Rom Com that I can see myself re-reading. The themes deeply resonated with me, the characters were memorable and I had a lot of fun. Again, But Better is the perfect book for your next friday night in.

Alexandra

10 thoughts on “Review: Again, But Better by Christine Riccio

  1. Ooohhhh what an interesting review!!! I loved how much you fleshed out the flaws despite giving it a 4 star rating – it’s always so nice to read a well-balanced review 😃 Am keen to see how I feel about this book & I will definitely be on the lookout for that seemingly random mid-book twist!

    💛 Ngoc

    Liked by 1 person

    • Awwww thanks so much for reading Ngoc! xxx

      It wasn’t an easy review to write. I loved it but didn’t??? It’s so weird and I hope you sort of get what I mean but I was so caught up in the characters while reading it and low key screaming over the romance and yet I was still aware of the flaws??? Actually, it was very similar to my After experience. I loved it for what it was but it could have been improved.

      When the twist does come feel free to DM me so we can rant and/or rave together! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hahaha I totally get you!! I’ve finished books where I’ve felt SO satisfied but then I take a moment to think about the actual writing & I’m like hang on…it wasn’t all that flash 😂

        I’ve decided to start Again, But Better after I finish my current audiobook so I’ll definitely be taking you up on that offer!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes! I want those chapter-by-chapter reactions! Just kidding but not really. That was my exact reaction though. I was obsessing but then I was like – hold the phone! I think though that if you take it for what it is – a fluffy NA romance with very little substance but a lot of feels and wanderlust – you will enjoy it. ❤

          Liked by 1 person

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