AGAIN BUT BETTER by CHRISTINE RICCIO
A REVIEW by ALEXA DUNCAN
If you’re not familiar with Booktube, let me take a moment to remedy that. You may or may not know that there are communities for almost everything on YouTube. There are YouTubers who talk about makeup, fashion, video games, travel, and–you guessed it–books. Hence the term “Booktube.” I’ve been an avid watcher of Booktube over the years, and you can’t be even tangentially aware of the community without knowing the name Christine Riccio–or Polandbananasbooks as she’s known on YouTube. You can find her channel by clicking this link. When she’s not making YouTube videos, Riccio writes, apparently. I knew her name and watched a few of her videos but wasn’t entirely familiar with her until Again, but Better was announced. I picked up the book without knowing much about it, just that it was written by Christine. Unfortunately, I didn’t like its contents as much as I hoped I would…
Again, but Better is a YA contemporary novel about our 20 year-old protagonist, Shane Primaveri, as she studies abroad in London and falls in love with her roommate, Pilot Penn along the way. It’s pretty standard for YA contemporaries, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There is, however, a twist in the middle of the book that I saw coming from the very beginning, and spoiling it here would likely ruin the entire plot for you, so I’ll refrain.
Anyway, Shane and Pilot and the rest of their roommates live together in a flat in London, taking trips to Europe every weekend and going out to bars. Shane is horrifically awkward and has never kissed a boy before, but things change when she meets Pilot. They hit it off, but he has a girlfriend because of course he does. Drama ensues from there.
I wouldn’t say I hated Again, but Better. Let’s just say I didn’t like it very much. I don’t know what I was expecting from it, but it all felt very juvenile. Shane didn’t read like a 20-year-old. She read like she was sixteen, so imagine my surprise when she mentions she’s 20. The first part of the book is set in 2011–when I graduated from high school–and there are so many references to the pop culture of the time that I didn’t feel, nostalgic, but annoyed. Yes, Twilight was still big. No, Miley Cyrus hadn’t released “Wrecking Ball” yet. Even the references that weren’t tied directly to 2011 annoyed me. There were just too many of them, and this book is going to age very poorly in the years to come.Furthermore, it seemed as if the pop culture references were there to give Shane and her friends a semblance of personality. It doesn’t work. It just comes off as irritating.
Another frustrating part about this book is that everything feels very glossed over in favor of Shane’s ill-conceived romance with Pilot. Shane and her roommates go to Paris and Rome throughout the book and each trip was so unremarkable that I didn’t feel that anything was truly happening. The characters went to all these places, but nothing was explained in detail. Disappointing, to say the least.
Halfway through the book, the Big Plot Twist happens, and it really threw me off. The book would have been better off as a pure contemporary without adding any speculative elements into the mix. If it were just a contemporary, the book would have had more time to develop its relationships, thereby making everything more believable.
I didn’t hate EVERYTHING about this book. There were some relatable discussions about anxiety in there, and I saw a lot of 18 year-old-me in Shane, but it wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. It might be yours, though, and you can check out a copy of Again, but Better at the Oreana library here soon!