'Again, but Better' cover. Photo courtesy of Macmillan Publishers.

Book Review: ‘Again, but Better’ by Christine Riccio

Christine Riccio, known on YouTube as polandbananasBOOKS, has just published her debut novel, Again, but Better, and having watched her book writing series on her channel, we were quick to buy a copy.

You can view the first episode of the series below, and the rest of her journey here.

This novel follows Shane Primaveri, a premed student from the United States on her way to study abroad in London, England, for a semester. It is a new start for her, along with all of the friends she meets in her dormitory: her roommates, Babe and Sahra, and the boys across the hall, Pilot and Atticus. However, from the moment she meets him, Shane likes Pilot. Thus, their semester abroad commences.

Going into this book, and having followed Riccio’s series over the last few years, the book’s title was especially intriguing. How would this name tie into the book’s plot? As it turns out, the novel has a magical touch to it, and after Shane and Pilot ultimately do not get together during their semester abroad, they are offered a second chance six years later when they are transported through time to their arrival in London in 2011. They still have their memories of the next six years, but they have the opportunity to relive their lives abroad and change their paths.

All of this works very well in the novel. The magical time travel doesn’t feel out of place, and the mysterious woman that Shane sees throughout the novel—the proprietor of said time travel—adds a wonderful dash of the fantastical. A concrete identity is never revealed for the woman, which works because it allows the reader all the time they need to focus solely on Shane and her second attempt at life with Pilot.

Riccio furthermore does a fine job of establishing and adhering to tones for her characters. Babe, Sahra, and Atticus as supporting characters all have distinct personalities and styles of speech. This thoughtfulness even extends to smaller characters, such as Babe’s friend, Chad, with whom they travel to Paris, France.

Perhaps what is most impressive in this novel, however, is Riccio’s ability to add parts of herself to Shane while still maintaining both she and Shane’s distinct personhoods. If you have seen Riccio’s YouTube videos, you can see parts of her in Shane, such as her love for Taylor Swift, but it never comes across to the reader as inauthentic. Rather, Shane, and really each of the novel’s characters, stand on their own.

Her characters’ ability to stand on their own extends to the two timelines as well. In addition to each character having defined tones and styles of speech, Riccio really shows Shane and Pilot’s growth when they rekindle their relationship six years after their semester abroad. We see changes in the way Shane thinks—she overthinks less and begins to critically analyze more—and we see more maturity in their words. Through this, Riccio also weaves updates on characters such as Babe and Atticus in 2017 because the reader doesn’t physically see them after 2011, which adds another layer of fun and attachment to the characters from the reader.

Finally, the novel has what we could describe as a strikingly good ending. The book being split between Shane’s first semester abroad and her second attempt already flowed well, but the ending sticks the landing even better. It offers the reader a glimpse that things are looking up for Shane without offering too much. In the end, Shane and Pilot still have the locket switch, which, if pressed, would return them to 2017 with no memories of their second attempt. It’s never used in Again, but Better, and we appreciate that that option is always out there in the canon of this novel’s universe. Will it ever be used? Will Shane and Pilot actually make it as a couple? Will Shane get the position at Seventeen?

One final note we would like to mention before concluding this discussion is the character Leo in the book. Though he is only ever seen through Shane’s memories or through messages/emails while Shane is abroad, he is a character that possesses a lot of depth to him. The novel ends with his emotional/educational/socioeconomic status somewhat up in the air, so in a potential sequel, we would love to see more of his character, especially with Shane finally learning the truth about his circumstances in the end.

Overall, this is a good contemporary novel and a great debut showcase from Christine Riccio!

Again, but Better can be found everywhere you buy books—copies with exclusive goodies can be purchased at Target and Barnes & Noble—and Christine’s booktube channel can be found here. She can also be found on Instagram and Twitter.

Are you loving Christine Riccio’s debut novel as much as we are? Comment below and tweet us @Fuzzable with all of your Again, but Better thoughts and opinions!

Written by Preston Smith

capricorn, coffee addict, cat owner

twitter & instagram: @psm_writes

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