Again, But Better by Christine Riccio
Published by Wednesday Books on May 7th, 2019
“If you could go back and do London all over again, knowing everything you know now, would you do it?”
ARC received via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
It’s easy to see why this book has so many people eagerly waiting for its release. It’s written by Riccio, who is often credited for starting the book community on YouTube. Or as insiders lovingly know it as: Booktube.
Books written by YouTubers isn’t a new phenomenon. In fact, this isn’t even the first book I’ve read by a YouTuber. Side note: the first one I read was You Deserve a Drink by Mamrie Hart, which I highly recommend.
Again, But Better follows Shane Primavera, who has had her life completely figured out since she was a kid. She’s premed to please her parents, but all she wants to do is read and write. She applies to study abroad for a semester in the UK where she journals and blogs about her adventures abroad. She manages to escape her parents’ expectations and solidifies her love for writing as she becomes an intern for a travel magazine.
The book is split into two parts: It’s first set in 2011 where Shane is 20, and the next part is set in 2017 when Shane is 26. The book is a mix between Fangirl and About Time. That sounds like an interesting combination, right?
The thing is the writing was really clunky. The majority of the book was telling and not showing. What’s insane to me is that Shane was studying abroad in the UK, she was travelling to a new country and city each weekend, and yet we didn’t really get to see any of that. Instead, we got a quick recap of it from Shane’s diary entries or her blog post.
A lot of the writing was awkward and cringy as well. The majority of this book is set in 2011, which is fun, but Riccio really tried to sell it. There’s some kind of pop culture reference to that time in almost every paragraph.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t read this without thinking Shane was Christine the whole time. They have the same personality, they talk the same, and they have the exact same interests. It strikes me as odd that Riccio didn’t take this time to craft a character that’s completely unique. It’s kind of lazy that she self-inserted herself into the story.
One thing I did enjoy about this book was the plot twist. It was fun and a little hokey. And I gave this book an extra half bubble tea because I didn’t call that ending. I was so sure I knew where it was going as all time travel stories end the same.
I also think Riccio did a great job writing about anxiety. The scene where she loses her purse in Rome was spot on to what I know myself and others have experienced. You could see Shane’s thought process and her anxiety escalating, which was extremely accurate for someone who experiences anxiety.
In the end, this book was a miss. The pacing and the writing didn’t work for me. It struggled with trying to be too quirky and that overshadowed the story, which could have been great. The romance is also based on emotional cheating, which I found to be unnecessary. Pilot and Shane could have pursued their relationship in a healthier way. And the drama didn’t have to be so manufactured.
Books by YouTubers often receive a lot of backlash and I can understand where it comes from. But you can tell Riccio loves to write and put effort into her debut novel. I think with more practice, she could become better at it. She’s clearly got great ideas. It’s just the execution that needs a little more work.