Again, but Better
Why hello there! My name is Kendra, I’m That Reader Girl, and today I’m coming at you with a book review for Again, but Better by Christine Riccio.
The way this review is organized is in different sections. The first section is for characters. Each Character has his or her own section and description. Then, we have a section for plot. In this section, it explains a little of how the plot went, and why or why not I liked it. This section has all the story’s content. The next section is writing. It discusses my thoughts on the author’s writing style and what I liked about it, and then what I didn’t. The final sections are my favorite and least favorite parts in the book. Of course, these are all my opinions and if you disagree, feel free to tell me! Just please don’t be rude or send hate. I’m trying to radiate positive vibes, and share my opinion.
Now, Spoilers Ahead!!!!
I rated Again, but Better 3 out of 5 stars. I liked the novel for the most part, but it was very fast paced, and the plot felt kind of bland because of the lack of detail.
Again, but Better follows our main character Shane Primaveri, a college student who has been absolutely miserable throughout her college career. She’s majoring in something she doesn’t want to study, she has virtually no friends except her cousins who make it their personal goal to tease her, and she is just miserable. However, when the opportunity arises to study abroad in London, Shane takes the bull by the horns and arrives in London to take classes not relevant to her major without her parents’ knowledge. There, Shane meets new friends, goes on crazy weekend adventures, and finds love. But life is never as easy as it seems when her trip starts to fall apart before her eyes, and she must do everything she can to make it right; whether that be with her newfound courage, or even a touch of magic.
Shane: I think Shane was pretty relatable in her lostness. She didn’t know what direction she wanted her life to go in, especially with her parents being so adamant about her becoming a doctor. I suppose that’s pretty realistic though. Shane felt like Christine in book character form. Her mannerisms, the way she talked, her quirky attitude; it all felt Christine, which might be why I enjoyed her so much, but at the same time why she frustrated me as a character. I wanted to read about Shane as a new person, not as a page-form Christine. Even Shane’s blog name “FrenchWatermelon19” was exactly like Christine’s, “PolandBananas20.” Despite this, Shane’s thoughts and the way they were crafted was super relatable. I laughed out-right when I read some of her thoughts and am pretty sure I’ve thought similarly. Shane was super fun and kind. I appreciated how a lot of her actions toward others were with good intentions, and it made the first half of the book a little more bearable. In the first half of the book, I actually wasn’t a fan of Shane as a character. Her actions and dialogue were extra and too flamboyant. Or they were the exact opposite and she was too subdued and worried about everything, making me want to smack her. I can relate in the way that I get anxious about new things too, but if I were given the opportunity to travel abroad even the first time, I wouldn’t let some boy be in my thoughts 24/7. I think Shane needed to get out and enjoy her life. She was too scared to try anything with this opportunity and when she did make decisions, they were rash and rushed. However, in the second half of the book, I really enjoyed the character arc in Shane. She took control of her own life and stopped crying for herself. She puts Pilot away for a little. I saw Shane growing from the immature, pitiful child in the beginning of the book, to an actual woman in the second half. She wasn’t necessarily happy, but she was in control, for the most part. She is wild when they go back to London, and I appreciate her desperation for Pilot for the moment, and her failures in life when she lets her love cloud her vision. It made her feel so real. She is living her life now, but it’s getting in her way. When Shane starts to find herself near the end of the novel, she starts to let in other people on a super personal level and it works.
Pilot: Pilot is a ride. In the first half of the book, he’s chill and all, but he kind of disappears when Shane and he break off. He also doesn’t change much. He is always relaxed when he is with Shane unless they’re disagreeing. Unlike Shane, he doesn’t take control of his life. He’d rather be dragged around through life with someone he doesn’t like to avoid confrontation. It’s not until Shane makes a move that he realizes he can do stuff with his life. I appreciate his loyalty to Amy, but after a certain point, it became annoying. Why was he still with Amy after six years when he knows he doesn’t like her like that? In the second half of the book, while Shane had a great character arc, Pilot was exactly the same. If anything, he was more nervous when he just wanted to get home to 2017. He had no guts, and I really don’t know what Shane saw in him. Pilot is funny some of the time, I guess. He has a few one-liners that cheer up Shane when she is down, but besides that, I didn’t see much of a purpose for him.
Babe/Atticus/Sarah: The three other roommates were nearly nonexistent in the novel. Obviously, we were supposed to focus on the relationship between Shane and Pilot, but there were random side characters who didn’t really have a purpose. I never learned much about Babe, other than she liked Chad for a while, and was obsessed with Disney. Babe was super bubbly and cute, but I never learned anything about her personally. Sarah was a person who irked me for some reason. She was kind of sharp around the edges and completely oblivious to the world around her. Atticus was in the novel for maybe thirty seconds, so I don’t know much about him. This doesn’t mean I didn’t like these characters, because all of them actually were okay, but I didn’t know enough about them to form real opinions.
The Spirit-Guide: So I was really against the magic idea in this novel at first, but it grew on me, and so did the spirit-guide lady. Yeah, she made me laugh. Not the woman explicitly, but Shane’s reactions to her made the spirit-guide special. When she first came into the novel all the time, I didn’t get her purpose, which is why I liked her a little more in the first half of the book. She was random and made me laugh because of it. In the second half, she suddenly had a purpose and I was a little less inclined to like her, but in the end, she was one of my favorite characters.
Leo: Okay. Leo is a random character who I fell for right away. He is one of the least talked about characters, but he was pretty important when it came to Shane and the changes she made in her life. In the first half of the book, I hated Leo. Especially when he teased her and randomly started insulting her when Shane posted pictures of her and Pilot. But at the end of the first half when he lost his scholarship, I suddenly ached for him. Although the struggle gives him no excuse for his bad attitude, I still felt terribly when he admitted he lost his scholarship. In the second half of the book, he was never really there until he admitted he was gay and the struggles in life had been due to a breakup, and the fear of coming out to his parents. Christine did an excellent job in crafting a character who was small but important to the main characters’ development, and make the reader actually care about them.
I think that’s one of the main things I liked about the characters in this book. Even if they weren’t remarkable well developed or important, they felt real and I kind of liked them all.
Let’s get down and dirty! Three out of five stars, but less for the plot and more for the writing which I’ll talk about later.
I liked the concept of this book. The path it took in the first half was interesting enough, and it all felt very realistic. I think Christine made the right decision in only writing about things she was very knowledgeable about, because everything felt accurate and not too fantastical. Well, until the second half. The plot in this novel was a little messy. It was clear cut, and I understood what was happening, but it moved so fast. Each chapter was a new scene and it didn’t flow. It was choppy, so the plot felt rushed and not well thought out.
Something I noticed is the repetitiveness of this plot. NOTHING CHANGES! Obviously, when Shane and Pilot go back in time, a lot is going to be similar. But the scenes are all the same. Pilot and Shane’s dates, their conversations and fights, the weekend trips. The plot is so repetitive. So much to the point that when I was halfway through the novel, I wanted to put it down.
But I really almost put Again, but Better down when the time travel business started. For a good 50 pages I was over it. I wanted the problem to be solved in a more realistic way. I guess that after six years apart and not speaking, Shane and Pilot weren’t in a real position to make moves, but for a while, I wished this magic part of the book wasn’t there. All of the realistic parts of the book from the first half were gone.
Eventually, the time travel grew on me because Shane started to grow and mature. I enjoyed the fluff, and when trials arose, they were solved more realistically. In some areas, I was frustrated with Pilot. When he broke up with Amy over voicemail, and then immediately decided to date Shane, I was curious; Was Pilot even sad about Amy? Six years is a long time to date someone and then spontaneously break up with them.
The end of the book was sweet, but it was so fast. Suddenly everyone is proposed to and getting married and successful, in the span of about a page. The plot was all there, but it was so rushed. When Christine said she originally wrote the novel in 100,000 words, I am curious to know if she cut mostly scenes or sections of scenes. Because if it was the latter, I would rather the book be a little longer and slower. The plot would have been more developed.
I lied when I said we were getting down and dirty about the plot. We’re really spilling the tea with the writing. Even from page one, I was making notes on the writing style and inconsistencies. Not to be mean and nit-picky, just because I feel like the problems were so blatantly there.
The worst thing about the writing is something I’ve already mentioned multiple times, and that is the pace of the book. When things needed to move faster, it was too slow. When things needed to be slower, it was way too fast, and I felt a little lost. In the beginning, we’re only 25 pages in when Shane and Pilot are going on unintentional dates to the supermarket. The scene about pasta was cute, but not only was the writing fast, it was jumbled. Christine jumped from one topic to another very quickly and left me racing to try and catch up. Pilot and Shane’s relationship developed very quickly, and then all the sudden, they had a falling out. There was no painful slow burn, which made me apprehensive for the rest of the novel. Something that made the novel feel faster was that every chapter was a new scene, or more than four scenes in two pages. When I flipped to a new chapter, I didn’t know if I would be within ten minutes of the last scene or flashing forward 4 months. This also added to the messy factor of the novel.
In the first half of the novel, I actually enjoyed the journal entries a little more than I thought I would. They were well-written, and I appreciated that the style felt slightly different than when Shane’s actions were described: as it should be. Sure, they moved really quickly. For example, almost Shane’s entire trip to Rome was told in four paragraphs, but they removed pointless dialogue. I also think the journals helped to hit on all the important cultural aspects of the novel, which was something Christine did really well.
Another thing was the dialogue. The dialogue was well-written when it was mildly important, but a lot of the time, it was unnecessary and pointless jibes that didn’t have any development among characters or the plot. Something that I did enjoy a lot about the character’s dialogue were Shane’s thoughts. They were relatable and quirky and practically perfect in every way. They felt like thoughts I would have in my own head. Something about the dialogue that I did notice, was the trip to Paris, every chapter ended the same. Literally. Every single chapter about that trip ended with Pilot and Shane saying goodnight. I guess I could see the parallel’s importance because of the time travel later on, but in the moment, I really hated it, and it felt like immature, unpolished writing. I think this was clearly on purpose, but I wonder if Christine wrote this knowing, she was going to end later chapters the same way. Because as the reader, I was just irritated until 100 pages later when I realized the purpose. She does that a lot. With the Angry Birds scene as well, it seemed pointless, and then 100 pages later it was prevalent. There was one scene with the water glass that bothered me at first, but later in the book, I was more appreciative of it than I was for the scene with the video games.
Details! Sometimes there was too much, sometimes there was literally nothing. For example, the roommates all played a game called “21,” but I have no idea what that is. I would have liked a brief explanation about the contents of the game while the characters were playing it, not 40 pages afterward. Also, some random things were described the exact same way every single time! Every kiss between Shane and Pilot was fire apparently…
As the novel went on, I found myself realizing how Christine’s writing was maturing. Somewhere along the line, she made me start to get attached to Shane even though I thought she was annoying me. And when Amy came, I actually felt my heart break a little for Shane. Especially when Shane’s parents came, I wasn’t expecting myself to feel so bad for her. I was excited for the upcoming action, but Christine made me genuinely nervous for the outcome of the scene. Same with around halfway through the book when Shane returns to the US. I hardly knew Leo, but I felt horrible for him when he lost his scholarship, and that was the essence of good writing. Christine’s writing began to slow down and clean up. It still wasn’t perfect, but it was improving. And I felt not only Shane growing, but the author. The craftmanship of the character arcs were extremely well done and I ended up enjoying the second half of the novel much more than the first half.
And the time travel. The way it was done was messy and cliché. I mean… an elevator? Come on. To me this part felt like a cop out. Instead of finding a way to build a new relationship between Shane and Pilot, she decided to just throw them back in time. I get that’s kind of the point of the book, Again, but Better, but I was thoroughly frustrated.
Finally, something I noticed was some of Christine’s writing felt like she was making excuses for herself. There is one scene when Shane and Pilot first go back in time and Shane is only nodding. Then Christine writes, “Maybe I’ll just speak in nods.” That phrase felt like an excuse for her repetitive use of an action, instead of just crafting the section differently, or letting the reader come to their own conclusion.
Ah! I really wasn’t in love with this book, but when I saw the meaning of why Christine drew a lamppost in the front of my book when I got it signed, I was very pleased.
So thank you all for reading my short review of Again, but Better. This review was written while and after I read the book, so it was all fresh in my mind. If you have any recommendations for how I can improve my reviews, please let me know. I’d love to get better.
After all this, everyone, have a lovely day.
Remember, you are beautifully and wonderfully made.