Review: Again, But Better By Christine Riccio

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This month’s book club pick was Again, but Better by booktuber and fellow YA lover, Christine Riccio. This is her debut book.

Again, but Better follows 20 year old Shane Primaveri on her study abroad semester in London, England circa 2011. Her college life had been one word, boring. She may have perfect grades, but she spent every weekend at home with her parents.

That’s why Shane’s semester abroad had to be perfect: she was going to have her first kiss, be more outgoing/meet new friends, and do an amazing job at her writing internship— if only things were that easy! 

Along the way, Shane realizes that making a new life for oneself doesn’t always pan out as expected. Pilot Penn, the guy she is majorly crushing on has a girlfriend. The program she’s completing while in London isn’t for premed students like her parents believe, forcing her to lie to not only her family, but everyone around her. Also, her dream of succeeding at her magazine internship and becoming a writer is out of reach.

Readers follow Shane on her adventures around Europe, where she makes new friends, falls in love, discovers herself…and fails (like, epically) along the way. Shane’s 2011 semester abroad may have come to a close in the first half of the book, but this definitely was not the end for Shane and her adventures.

After all of the drama that took place in 2011, Shane thought he life was falling apart. Fast forward six years to 2017. Shane is about to become a doctor, is dating some guy named Melvin— whom she has zero connection with— and is still missing Pilot.

When Shane’s spirit guide (yes, you read us correctly, she has a spirit guide) gives her the opportunity to do her semester abroad in London all over again she jumps at the chance at a redo with her friends, Pilot and her magazine internship. This time, Shane has the opportunity to make sure she doesn’t repeat the same mistakes. 

Again, but Better gave us major 17 Again vibes, which we didn’t hate. We admit, the time travel aspect of the plot was unexpected, but thoroughly enjoyable. Riccio had us engaged the entire time and we were rooting for Shane on her journey of self-discovery. We hated how controlling her parents were and cheered Shane on as she tried to make it as a writer.

Pilot, the love interest, was a cutie and his chemistry with Shane was palpable. We found it interesting that Pilot played a role in the 2017 scenes and not just the 2011 ones. It made the story and the romance much more interesting. However, the romance is slow-burn, so don’t expect anything to happen between Pilot and Shane at the beginning.

The side characters, Shane’s friends Babe and Atticus, were fun and added to the story nicely. Shane needed some people in her life to push her out of her comfort zone and who let her be her true self. We liked how different Shane, Babe and Atticus all were.

We could tell that Riccio wrote the book with herself in mind. She incorporated lots of YA book and pop culture references, which were enjoyable but sometimes felt overdone. We get it, the year is 2011 and you love Taylor Swift. While we appreciate a good throwback, we didn’t need the constant reminders of pop culture and trends in 2011.

Lastly, the setting was very exciting. Give us all of the YA books set abroad. We loved seeing London through Shane’s eyes and it was fun watching her learn about herself through travel. London provided the perfect backdrop for Shane to fall in love and chase her dreams.

Overall, Again, but Better read like a tribute to YA lovers and we thoroughly enjoyed the book. Seeing Shane come into her own and fall in love with Pilot not once, but twice, was a treat and we can’t wait to see what Riccio has in store for us with her next book! Pick this one up if you want a throwback YA book set in a cosmopolitan city.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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