Christine Riccio otherwise known as PolandBananasBooks07 on YouTube and around social media released her debut novel Again, but Better, this May. Riccio’s popularity as a BookTuber and credibility at events like BookCon, BookExpo, and Yall West certainly helped the author achieve her spot on the New York Times’ Best Sellers List. Though the numbers are great - likely due to presales and fan buys - what is there to say about the book?
Again, but Better, follows college student Shane on her study abroad in London where she meets a cast of interestingly named characters - seriously, why do we never actually get an explanation on why someone named their child PILOT?! - and tries to reinvent herself in the process. As per the title’s suggestion, Shane goes through this study abroad not once, but twice where she has to do everything again only this time in the hope that it goes better. For a debut novel, this is a really interesting premise for a novel and Christine handled that plot well.
Though, there are areas that fell flat. Personally, I didn’t read the synopsis of Again, but Better before reading the book. Generally I tend to avoid knowing too much about a book if they are going to be extremely hyped because I want to give my honest opinions and I think that was for the best. I got the hints of magical realism right from the start with the woman on the train. It’s woven into a story in a way where there’s definitely something going on but you wouldn’t understand what was actually happening until the big turning point. Though, while the mechanics and magical realism elements were there a lot of the plot wasn’t.
The first half of the story really felt like it was just trying to reach that turning point. Shane meets her friends, likes a boy, then obsesses over him and completely quits on everything after a bad interaction. While her character development there is interesting it feels forced and sad. Not only that but we as readers learn almost nothing about Pilot or any of her other friends for that matter. Sarah barely even exists in the story. It says a lot about Shane as a character that when she repeats this study abroad all over again she learns things about the girl who is supposedly still her best friend years later that she had never heard before. There is basically no semblance of trying to connect with her other roommate or neighbor at all.
The character is just extremely self centered and doesn’t particularly care about other peoples’ feelings throughout the entire story. She doesn’t care when she takes the internship and applies for the program - which I will admit, I don’t fault her for this one. She doesn’t care about Pilot’s girlfriend’s feelings about the fact that they clearly have a thing going on, and She doesn’t even care about what Pilot feels during most of the time they’re repeating their life. She tries to push the button without him even when he didn’t want to because she didn’t know how to manage being a person and a job. You would think after years of med school you would have some time management skills right?
I hate knocking on the character this way because I know Riccio based so much of it on herself. The schooling, the blog name, the way she talks - it’s all Christine. I feel that makes this book pretty authentic when reading it though. The story jumps around from her talking to diary entries which makes much of the story a bit jarring but if you listen to the audio book - which I did - this actually helps the story flow in a way that almost seems like someone is sitting in a room telling you their life story. It’s endearing even if entirely frustrating.
The premise was fun even if Shane’s character wasn’t overly likable. While the story arc really only revolved around this time jump I think that’s okay. I would have liked to see more interaction with the other characters and a bit more story happening in that sense, but overall I think it was an enjoyable read. Do I think it should win any awards? Not particularly but I do want to give credit to Christine for writing the second New Adult book that I’ve read that’s been released in the last year. This age range really needs more representation and for that I’m glad.