Reviews

Arc Review: Again, But Better by Christine Riccio

Arc Review_ Again, but better

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CW’s: Cheating, Emotional & Verbal Parental Abuse

Expected Publication: May 7th

Shane has been doing college all wrong. Pre-med, stellar grades, and happy parents…sounds ideal—but Shane’s made zero friends, goes home every weekend, and romance…what’s that?

Her life has been dorm, dining hall, class, repeat. Time’s a ticking, and she needs a change—there’s nothing like moving to a new country to really mix things up. Shane signs up for a semester abroad in London. She’s going to right all her college mistakes: make friends, pursue boys, and find adventure!

Easier said than done. She is soon faced with the complicated realities of living outside her bubble, and when self-doubt sneaks in, her new life starts to fall apart.

Shane comes to find that, with the right amount of courage and determination one can conquer anything. Throw in some fate and a touch of magic—the possibilities are endless.Let's Talk (2)

Arc Review

Thank you to Wednesday Books and Netgalley for providing me with a digital Arc in exchange for an honest Review! All quotes featured are from the Arc and therefore subject to changes.

I had high hopes for Again, but better due to it’s very cool premise, that sadly were disappointed by the actual execution. From weak characters, a relationship based on cheating and the very cliché writing to constant references and a strange sudden change of genre, the entire story felt flat and off for me. I was a fan of the college and travel themes and got through the book rather quickly, as it is fast-paced, but found too many issues with the story to truly enjoy it.

L I K E S

🌺 The idea itself & college life. Like I said, the premise is what drew me into the book and made me want to pick up, because I related a lot to Shane’s feelings about college. Being 20 she is also close to my age, so I felt connected to her experiences and insecurities. I liked that we got to see her study abroad and also pursue writing as her passion! The theme of trying to do things better and living life for yourself and no one else had strong potential to be very relatable to a lot of readers currently struggling with feeling like they failed at life.

🌺 Shane’s internship. I absolutely loved the scenes in which we see Shane doing her internship at a travel magazine., Everything about her experience her was so relatable to me as I just did a longer internship myself. The initial awkwardness of being new, not being able to do anything yourself and having to ask, before becoming a bit more part of the team was all spot on. I liked those scenes the most, especially as the Team at the place was so friendly and welcoming!

🌺 The traveling in Paris, Rome & London. Even if it felt more like ticking off the most important attractions, I loved getting to see Shane explore a lot of places during her year abroad, it was so nice to read about that! I do wish to know where they got all the money to finance the trips though. I mean, I know they slept in hostels and traveling is not as expensive if you choose cheaper options, but none of their internships were paid and Shane’s fund that she mentioned must have been huge.

🌺 Shane’s friends Babe, Sahra and Atticus, who made up a diverse supporting cast. I especially loved her close relationship to Babe, who was such a gem. Babe is very positive, excited and energized, I would love to have a friend like her who just radiates so much positive energy. I also like Sahra and Atticus, even though Babe was a bit more prominent in the story. Furthermore, I appreciate that Babe was a plus-sized black woman and Atticus was Asian and gay. (Not sure about Sahra, she is described as tan, but nothing else is mentioned.)

🌺 The pace was fast and addictive, with Part 2 being a lot better. Despite me having a few issues with the book, it was very fast paced and addictive once I sat down to read the book. The pacing was very good, made the book easy to read and I felt myself wanting to keep reading even if a lot of things bothered me. In general, Part 2 was a lot more interesting to me. Even though the twist was a bit weakly developed, it did push the story into much more interesting terrain and raised a lot of questions about choices and taking control of your life.

Let's Talk (2)

D I S L I K E S

Shane was too much like Christine. As a fellow writer I know that we always put a bit of ourselves (or the version we want to be) into our works and that’s okay, but the issue is when it becomes TOO much. That was the case here, as the story is basically semi-autobiographical with Shane having a lot of similarities to Christine. It got hard to distinguish between writing voice and actual character voice, because they were one and the same. In my opinion, Christine poured a bit too much of herself into the story, making it hard to see Shane as a separate character from her creator. I personally couldn’t unsee Christine in the main character. If you know her you’ll inevitable envision Shane as the author, which is not a desirable effect, at least not for my reading experience. Unrelated to that issue, I also disliked how clumsy was a defining weakness/quirk of Shane and used for comic relief all the time. It quickly got repetitive. Another thing I noticed (but with all characters), was that they didn’t read like 20 year olds to me, they read much younger.

It was jarring how suddenly Shane’s life changed in London. I was expecting her to take time to settle in and struggle with changing her life, as the narrative framed her college life before to be very different and lonely. However, the second Shane gets to London all her problems with making friends and staying connected are immediately solved. That was way too quickly given her problems in the last years and felt a bit alienating, as it is often not as easy. A sudden change of scenery is not a cure all. I was disappointed that her struggles to make friends and find out how to get out of her comfort zone were not sufficiently explored. Shane went from anxious to outgoing too quickly.

Pilot was pretty one dimensional. I hope I wasn’t the only one immediately put off by his ‘quirky’ name. I mean Pilot Penn? Apart from that I didn’t feel like Pilot had a lot of depth. He was your typical love interest, who is attractive and probably interested in something artsy (here it was music). I also felt like Pilot wasn’t as great a character as Shane made him out to be. How he talked about his girlfriend spoke volumes to his character and how selfish he truly was. Instead of breaking it off when they have differing opinions, he keeps her warm for ‘later’ while flirting with Shane. Pilot conveniently pretended his girlfriend Amy didn’t exist in order to have two girls at once, until he no longer could avoid it. Then in turn he ignored Shane. Basically, he didn’t want to choose and did it at the expense of both girls. He only does what serves him and it rubbed me the wrong way, especially in Part 2. The last minute explanation as to why he was on edge didn’t convince me, it was thrown in too late.

I was not a fan of the romance especially the constant emotional cheating element. It was mostly emotional cheating (and later a kiss), but Pilot would relentlessly flirt with Shane, resulting in almost kisses despite having a girlfriend. I did not like the “I have a girlfriend, but she is annoying/uninteresting/etc., so I’m ignoring that we’re together” trope that was going on here. It made me dislike Pilot a lot. The grey-area cheating was meant to add conflict and angst, but that could have done another way too. Point is: I don’t like cheating subplots especially when they’re between the Main Character and the Love Interest. Shane also has her burden to bear, because she still hoped Pilot would break up with Amy and often forgot that he was not available and still in a relationship. She was so set on him and the thing is that I didn’t think their relationship has any substance. So apart from the cheating, I found the romance to be missing a spark. It was pretty much instant love between them without any reason and even towards the end I never saw the appeal of both of them together.

Let's Talk (2)

The Plot Twist was very bizarre and underdeveloped. If you introduce a new genre-bending element it NEEDS to have a foundation and a background. You cannot just throw in something new and then never explain it, but that’s what happened here. It came out of the blue and took me by surprise, sadly not in a good way, more in a “this is so bizarre what is happening?” way. We never explore why this twist works, does it only work for Shane? Does it work for everyone? How does it even work? I don’t know. It sadly felt like the element was just introduced as a shock and plot twist, but not as well thought out. Connected is the a weird side character that keeps popping up. Said character has no background or personality, they just serve the plot twist and it is never explained what they had to do with it.

Some of the scenes/dialogue was very cliché with lots of overused phrases. The writing style was generally okay, but sometimes the dialogue would be a bit awkward and spotted with phrases that felt unnatural. I think it was because they are phrases that are used very often and therefore didn’t feel fresh. Some phrases were just very strange and nothing I could see someone saying.

I like a boy. He has a girlfriend who isn’t me, and it’s the worst.” is an actual quote from the book.

Shane’s parents abusive behavior was never addressed. This made me a bit uncomfortable because there was some clear emotional as well as verbal abuse going on the entire story that wasn’t addressed. Especially at one point Shane’s father gets really aggressive and violent, which was very scary as he is described to have anger issues. The way it was casually mentioned that he would often yell whenever Shane didn’t do things quickly enough or did something wrong didn’t sit well with me at all. Of course Shane made her share of mistakes as well and went into apologizing, but the narrative never made her parents own up for their horrible behavior towards their daughter.

There were too many references and often they felt forced. Firstly, I always appreciate pop-culture references, but they need to be integrated into the story well and feel natural in the scene. They should be woven into the story and not constantly thrown in. The latter sadly was what happened here. Shane would always find ways to insert any reference to her favorite things in the scenes to a point where it felt a bit like ‘fan service’ to the readers, to show how relatable the story was. I appreciate that it was shown how nerdy Shane is (because same), but it got too much. Same with the constant references to 2011 in Part 1. The author tried to establish that we’re in the past, but after a few references readers usually get that, you don’t need to bring that up again and again. A minor thing that I didn’t get was the initial ‘culture shock’ that Shane experiences. Like … she is SO hung up on the differences between Britain and the US, even though both countries are not that different from each other. I have been to both Britain and the US. Sure, I saw that some things were different but I never had such a huge reponse like Shane. I know it was meant to be endearing, but some things were just too much and strange to me. She was so outraged about the lampposts, the pasta and sauce … all minor things. Forgetting that you have to look the other way to cross the street I can understand, because it is so instinctual, but the rest felt over the top for me.

At a G L A N C E

Series? No

Recommended for? People interested in books set in college + an angsty romance, Fans of Christine/her Booktube Channel

Let's Talk (1)

Are you going to read Again, But Better? What is your favorite book set in college?

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11 thoughts on “Arc Review: Again, But Better by Christine Riccio

  1. Oh I’m so sorry you were disappointed by this one, Caro, it sounded like it had so much potential and I was so excited to read it for the college setting and the travelling just as well :/ I feel like I know what to expect more after reading your review, it’s so sad that it ended up being disappointing and that emotional cheating and parents’ abusive behaviour sounds so , ugh, why, that’s too bad :/ Thank you so much for sharing this!! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me too 😦 It was one of my most anticipated releases of this year, but sadly not even the college setting and the traveling could make it better.

      I hope that you might like this book better than me! For me it just really didn’t work 😥 Thank you so much for reading 💖

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The premise of this book sounded so interesting to me too, especially since I also studied abroad in London during college. But a lot of this sounds pretty not great! 😬 I’m never a fan of relationships built on cheating, and in this instance it sounds especially bad. That sucks that this book ended up disappointing so much!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Caro! I love how detailed & eloquent this review is, so thank you for that 😊 I agree that the premise sounds really good, but I’ve always disliked stories that involve not well-executed “grey area” / emotional cheating in the plots, especially if it’s one of the main plotlines. I’ll definitely try and pick this book up something in the future to read it for myself, but it sucks that there were so many aspects that weren’t fun to read 🙁

    All that aside, this was a great review & I had a lot of fun reading your thoughts on this book!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Zoie! Thank you so much, that means a lot to me! 💗 Same here, stories that rely so heavily on any form of cheating always make me so uncomfortable and this one really wasn’t well done 😦 I hope that you might enjoy this one more when you pick it up!
      Thank you for reading 💕

      Liked by 1 person

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