Rating: <3 <3 <3
This book was one of my most highly anticipated reads of the year. I’ve been following Christine Riccio for a while now–I’ve been watching her Booktube videos since I was a sophomore in high school, and continue to do so today. She’s one of the most prominent members of the book community on Youtube, and not only that, she’s been taking her viewers through her writing process for a while now with her “Book Writing” series. Having seen so much of her, I was so excited to finally read something she had written. I went in without having read any reviews (not even checking the book’s rating on Goodreads, I swear!), and I was not disappointed. It definitely wasn’t the most amazing book I’ve ever read, and there are definitely some critiques I’ll get into later, but I do think it was a good book overall, and not at all a bad first novel.
Shane (the protagonist)’s parents want her to become a doctor because of all they’ve given up to provide her with so many amazing opportunities, but really, she just wants to be a writer. After her sophomore year, she realizes she doesn’t have any friends, and kind of wants a college do-over doing what she loves. Knowing her parents will never go for it, she signs up for a writing internship London Study Abroad program for the summer, but makes her parents a fake brochure for a Premed Track so they’ll let her go.
COLLEGE, TAKE TWO: STUDY ABROAD GOALS
1) Kick ass at internship—turn it into a paid summer job.
2) Make friends you like to hang out with and who like to hang out with you.
3) Kiss a boy you like. Stop kiss-blocking self.
4) Have adventures in the city you’re in. You’ve done nothing in New York City during the two point five years you’ve been there, you idiot.
5) Maybe try getting a little bit drunk. Don’t black out or anything, but find out what it’s like in a controlled, self-aware environment. You’re legally allowed to in the UK!
6) Start your great American novel. You’ve spent an absurd amount of time trying to think of the perfect first sentence. Stop it. Just write.Again, But Better by Christine Riccio
What I liked:
- I haven’t really seen the theme of the journey of becoming a writer or a humanities major amidst being surrounded by people who think it’s stupid and worthless in YA, and it’s something I immensely appreciate because I think it’s something relevant to a lot of young adults (it definitely felt relevant to me), especially those who make up Riccio’s primary audience.
“Becoming a doctor? It’s so solid. There’s a blueprint; there’s a set path to follow.” I swallow. “Becoming a writer is like … being lost and just having to hope to god you stumble into your destination.”Again, But Better by Christine Riccio
- Although it at times wasn’t very pleasant, I loved the complex family dynamic; there are too many YA novels out there where the parents are completely absent or insignificant characters, which seems a bit unrealistic to me given that they’re young adults.
“Where is this coming from? You’ve got straight A’s in all your math and AP science classes; you’re going to be a great doctor,” Mom pushed.
“Yeah, just, I took that creative writing elective last year and it was so fun. It got me thinking, maybe—”
“There is no maybe. We talked about how that class was just for fun. I’m not going to drop fifty thousand dollars a year for you to graduate with no job prospects. What are you tryin’ to pull here?” Dad said.Again, But Better by Christine Riccio
- The representation of extroverted introversion was nice to see; the two aren’t black and white categories, and seeing a character who was definitely an introvert but could act extroverted when talking about things she was passionate about or around people she felt comfortable around was great to see (and something I personally related to).
“Am I allowed to share with the roomies?”
He shakes his head, smiling. “Go for it.”
“This is so exciting!” I don’t exactly skip, but my feet do a weird jumpy-dance thing.Again, But Better by Christine Riccio
- The multidimensional characters. I especially appreciated Shane, who had so many interests (photography, writing, travel, journaling, blogging, The Beatles, etc.) and qualities I related to (being clumsy, making bad puns). It was great to explore the backgrounds of a lot of the other characters like Sahra and Babe later in the novel, and even Pilot.
- The title! I thought I knew the significance behind the title after reading the plot summary, but it took on a whole new meaning at a specific point in the plot. I absolutely LOVE when there’s an a-ha moment of clarity regarding the title of a book partway through (especially near the ending), but this was even better because of its metaphorical and literal ambiguity.
What I didn’t like:
- I have to say, though, I was NOT a fan of the romance in this novel. It was very uncomfortable, and pursuing it was definitely one of the most questionable decisions Shane made throughout the novel. Most of it felt so unrealistic, from the way Shane fell for him (love at first glance through a kitchen window) to how their relationship developed afterwards, and I just didn’t like their circumstances enough to want them to be together.
But, you know that feeling like light being circulated through your veins when you see someone cute, and all the sudden you explode all over with the thrill of said cute person noticing and acknowledging your existence as a human with whom they could potentially fall into a relationship with?
I can’t help it. My brain jumps right to:
GOAL 3) Kiss a boy you like.Again, But Better by Christine Riccio
- Without giving any spoilers, I also wasn’t a fan of the risk this novel took with the major non-contemporary element (if you’ve read it, you know what I’m talking about). It was definitely effective in the creation of a shocking plot twist, but for me, it cheapened the more realistic elements of the story that I did enjoy. As much as we may want it, in the real world, there are no do-overs, and it would have been nice to experience a story that dealt with the real-world consequences of one’s actions and how to move forward from them if you’ve made some mistakes.
I’m not sure how I feel about…
- The language: it was interesting, and I’m not sure if it was supposed to represent Shane’s antisocial tendencies or be reflective of her love of classic literature (which from what I recall, was not mentioned), but it only surfaced a few times at the beginning, and I’m not sure what to make of it. Personally, I do love classic literature and sometimes find myself speaking like this after reading a nineteenth century novel, but to me, it felt a bit strange for a contemporary. (Then again, this could also just be a result of my lack of exposure to a high percentage of the linguistic variation of English).
“Once off the plane, I was to collect my bag from baggage claim…”
“…I’m to buy a cheap plastic one like the fugitives do on TV.”Again, But Better by Christine Riccio
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a motivational story about finding your path as a young person in the world–especially as a college student. Overall, I think it was a well-written piece of young adult fiction that not only brought an important young adult point of view and struggle to light, but also made for an enjoyable read.
Thanks so much for reading, and let me know what you thought about this book down below!