Title // Again, but Better
Author // Christine Riccio
Publisher // Wednesday Books
Publication Date // May 7, 2019
My Rating // ★★★☆☆
Synopsis // 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.
I’ve been anticipating this book for basically a whole year since I first started following Christine’s book writing chronicles on youtube! I was so excited to start reading it and I actually devoured the entire book in one afternoon! After hearing so much about this book from booktube videos, I was definitely really excited to dive into it. I didn’t quite live up to my expectations, and it wasn’t as great as I was hoping it could be…but it was definitely enjoyable!
Shane is extremely socially awkward and has basically been hiding in her dorm room doing nothing for the first two years of college, so she decides to head to England to study abroad in a creative writing program that’s completely irrelevant to her premed track. Even though she’s 20, she’s pretty inexperienced and sheltered, and I felt that so much. In her author’s note, Christine notes that this is the book she would have wanted to read in college, and as someone who is going into college socially awkward with very little experience, I related so hard to Shane, and this is the perfect book that I want to read.
As many reviewers have mentioned, Shane is basically Christine. It’s an obvious self insert, from her stupid (I’m sorry, it’s true!!) username PolandBananas20/FrenchWatermelon19, to her excessive Harry Potter/Lost/Shadowhunters references. Some people seemed to really like this and others really dislike it; personally, I didn’t really care. I mean, potentially lots of authors self insert like this, but we just don’t know it because they don’t display so much of their public life online like Christine does? Idk, it’s worth noting if that might bother you.
Anyways, I could probably count on one hand the number of books with older protagonists who are still rather naive like me. It was so refreshing to read about Shane trying to figure out college never having been kissed or anything even though she was 20, unlike so many books with girls who are like 15 and have had 5 boyfriends already or something. I’ve read a few reviews that say Shane acts really young and immature for her age, and I agree on that to some extent, but not really. The writing style itself does come across as a bit juvenile, as does her dialogue that seems excessively punctuated with exclamation marks and silly phrases, but for the most part her thoughts and the way she acts, thought less mature than many protagonists, was perfectly relatable and okay to me.
That brings me to the level of writing, which would be one of my complaints with this book. The dialogue and thoughts sometimes felt weird and awkward, mostly in the phrasing and level of writing. Right in the beginning she describes an airplane as a “hollowed out plane with wings” and I was like…okay that’s kind of weird… Most of the book is also set in 2011 and the amount of pop culture references shoved in there got a bit annoying and forced as well, like the few pages where she was excessively describing the new app called Angry Birds that everyone is talking about!!! Also the weird names (Shane, Pilot Penn, Sahra, Babe, Atticus) were so Christine but also felt really stupid like okay yes you can be quirky and have your signature humor irl and throw a bit in your book but this much in writing just feels a bit like a silly fanfiction or something.
I really loved the character interactions and relationships, weird names aside. Shane’s flat mates have so much fun together from playing cards, getting food, and even traveling to Rome and Paris and I loved reading about their friendships and moments! Shane also clearly struggles with her parents, who want her to be premed when she doesn’t want to and really just wants to write, and I really enjoyed seeing that dynamic with her family play out. Pilot and Shane have some swoony moments as well including looking at Beatles Russian nesting dolls lmao.
Unfortunately, I never got completely on board with their relationship because it involves Cheating with a capital C. Pilot is in a long, committed relationship all the while Pilot and Shane are flirting, and more. The other girl who is being cheated on is also kind of villainized in a way that reminded me of one of my least favorite books ever Anna and the French Kiss and I just hate it when books do this because she literally did nothing wrong except not be the main character!
There was also an element of fantasy/magic in here that was kind of unexpected because this is a contemporary? Or at least it’s supposed to be? It was kind of glossed over and I wish it had been elaborated more or fleshed out more because as it is it kind of felt like just a convenient plot device and nothing else.
Overall, this book was objectively by no means perfect, but based on my own feelies and happiness as I read this book, really good! There were a lot of things, mostly based on the level of writing, that could have been better, but as Shane herself says, with 5/5 stars there’s no room to improve! This was definitely a fun feel good book that I recommend!