★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ Again, but Better by Christine Riccio
Alright. I have a lot to say about this book. First of all, I really wanted to like it. I was so ready to love this book! When I was granted an eARC I was ecstatic. My actual first thought was “who, me? Did someone do this by mistake??” I had high hopes, I’m not going to lie. Unfortunately it just did not live up to my expectations.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not a terrible book. It has some great qualities, but for me it just didn’t come together in the end. The writing wasn’t as strong as I wanted it to be, the plot was questionable and the characters were frustrating me hard. The thing is, I can see how this could be good. The right foundation is there, but some things would really need to be changed in order for me to fall in love with it.
The first thing that made me excited about this book was the setting. Our main character, Shane, is in college. Yes! In college and studying abroad. Double yes! Finally, a character who’s a little older and a little wiser. Possibly making some hard decisions and learning along the way. While reading the first half of this book, I realized the writing was far more juvenile than I was expecting. And, there’s nothing wrong with that, this is technically YA, right?
The problem is the writing did not match the supposed age of the mc. It’s not even about it being light-hearted and bubbly! I’m all about an easy romantic contemporary. Half of my tbr is full of mind-numbing ya contemporary that is full of uncomplicated writing (and I mean that in the best way possible!) The writing here just felt lacking. There are some parts when the mc has some anxiety/social anxiety and I really think that could have been fleshed out more. It seemed almost as though the anxiety only came on when it was beneficial to the plot? Not an actual problem the mc was experiencing. I understand everyone experiences anxiety differently, but it didn’t feel accurate to me (but it could definitely be a genuine experience for her.) I could tell in the second half of the book she was filling out her voice a little bit, but imo the first half really needed some additional work.
Okay, the plot. Dude what even happened?? The first half was boring, slow, and the main character made some terrible choices. I understand for the structure of the book that was kind of necessary, but I think it could be improved so that it didn’t feel as though it was dragging. I wanted more believable decisions or more extreme? Something was just missing here.
*spoilers* I’m so confused by the random magic time travel and spirit guide situation here. I wanted either more explanation or maybe a reason why this complete stranger of a woman was doing this? She came out of nowhere and there was no reason she was there (other than to continue the plot)
So Shane decides to just drop by Pilot’s work in 2017. She’s just now realizing she’s basically hated her entire life for the past 6 years. She has no interest in her boyfriend, she hates gastroenterology (and only did it because her boyfriend was so passionate about it??) and never talks to her family. Pilot has been dating Amy for the past 6 years, and just because they go back in time decides that those 6 years mean nothing and it was all a mistake! Like??? I understand people have regrets, but if you’re so willing to give everything up in A DAY that you’ve been living with FOR YEARS like. It just doesn’t make any sense to me. There’s just something missing here that would make these decision believable.
And at the end of the book, they just decide to stay in the past and RELIVE the next 6 years of their lives? Like. Again I think this goes back to how this book seems juvenile to me. Maybe that wouldn’t seem like such an insane choice to make when you’re younger, but just thinking about it now I’m like wtf! This really might just be me, but it seemed very unreasonable.
And finally, the characters. I felt nothing for almost all of them. It seems pretty obvious that the main character Shane is based off of Christine herself. There are so many allusions to her online presence, her book, tv, and movie interests, and her personality in general. I really don’t have a huge problem with this as a whole. Like if you want to put yourself in your mc, sure. The thing is, she is such a personality already on her YouTube channel. If you know anything about Christine, this character will immediately become her once you begin reading. There is no separating the two. It just got to be kind of annoying after awhile, but also not my biggest gripe with this book.
The romance was kind of cute, but ultimately meh. The supporting characters were pretty flat. I really can’t remember much about their personalities.
Her parents! Wow. They were something else. I can’t believe the casual verbal abuse was never brought up, and her parents are just absolved of all the shitty stuff at the end?? Like, she was successful so they decided what she wanted to do was worthy of their praise and love??? Smh.
I feel like there is a lot more I could say, but in general I did not enjoy this read. The second half definitely was more exciting, and made me want to figure out what happened, but the first half was dull and the ending was unsatisfying. I really feel like this could be something special with some revision?? I don’t know. Maybe I would have liked this book when I was younger.
And if you are a younger reader, this may be the perfect book for you! I would definitely give it a read and decide how you feel about it for yourself.
Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for this eARC