**I was very blessed to be provided with an e-ARC of Again, But Better by NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion. Thank you again!**
Shane Primaveri’s college experience hasn’t exactly gone as she’d hoped. Stuck in a major she’s not passionate about, she’s slogged through her first two years without making any real connections. When an opportunity to study creative writing in London appears, Shane lies to her parents and sets off to have her college experience the right away.
Again, But Better is a crossover NA novel by booktuber Christine Riccio (polandbananasbooks) and was one of my most anticipated reads of this year.
Let’s talk about why it was lukewarm for me.
What I Liked
The study abroad element. Do I think there are far too many stories about this experience set in Europe? Yes. Do I still fall for it almost every time? Absolutely. I’m a Sagittarius; wanderlust controls like, 80% of my emotions.
Shane’s (intended) major. There are a lot of creative main characters in YA, but they usually skew towards studying photography or painting. As a creative writer myself, I love seeing characters just as excited to build worlds with words as I am. Even though Shane was hiding it from her parents, her passion for writing really shone through and made me smile.
The twist. It happens about halfway through the book, and I should’ve known, honestly. I won’t say what it is (though I’m sure you can guess!) but it was an interesting concept that made the story even more fun.
What I Didn’t Like
The pacing. On one hand, this book can be easily read in maybe two sittings. It’s generally fast-paced and has enough going on to make you want to keep reading to see what happens next. On the other hand, sometimes things happen way too fast and suddenly things start going kind of slow and I’m sitting there with whiplash. We’re thrown into a scene and just when we get comfortable with it, there’s an abrupt cut to Shane’s diary entry detailing the rest of the day — which brings me to…
Telling and not showing. Much of this story takes place in European countries, and there’s understandably a lot to explore. Some of the descriptions were great, but others felt lacking and I could hardly build a picture in my head of the character’s surroundings and activities. One moment in particular is in Rome, where an *incident* occurs and once I was super invested in the moment, we’re ripped out of it and it suddenly cuts to Shane’s diary, which gives a bare bones detailing of the rest of the day. I was so excited to see what happened after that incident!
The romance. Can I even call it a romance for the first 50-something percent? It’s a bit more like an obsession. Shane develops a crush fairly quickly on a guy she sees on the first day of her exchange program, and I don’t… particularly… like him. Or the romance at all, for that matter. There’s a lot of attention on him that makes me a bit sad because Shane is in a whole other country trying to be braver and explore the world and she’s hung up on a guy she met within the first 0.5 seconds? Their relationship is also the catalyst for The Twist and I won’t lie, that hurts a little.
I thought that after the twist, Shane would focus on him a lot less, maybe even discard him from her life. Let’s be real: he deserves it. But that wasn’t the case at all, and as proud as I was of Shane for what she did in the second half of the book, I’m disappointed in her choice to keep this guy around.
Things I’m on the fence about
The dialogue. Some of it was just not a fun time to read, but some of it, like the banter between Shane and her love interest, felt easy and fun. While there were a few lines that felt unnatural and unrealistic, I think there were still a good chunk that felt pretty good.
This story reads so… young? Let’s not forget, friends: this is a New Adult book, NOT YA. Shane begins the story from age 20 and the story overall covers about six years after. Despite this, the story seemed to read a younger to me. Mostly, it was because of Shane. But on the other hand, I was relieved to see that Shane was closer to how I sounded at 20 (and honestly, probably still at 25) than most New Adult books that paint a person’s early twenties as a time of Sudden Maturity; I’ve always felt so out of place reading them even if I am their intended audience.
I didn’t dislike this book, but I wasn’t crazy about it either. The premise was something I was really excited for, and while I was sort of disappointed in the end, I still had fun reading it and even feeling inspired to write as well! Christine’s writing is also blazing with potential, and there were moments where I was reading and just knew that I would be picking up her future books as well. I can’t wait to see what she writes in the future! It wasn’t really for me, but it could be for others!
Until next time!