Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
To see more of Riccio’s work check out “Because You Love to Hate Me”
Christine Riccio’s novel is a pleasant surprise for the young author’s debut. While it is less than perfect, the contemporary story takes a fresh spin on the cliché of falling in love abroad.
“Again, but Better” follows college student Shane Primavera, who is determined to break from her shell during her semester abroad in London, England. She starts off with a few goals: study creative writing, succeed at her internship, make friends and kiss a boy she likes.
It was no shock to me that I adored the location and premise of the book. A college student studying creative writing while in London was right up my ally. I would no doubt recommend it to anyone that wants to push themselves out of their comfort zone and follow their dreams, whether locally or in Europe.
Awkward, introverted and funny, Shane is a relatable protagonist for young readers still coming into their own. Though it is painful to see Shane lie to her family about the courses she is taking, not wanting to upset her medical-school-driven parents, Riccio succeeds in making readers root for the character and want to see Shane thrive in a field of writing, which she is truly passionate about.
Shane developed tremendously during the course of the novel. Starting off as clumsy, dramatic and a bit naive, her growth is notable by the end, which was a welcome surprise to me and not what I was expecting from a fun contemporary.
A downfall to the amount of attention given to Shane is the lack of development of the side characters. For the most part, the story focus on Shane and her love interest, Pilot Penn (no relation to the writing instrument) while the other three characters fall to the wayside.
The supporting cast was filled with unique and diverse characters which I would have liked to see have their own independent side plots, and not work as an ensemble for the main protagonists. Each time Shane’s flatmates were on the page they were interesting and dynamic, but I felt that their stories had little impact or payoff to the main plot.
Pilot was a conflicting character to me and I found myself going back and forth about liking him. He and Shane’s chemistry was undoubtedly there and whenever he and Shane interacted, I fell for his charm and wit, laughing at their banter.
Although he is certainly a refreshing twist on the stereotypical dark and brooding romantic lead found in most young adult novels, some of his actions bordered on immature and below the character that Riccio had portrayed.
The first half of the book was enjoyable enough, but I found myself setting the book down more often than not. Romances and contemporary stories are not my personal favorite and I grew easily bored with the low-stakes plot.
The second half of the novel definitely picked up and delivered a creative twist that I had craved for during the first part. There is a “fantastical” element to the story toward the second half, which relies more on convenience rather than hard major rules. The story leaps six years into the future where Shane and Pilot’s reconnect for the first time in years and are given the chance to do their London semester abroad all over again... but better.
Seeing both Shane and Pilot forced to reflect on how their lives turn out and decide to make steps to change their future was reminiscent of many time travel stories. Riccio managed to keep the gravity of both their situation and choices clear without losing any humor or wit.
Overall, the writing style was in good shape for a debut novel. There were moments of the story where Riccio would wrap up a whole month in a few lines, making it feel slightly choppy and as if the author wanted to add more, but was forced to cut out a few scenes.
Riccio has an originality to her writing that brought a new take to romantic contemporaries. I am excited to see what else she publishes. “Again, but Better” is hardly complicated and its plot is not too intricate, but it is a fun and easy read that had me excited to take a chance at life and follow my heart.