London by Luca Micheli on Unsplash: Again, but Better by Christine Riccio (The Modest Reader)

Book Review: Again, but Better

When I saw this book on NetGalley, and I knew I needed to read it. It was about a girl who travelled abroad to London for a semester in order to try and break out of her shell…which I can relate to on a deep level, having done something similar myself. The publisher was done giving out ARCs, so I added myself to the wish list, and by some miracle, I got chosen!

Apparently the writer, Christine Riccio, is a big BookTuber, which is why a lot of people are excited for her novel to come out on May 7, but I (living in my bubble) had no idea who she was. And I’m here to say that even if you’re not one of her many followers, and love a good finding-out-who-you-are-in-college-type story (with a side of second chance), you’ll definitely get a kick out of this one.

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.

My musings
My college self relates a lot to Shane. She’s socially anxious, she’s awkward, she’s a bit nerdy, she’s not sure who she wants to be, she wouldn’t go travelling on her own, the list goes on. We both went to London for school to try and find our way…

I like that the relationships formed in this book seem real and relatable. When you’re in a situation like this, you gravitate toward your dorm mates. Shane, Sahra, Babe, Pilot and Atticus (which, I will admit, is a really weird group of names) become fast friends, but they all seem to be enthralled in their studies and their internships like real students would be. Sure, they travel together and rely on each other, but these people are actually there for school, which I appreciate. And they’re diverse, which I appreciate.

There is a little bit of a magical event that I didn’t see coming, but that really bought this book to another level. It made it stand out from anything else I’ve read. Sure, it was cheesy and made the story become impossible, but Riccio saves it from becoming completely ridiculous in the way the plot progresses. I also thought there was going to be some borrowing from Jenny Han’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before… and I was pleasantly surprised when the plot went in a different direction.

My one bigger issue with the book is Shane’s relationship with her parents, and how her parents treat her. In the beginning, when she’s describing it, she makes it seem like her parents were just hard on her in wanting her to be a doctor, but as we learn later on, her father is borderline abusive (and her mother doesn’t seem to see it either). The way Shane was treated by them—with the climax happening in front of a group of other people, no less, which makes it so much worse—and continued to be treated by them in the future was not okay. And I understand that people are not always treated nicely by their parents, but I didn’t like the fact that it wasn’t really addressed. Shane merely explained it as them not understanding her, and her friends just wanted to make sure she was okay, but that is emotionally abusive and should have been called out as such.

But despite that shortcoming, the main message of the story, though not totally original these days, was heartwarming. Riccio really wanted to drive home the fact that until you love yourself as you are, you’ll never be able to love someone else, no matter how hard you try or how many chances you get. You’re your number 1. And that’s a moral I can get behind.

4.5 STARS

Again, but Better by Christine Riccio (Book Cover): The Modest Reader

“We’re touching shoulders! Shoulders are touching. This is something! THIS IS ROMANCE. Must stay still. Can’t. Lose. Shoulder contact.” —Christine Riccio, Again, but Better

Thank you to NetGalley and St Martin’s Press for the advanced copy, and to Luca Micheli on Unsplash for the featured photo of London.

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