By: Zac Soper, Columnist
Photo Courtesy of Amazon.com
‘Again, But Better’ by Christine Riccio hits shelves on May 7 and this is one debut you do not want to miss. If you know anything about Christine Riccio you are probably familiar with her social media presence. Christine runs a popular YouTube channel Polandbananasbooks, where she reviews books, talks about her writing process, and fangirls about almost anything. But let’s get one thing out of the way– sure, part of Christine’s book deal probably is attributed to her already large following, however, that is not the only reason she was given this opportunity in publishing. Christine wrote a brilliant book. Sure there’s room for improvement, but when isn’t there? What I’m trying to get at is that Christine did not only get this book published because of her 400 thousand some subscribers (which, she worked hard to acquire), she also worked for months and months to produce a perfectly acceptable debut novel.
This story follows Shane, a college junior, who is on a study abroad program in London for creative writing. On this trip, Shane is thrown into the drama of a typical young-adult contemporary: meeting and falling for a new boy, awkwardly trying to make friends, and lying to your parents. Shane is using this trip as a way to try college ‘again,’ but she wants to do better – making friends instead of staying locked in her dorm, talking to boys instead of avoiding them, getting an internship, and studying writing like she wants instead of pre-med like her parents have pushed her to.
It is not Riccio’s writing that makes this book amazing, nor the plot twist that I don’t want to spoil, but the voice of the characters. All the thralls of this quirky 20-year-old loose in London feel so genuine. The romance in this novel is sometimes gushy and Wattpad-y, but mostly realistic in awkwardness-turned-romantic. Shane and Pilot (the enthusiastic guitar-playing subtly handsome love interest) have a dynamic that at first seems like something we’ve seen over and over again but eventually becomes something new entirely. Riccio really puts her characters to the test and sees just how far they will go to get what they want. Whether it’s a relationship with the cute new guy or a good standing at her internship, Shane is forced to find a balance between her love life and her career.
There is a slight magical realism aspect to this novel that really sets it apart from other young-adult contemporaries and lets even more of Riccio’s creativity shine through. I don’t want to go into too much detail for the sake of spoiling, but just know there are certain elements to this book that I haven’t seen play out in any other young-adult book the way Riccio made them happen. It was this little spark of magic that pushed the pacing and kept the reader from anticipating what would happen next. One hint: the title means a lot more than it appears to.
In summary: the writing was decent but not amazing, the characters were a little quirky but loveable, and the plot maintained speed while being dynamic and layered.