Christine Riccio delivers double the heartbreak and hope in ‘Again, but Better’
Dessi Gomez | Thursday, November 21, 2019
BookTuber Christine Riccio has crafted a heart-wrenching, young adult love story by bringing together sets of opposites. The novel’s main character — 20-year-old pre-med college student Shane Primaveri — takes the ultimate leap of faith out into the world by undertaking a study abroad program in London halfway through her junior year. Unknown to her demanding parents, Shane’s program lets her indulge in what she loves: creative writing.
In addition to an ever-looming future of medical school and a passion for creative writing, Riccio uses various icons of popular culture as a foundation from which to build her plot. These include Taylor Swift, Harry Potter, Disney, Lost, The Beatles and much more.
Riccio helps the reader feel Shane’s excitement about writing when she attends her classes and starts her internship at a British travel magazine, “Packed! For Travel.” She also does a stellar job of establishing a strong connection between Shane and Pilot — the former’s very-attractive flat mate and fellow study abroad participant. Their witty banter is sure to elicit laughter from any reader at multiple points throughout the story.
While the story certainly start off on a happy-go-luck note for Shane, a surprise visit from her parents suddenly complicates her attempt to break away from those troubles which linger at home. Her unsuspecting mother and father only compound an already-awkward visit from Pilot’s girlfriend of three months, Amy. This series of events create one of two major downward spirals that contribute to this rollercoaster of a book — the first taking place in 2011 and the second in 2017.
That’s right, the first half of the book takes place in 2011. About halfway through readers are shown Shane’s life six years later in 2017. Riccio reconciles these two time periods the only way possible: time travel.
Thus, the title of “Again, but Better” really has two meanings. This double-entendre refers to Shane’s adventure of going abroad and starting her college experience over as well as her opportunity to relive this adventure a second time.
Shane, Pilot and their friends hit all the bucket list travel destinations while abroad: Paris, Rome, Edinburgh and more. Shane captures every moment with photos on Facebook and blog posts. While the book may romanticize studying abroad in more ways than one, the attitude of awe that Shane brings to London with her reminds me fondly of my time spent studying abroad.
Shane’s ultimate accomplishment manifests itself when she resolves to balance her internship and desire to write for a living with her developing romantic relationship. If one thing can be taken away from the story, it is to do what you love. In the context of an ever more-competitive college world, it reminds readers to pursue their passions.
In addition to the her captivating plot, I also loved Riccio’s incorporation of music into her story. It was very fun to read her chapter titles, many of which alluded to songs.
For all you Taylor Swift-lovers out there, you have to read to the end where some serious serenading happens. Also keep a lookout for the red-haired barista lady. She comes into the story at very important parts — especially the magical hidden cafe.
Book: “Again, but Better”
Author: Christine Riccio
Genre: Young Adult
If You Like: “Love and Luck” by Jenna Evans Welch, The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling