Again, but Better.

4 stars.

If you are a human being that has even heard the word “booktube,” you probably know of Christine Riccio (aka polandbananasbooks). She single-handedly kickstarted the booktube community and I have been watching her for ages. Literal ages. Through high school, through 87 college-degree-changes, starting my career and now starting grad school. What a ride its been with Ms. Riccio.

IMG_1659.PNGBack in January of 2016, Christine uploaded a video titled Book Writing Ep. 1 and the rest is history. Over the past 3 years, her viewers (me included) have watched her talk about writing this book, what songs she was listening to while she wrote it, character name changes, edits, publishers, cover designs, the whole gamut. It was such a unique look into a book before it even existed. Needless to say, I picked it up the day it was released.

So Again, But Better follows a girl named Shane who seems to have done college “all wrong.” She’s pursuing a major she doesn’t enjoy, she has made no friends, goes home every weekend and there is no prospect of a romantic comedy on her horizon. Until she packs up and heads to London for a study abroad, where the plan is to meet friends and adventure– finally. However, nothing is as easy as it seems and there are quite the twists & turns along the way. “Throw in some fate and a touch of magic—the possibilities are endless” (Full synopsis here on goodreads).

Now even with my excitement for this book’s release after 3 years of anticipation, it took me forever and a day to finish this. Why you may ask? The twist that appears 2/3 of the way into the book hits hard.

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The “touch of magic” aforementioned in the synopsis of this book did not prepare me for what would happen next. I was in literal shock. So much so, that it forced me to put the book down for almost an entire month. However, the desire to find out what happened to Shane and Pilot on this adventure overwhelmed me and I had to finish it.

While I was not expecting THAT magical element at all– can you tell I am trying to remain spoiler-free? Its a hard feat with this one– I actually really, really, really enjoyed this element. It took a pretty typical YA book from being average to being good. I found the beginning elements of the book to be slightly cliche– it really pains me to write that– but once the magical twist takes hold, it was an entirely different & unique book. I was sold.

One aspect that took me a while to grasp was the characters. In the beginning, Shane is very quirky, almost trying too hard to not be like everyone else and it was a hard pill to swallow. However, over time, her character development creeps in and she becomes more likable.

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Pilot is a whole other breed. While he is very loveable and gives me so many TFIOS, Augustus Waters-vibes (for whatever reason), he also had a weird, “I am cooler than everyone else” sense in the start but I grew to love him all the same. (Side note: There is one scene where he is shocked to hear Shane loves the Beatles because he thought that he “was the only one who knew about them.” Excuse me ??? EDIT: Christine has since tweeted that the line was meant to be taken as sarcasm, but still.) 

Lastly, the epilogue was written so well that I could have read 100 more pages of it. It opens in a blog-interview-style format of a reviewer asking Shane about her book that was released. It was a cool take on telling the readers where the characters ended up, how certain conflicts were resolved, etc. and I was here for it!

Overall, it was a fun ride, but there was room for improvement. Go, Christine!

until next time, mckenna. xx

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