Again, but Betterby Published 07 May 2019
|Again, but Better.pdf|
From one of the most followed booktubers today, comes Again, but Better, a story about second chances, discovering yourself, and being brave enough to try again.
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.
Again, but Better Reviews
So, here we are again. A booktuber writes a book and I receive an ARC of it.
And, yeah, it was bad.
Not a total trainwreck like Zenith, but still... Bad.
I have seen A LOT of people saying that they will love this book regardless if it's good or not because they love Christine and that's fine, do what you want. But it also means that I will be as brutally honest as I could be to even it out!
I believe that you should always judge a book based on the book and not the author but since this book is basically about the author (and I will admit I don't like her that much) there will be a lot of criticism towards her as well.
These are my opinions. I am allowed to have opinions about stuff and things.
If you love Christine so much that you will be offended by criticism aimed towards her then kindly fuck off right now. There is a lot of criticism to be found here.
OK? Don't bother leaving butthurt comments because I'll just delete them.
Please and thank you, etc.
OK, got that out of the way, let's go.
The first thing I have to say is that reading this book made me realize how much I know about Christine Riccio. Which is a weird thing to say, let me explain:
I used to be a subscriber of hers. I watched her videos regularly as a teenager and eventually outgrew her (she is too loud and obnoxious for me, also she's become somewhat of a sellout and thus very untrustworthy, but that's besides the point).
However, unbeknownst to me, I learned a lot about her during these years. How do I know this and why am I bringing this up?
Because 'Shane Primaveri' is Christine Riccio.
You see, it started slowly... Like when we first learn Shane's last name and its vaguely Italian I was like:
And then she tells the Love Interest Man (whom we will get to) the story about her online username and I was like:
That is the main characters online username.
Because... french toast is her favorite breakfast food and watermelon is her favorite fruit.
So if you didn't know, Christine's online username Polandbananas20 (which she still uses...... for some reason) is based on her favorite brand of spring water (???) and her favorite fruit.
At this point (it's like four chapters in) I was like OK... she's paying a little homage to her stupid username right? Right???
The longer I kept reading, the more Christine and Shane started to meld together until I ended up just picturing Christine as the main character.
1.Both of them are basic white girls with blondeish hair
2. They have the same type of 'social anxiety', the 'relatable' type (listen, I struggled with social anxiety for years, it was crippling at times, like you physically couldn't do stuff, it's not just 'LOL I'M AWKWARD XD' and while it can be overcome it's not just like flipping a switch or trying to 'make a change')
3. The way they talk is the exact same
4. They geek out excessively about the same stuff (harry potter, lost, taylor swift, the beatles, vampire academy, cassandra clare, john green etc.)
5. They're both writers and avid readers
6. They both have a thing where they name inanimate objects and only refer to the objects by their names (her computers name is Sawyer, Christine names all her computers and her cars as far as I know)
AND MORE (will add when I remember but my brain has been trying to repress this book).
Listen, okay. Before I read this I didn't even realize I knew these things about Christine, but apparently I do, and I don't like it.
And I can't ignore that she basically just wrote a book about herself traveling around Europe and falling in love with a girlfriend-having basic white boy whose fucking name is Pilot Penn.
I also do not like self-inserting, like, at all. I find it unbearably cringy and it's something I would expect of a middle schooler.
But hey, that's just me.
Also, as her first published work, it shows a huge lack of imagination.
So, disregarding the self-insert stuff, you may wonder; is the story good at least?
'Tis bland. Also, unoriginal.
It's basically Anna and the French Kiss in London with stupid and unexplained magical time travel thrown in. And there's a spirit guide type character. So, yeah, there's actual magic in this.
And the writing?
Juvenile. Filled to the fucking brim with references, like holy fuck. Very herp-derp 'relatable', which is pretty much how Christine talks and acts lmao. Just... not good. It's nothing new, I feel like I've read this book a hundred times because it's so unoriginal and boring. Nothing stands out. And most of the story takes place in like 2011 so there's a lot of 'LOL NEW GAME ANGRY BIRDS WANNA TRY??' and it was sooooooo cringy.
Was actually going to give this a two star rating (because, like I said, it's not a complete wreck, it's just boring and unoriginal) but the last chapter/epilogue bullshit made me cringe so hard I think I entered another dimension.
It's just Christine writing her own wish fulfillment fanfiction!
And if you like that, that's fine. You are allowed to like things, just as I am allowed to not like things. Like wish fulfillment fanfiction. It's fine to do as long as you don't charge people for it.
Even if by some miniscule chance that it's not meant to be a self-insert (which I highly fucking doubt) it still shows so much weakness in her ability as a writer that she can't separate her own voice from her character. Because reading this book is exactly like having Christine tell me a story about something that happened to her, when it really shouldn't.
Having a literary voice or a particular writing style is a thing, but that's not what I mean.
In Vampire Academy, Rose is the main character. When I read those books I don't feel like Richelle Mead is telling me this story, I feel like Rose does.
When I read Madeline Miller's books (my favorite author) I don't feel like she is telling me the stories, it's Patroclus or Circe.
My point is, if you're going to write in first person, you need to be able to separate yourself from your character, which Christine cannot do. Because she hasn't created a character here, it's just her.
So, yeah. I do believe she got this book deal handed to her on a silver fucking platter. I just don't believe that anything this bland that does not include smut could be published on its own.
I would go on a rant again about money-hungry publishers but I'm tired so you can head on to my Zenith review for that.
Just, please. Please stop giving booktubers book deals. It's been proven by now that reading a lot of books and gushing about them online does not mean you can write one yourself. There are so many talented writers who get disregarded in favor of these 'internet sensations'. Imagine all the great stories that never see the light of day because shit like this gets pushed to the front.
“Can we start over?”
Writers are often told to write what you know. Even now, when I think of Shane Primaveri; I see Christine Riccio, I hear Christine Riccio, I feel like I fucking know Christine Riccio. So yes, she did write what she knew, because she wrote herself.
*cries in YA*
I was really hesitant to read this book, but I made an effort to read it independent of its booktube writer. I tried focusing on the story and stayed away from any reviews. It really did not let me, I felt uncomfortable, like a fly on Christine's wall.
Firstly, I want to say that I have no problem with Booktubers getting book deals. I think that it's brilliant that readers, reviewers and writers of Wattpad, Booktube, Goodreads and even Fanfiction are getting some seriously needed exposure. A writer can be successful regardless of how they started. We really are in a time where publishers want to take and make "smart deals," so giving a person that has a high following a book deal is more monetarily productive than giving an indie author a shot. Which understandably, can go really swell or fucking-jump-ship awful.
This was the latter for me.
I felt like this book had a check list that needed to be fulfilled but each point was taken to the extreme and failed miserably. The check list, was the "ultimate" guide to creating a "popular" YA novel. *ahem* Hello, my name is Alex and welcome to my TED talk;
Step 1) Unique Writing
From page 1, I shit you not, page one - this book had an odd writing style. It was like it was trying to reach for poetic prose but instead fell into something riddling. For example, we are being told she is in a plane here:
"Now, I’m thousands of miles over the Atlantic in a giant hollowed-out pen with wings"
Then there were times where I think humor was added, but again maybe I'm just a soulless sock that doesn't understand comedy. So all in all, this started pretty rough for me.
Step 2) Remember to like, be like, relatable
Of course, EVERYONE loves knowing that their issues aren't only their own and somewhere somehow, someone else is also fighting the same issues. Enter Shane...
"Not literally. But, you know that feeling like light being circulated through your veins when you see someone cute, and all the sudden you explode all over with the thrill of said cute person noticing and acknowledging your existence as a human with whom they could potentially fall into a relationship with?"
"I smile back at him and then look away so as not to appear to be a weird statue that stares at him."
"We’re walking down the sidewalk in London together. Pilot and I. Me and Pilot. A cute boy who’s being nice to me. Who I held a conversation with. My heart is having a dance party. It’s also wondering, is this like, a date? No, it’s not a date, but it’s like … a something."
The romance was very two dimensional, and maybe because the characters felt under-developed to me. A lot of the time, they came off as cartoonish and unrealistic. I mean come on, if you are going to name the love interest Pilot Penn, he's got to have something going for him? Poor guy got a name from a stationary set.
The romance was all over the shop and insta-love, and as a romance reader, I've read my fair share of messy love stories. Pilot was a character I really didn't enjoy and being 50% of the romance in this story, it was really hard for me to cheer on Shane and him. The underlying cheating throughout the book added angst but it also makes me wonder why a romance is going on between them in the first place?
Step 3) Let's add an unrealistic depiction of a mental disorder
In all seriousness, this was the asset of the book that I really didn't gel with. Shane has social anxiety and at first, I was happy that this was represented in the book. But then, I saw her "social anxiety" and I wanted to literally curl into a ball. Whoever has anxiety or any mental disorder for that fact, knows that it is not just an excuse for awkward and odd social behavior. It is your mind coming up with 10,000 paranoid alterations of reality and it leaves you feeling completely helpless.
I hated the portrayal of anxiety through Shane and if there is one thing I cannot handle is the way people use actual mental diagnoses to sensationalize and romanticize "regular" behavior.
Like when I hear people say shit like "i like having my pens in order, i'm soooo OCD" or "wow, i hate this traffic, I'm actually gonna commit" or "shit, it's monday tomorrow... i'm depressed"
Also the fact that Shane is magically going to cure her anxiety and social nervousness by going to another country and falling in love and making friends and etc etc etc. is false advertising. You cannot measure mental health progress on a linear scale and say this is the start and this is the end. It's such a distorted representation of how truly unforgiving mental health can be.
Step 4) Diversity! YAY!
Any progressive reader knows that diversity in any book is a fucking gift from heaven. I would love to have a shelf solely for diverse reads, our own voices and minority representation. Even better, I would love for those characters to be the main characters *cough cough* but moving on.
But I hate when authors force diversity, like they are doing something just to check it off. That's not the point of what you are trying to achieve. So yes, I will give a point to Christine for trying to add diversity to her storyline but then just because I wish the execution was better, I'm going to take back half that point.
Which brings me to the character dialogue. Everyone shared the same voice. Everything ended with a '!'
Step 5) Writing what you know
Shane is the main character.
Shane is Christine.
I'm not even going to get into this one too much because I'm pretty sure I've said enough already. Everything about Shane Primaveri was Christine Riccio. Their habits, their dialogue, their hobbies... If you want to know Christine on a really personal level, then this might be for you. Unfortunately, it wasn't for me.
Update: February 11, 2019
pretty sure i'm late to the cover art reveal BUT I MUST SHARE MY FEELS DESPITE NOT KNOWING A THING ABOUT THE INSIDE CONTENTS. i live for overanalyzing art. ps. this is all speculation from a literature nerd.
- see how the division between the white and blue is fluid and not a blunt line in the middle? it appears to be a swaying transition into life as an adult in a new country, suggesting tentative steps to try new things in london. the drastic change in colour could be shane's opening up to new experiences and risks
- shane's walking with a comfortable smile on her face. by the end of the novel, i believe she'll be comfortable with whatever she learns/experiences in london. the transition may be scary and new but by the end of the story, shane may become a bolder version of herself
- the detail on the blue side vs. the lack-of on the white side = more evidence of new experiences and changes in shane's life and of herself. it could also mean she's viewing the newness of everything in london in a more critical and attentive way, taking up everything there is to see in london. to me, the shadows and highlights of the buildings and the sun and the trees indicate multiple layers and a newfound depth to her experiences
these are just three points lmao and i can go in detail about all of them but alas, i must wait for the release date to properly dissect this lovely cover art
Update: August 7, 2018
THERE'S A BLURB AND IT'S SO RELATEABLE
i'm ready for some college adventures + feels, served with dream-crushing realities. homegirl christine DELIVEEER the coming-of-age college story we all deserve pls & ty 💖
a book by the first booktuber i've ever watched?? aka my FAAAVV booktuber?? yaaasss
I NEEDS IT
I knew I was going to love Again But Better well before I read it. The idea of a girl travelling to London to study abroad at her second chance at college to study what she wants, make new friends, and achieve her goals is all I could have wanted to read about as a teenager. I firmly believe that had I read this book at 17, it would be considered one of my favorite books of all time. For this reason, it gave me a unique sense of nostalgia, despite this being a totally new story to me, which had a big influence on why I loved this story so much.
CW: anxiety, cheating
I really liked Shane as a main character. There resemblance to a certain good friend of mine (who *may* have also authored this book) is uncanny, so it would be hard for me not to like her as a protagonist. Shane begins fairly naive, dramatic, and almost goofy, but as the stores spans a long period of time, the character growth is notable and really surprised me in the end. I do wish we had seen more from the side characters as the story strongly focuses on Shane and the love interest Pilot, but they were pleasant additions to the book. I struggled the most with Pilot. Sometimes he was a downright cutie and other times I was so frustrated with him, I thought he was bordering on irredeemable. In the end, I couldn't resist his charm. I had some strong issues with the course of Shane & Pilot's friendship, but it was not detrimental to my view of the story. I just feel a few situations could have been handled with more honesty and courtesy.
I felt the writing of the novel was fair for a debut. It was not spectacular but I feel the pacing and certain storytelling elements were used effectively. My main gripe is that the cadence of Shane's narration just wasn't my cup of tea. I don't consider myself to be the biggest stickler for writing style and can frequently gloss over some issues if the story is fulfilling enough elsewhere, and while that stands true for Again, but Better, my bias being Christine's friend does come into play here. While I may not have been the biggest fan of the sentence structure at times, I'm fully aware that it's Christine's sense of humor and because I think Christine is hilarious, I was able to appreciate it for that reason. There were multiple moments where I said to myself "Ehh I'm not going to chuckle at this" and a few pages later, I could not stop laughing when it was brought up again. I spent a lot of time giggling and smiling while reading, just because I knew it was EXACTLY how Christine would say it. I definitely believe that the writing of this book is not for everyone - it also includes many pop-culture references at the time which a lot of readers dislike, but it was fine to me and even had some shining moments.
A certain fantastical element does come into play halfway through the book, which I thought was cute and fun, though I would be interested to know more of the foundations of it. I did prefer the first half of this book because it was more in line with what I personally wanted from the novel, but there was so much I appreciated in the second half. The character development plus the themes and messages were incredibly uplifting and solidified much of why I liked this book. I do wish the ending was more fleshed out, but again, it's not the biggest deal to me as a reader.
Overall, I had such a great time reading Again, but Better. It fulfilled pretty much all of my expectations and even surprised me in some aspects. This is definitely a book that is made for certain people and not others, but it made my England-obsessed, book-nerd heart fill with joy and I'm not the least bit shocked I enjoyed it so much.
I received a copy of this book from Wednesday Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Still need to read the final draft, but it's a five star from me! 100 STARS FROM ME! So much love and pride for my best friend!