Okay, it’s time to post this review, I think. I’ve had it sit in my drafts written and ready to go ever since I finished it but I couldn’t decide quite when to post it. But yeah, here’s my review for Again, But Better – a book I was super excited about reading but ended up being super disappointed by.
Read on to find out why – there are a lot of reasons. Why couldn’t this have been done better?!
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. (via Goodreads.com)
Discussing Plot Points & Writing
I had so much fun writing my last review in this format, that I decided to bring it back for my review of Again, But Better too as it gave me more freedom to talk about the book and what I did/didn’t enjoy in more detail.
There will be spoilers towards the very end, but I’ve given you a spoiler warning before we get to it to make sure you guys don’t see anything you don’t want to see before having finished the book!
Forced Quirkiness – One of the very first things I made a note of was how this book tried too hard to be quirky. How the character Shane is clumsy and it’s all part of her quirky character (only second to her love of pop culture references!) and it just kept making me more and more angry as the book went on. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve read a book that tried this hard to be quirky ever.
Pilot Penn – Speaking of quirkiness… Was this name supposed to be that too? Because to me it was just straight up stupid. Who even names their character that? And then apparently no one, not even once brings up the pen brand to him until almost all the way through the book when it suddenly becomes a thing Shane comments on.
Shane Felt Too Much Like Christine – The main reason why I wanted to pick up this book was because it’s written by Christine. I’ve been following her YouTube channel for years now and really like her as a person. What I got really close to hating though was the fact that Shane was pretty much a ficitionalized version of Christine. She loved all of the things Christine loves (Lost, Cassie Clare books and pop culture references), she’s a writer (we shall not talk about her blog name…) and basically had the exact same college experience as Christine. You’re basically reading a novel all about Christine’s life and it gets increasingly more awkward and weird because you feel like you’re reading about Christine. Not a fictional character.
The Writing Just Didn’t Click/Work For Me – I feel like you can definitely tell that Christine wrote this book and while her way of talking and telling stories works for her YouTube channel it just didn’t work for me here. I kept being pulled out of the story by dialogue that felt completely unnatural or just the way she phrased certain things (at times, it felt like she was trying really hard not talk about breathing in a normal way? Shane ‘vacuums up oxygen’ for example…) were like cold water to the face and a sure way to pull you out of the story itself.
The Magical Element Felt So Forced/Wasn’t Explained Enough – Again, But Better is a contemporary with a magical element (that I didn’t even expect. I hadn’t read the synopsis in a while) but it just didn’t work for me and wasn’t explained enough? Plus, part of the magical element was so annoying and whenever it showed up, I was just sitting here like ‘NO.’.
Too Many God Damn Pop Culture References – Shane’s a HUGE fan of the series Lost and she’ll bring it up whenever possible. Her laptop is named after Sawyer from the show. But not only that. What would a contemporary be without at least once dropping a Harry Potter reference… And there’s so much more where those came from. It also made the story quite dated by including all of these things into the story as a whole.
Shane Basically Doesn’t Mature At All – Not only does Shane barely mature, oh no. She starts out acting really immature (she’s supposed to be 20 at the beginning) from the beginning and by the end nothing much has changed. In fact, she pretty much deals with things the exact same way no matter how old she is. And she just straight up doesn’t learn anything from her mistakes? I don’t know why this particular book was titled Again, But Better because it ends up being the exact same mess in the end.
Parents Who Belong In The Trash Can – We’ve already covered how immature Shane is, but don’t you worry! She isn’t the only immature character. Oh no. Her parents are immature AF too and her dad especially deserves to be thrown in a trash can. He’s yells at Shane and belittles her infront of her friends all while basically throwing a temper tantrum (think a toddler who’s super tired but refuses to go to bed not getting something they want) and then calling his own daughter a ‘little shit’. And Shane just takes it. Her mother isn’t really much help either. This book pissed me off in general but my god, these parents and especially the father took the fucking cake.
And then instead of, you know, learning from her mistakes and doing things – dare I say – better the second time around Shane just does the exact same again and we’re treated to a second round of her father being an asshole – minus Shane breaking down because she knew what was coming this time around. I just, this pissed me off so much.
Convinient Way Of Dealing With Cheating – If you were to task me what’s something I do not want to read about in books, it’s cheating. And because Again, But Better apparently hadn’t annoyed me enough just yet there was also cheating in the book.
Shane and Pilot basically get a chance to do their London study abroad thing all over again – you know, do it again, but better. They’re both in relationships when they go back in time (with their memories still very much intact) and Shane insists on not doing anything until Pilot breaks up with his girlfriend (she’s the same girl he’s dating while they’re in London – though I don’t know why they’re even dating. Pilot doesn’t seem all that in love with her to begin with). What does Pilot do? He ends up leaving her a voicemail because he can’t get a hold on her and tells Shane that he’s single now.
Yeah, he’s the guy to break up over voicemail. But it gets worse, don’t you worry. Shane and Pilot go on their adventures that they did the first time around, they grow closer, they kiss and I’m 80% certain they have sex too. BUT GUESS WHAT. Pilot’s girlfriend never actually got the voicemail so she shows up in London just like she did the first time around. Fun times. So there’s cheating going on here, Pilot might think he’s single (which… no.) but Shane is very much still dating someone back in New York? But that’s apparently not something she worries about? Not once.
And here’s the ‘best thing’. The way it’s dealt with (or, you know, not dealt with) is by having Shane and Pilot stay in the timeline where they’re redoing London instead of going back (and loosing their memories of their do over) and Shane facing what she did. Guess that was easier to do.
Here’s something I realized as I was writing this review: the book title is misleading and mostly wrong for how the story goes. I know it refers to Shane wanting a do-over on her college experience when we first start out but that’s just not what happens, especially later on.
God, I would’ve loved this so, so much if things would’ve actually been done Again, But Better in the end. There are so many opportunities to right some of the wrongs that happened and give the characters a much more satisfying arc, but instead it’s the same mess all over again.
I was honestly so, so excited to go into this book and to see what kind of story Christine had written but I ended up being super disappointed by it. I kept getting close to just DNFing this book and I would’ve done it if it weren’t for Caro who I was buddy reading this book with. This gave me the chance to let off some steam and see if it was just me who didn’t feel this book.
Lastly, I feel like maybe if you aren’t as familiar with Christine as a person you might end up enjoying the book a little bit more? And I really do hope you have a better reading experience with this book than I did.
Rating & Release Date
Again, But Better will be released on May 7th by Wednesday Books and is a book I ended up giving 2 stars.
Are any of you guys planning on reading this book? Or did you maybe get an ARC and read this early? What did you think? Were you in a similar position as myself? Let me know in the comments down below – I can’t wait to hear from you!