I feel like I have to put out a disclaimer saying that I didn’t go into this book expecting or hoping to hate it. I was planning on supporting a fellow Booktuber, because I think it’s great that Booktubers and book bloggers are getting book deals after they’ve worked so hard on their writing. Unfortunately, Again, But Better didn’t work out for me, and I’m gonna explain why.
First of all, I did read an ARC of this and not the final version, which might explain some things, but I have to say that I feel like the book needed a lot of polishing. The writing was incredibly clumsy, and it drew me out of the story (which I wasn’t particularly enjoying, but more on that in a bit). Some examples from the uncorrected proof are:
“It doesn’t look too strange because the purse is really small, but it does look a little strange.”
“I’m going to have to take it off when I know it’s dark”
“I finally caught sight of him walking into the kitchen through the bedroom window.”
My issues with the writing weren’t helped by the fact that there was a lot of telling instead of showing. There was a lot of “we did this, and then they decided to this, and they want to do this later”.
And oh my god, while I’m talking about the writing, I also have to mention the names. The character names in this book were a joke. The love interest was called Pilot Penn, and their friends were called Babe Lozenge (a Lozenge is something you take when you’re sick) and Atticus. I was rolling my eyes so hard.
Shane, the main character, had a lot of potential for growth. Yes, she is a self-insert. Massively. She has the same blonde hair as Christine, the same quirky personality, a similar Italian surname, the same kind of username… I’m not sure what the author or the publisher were thinking when they let the character have a blog called FrenchWatermelon19. They must have known that readers generally don’t like self inserts, right?
I would have loved Shane to have been developed more, but instead she was exactly the same in 2017 as she was in 2011 (there’s a time jump halfway through the book). She didn’t grow up at all, and she was still obsessed with a guy (Pilot) that she knew for a couple of months six years previously and who she hadn’t spoken to since. The obsession was weird and uncomfortable, and I did hope that the author was going to show that that’s, well, not a good way to go about things, but she didn’t. It made me kind of angry, since Pilot had a girlfriend the entire time Shane knew him, and when Shane went to find him in 2017, he had been with said girlfriend for six years. And Shane didn’t care.
Shane also supposedly had social anxiety, but I wasn’t a massive fan of how that was handled as it just seemed to switch on and off whenever the plot called for it. It wasn’t handled well, and in my opinion Shane was mostly just awkward and quirky and shy rather than suffering from anxiety.
Another thing that really got to me was Shane’s abusive father, and how that wasn’t mentioned or addressed. The guy is very controlling, and there’s a scene in the first third of the book where he visits Shane in the UK and gets angry with her in a public restaurant in front of all her friends. He ends up belittling her, talking down at her, and then destroying her mobile phone. Destroying someone’s things like that isn’t good parenting, and in my opinion it counts as abuse. I’m really disappointed that it was portrayed as normal, and not spoken about again.
Those are pretty much all my thoughts on this book. I realise I spoke about it very negatively, but I didn’t want to give it just one star because I feel like it had some potential, and I didn’t outright hate it. I think I would probably check out more of Riccio’s work later to see if her writing improves (and if she stops inserting herself into her stories!), because there was definitely some potential there. It’s just Again, But Better wasn’t executed very well and it ended up being full of things that I absolutely hate, like cheating and abusive parents.