Again, but Better by Christine Riccio – A Review

Again but Better Christine Riccio

Again, but Better by Christine Riccio
Contemporary | New Adult | Romance
Published by Wednesday Books
Released May 7th, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_2_and_a_half_stars

“So—why didn’t something happen?”

Because of me. Because I let fear make decisions for me. Because I’ve chosen to let the world push me around instead of pushing my way through the world.”

You may recognize Christine Riccio’s name, especially if you’re in the book community. Christine is one of the most popular booktubers on YouTube, where her channel, PolandBananasBooks has over 400,000 subscribers. Again, but Better is Riccio’s debut novel.

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Christine Riccio

While I don’t usually read a great deal of young adult or new adult contemporary fiction, I was intrigued by the concept of this book. The story follows a university student named Shane Primaveri who is traveling to London for a semester of study-abroad classes. Her goal is to essentially have a college do-over; at her American school, she’s quiet and doesn’t have a lot of friends, so in London, she decides to be outgoing and social.

Once in London, she makes friends with her roommates Babe and Sahra, and her male neighbors, Pilot and Atticus. A romantic relationship starts to spark between herself and Pilot, and the story moves on from there.

The main reason I was intrigued by this novel was its unexpected time travel element. I can’t say too much about this part of the book because there would be major spoilers involved, but essentially, Shane has the chance to live a hypothetical question that many of us think about: If you could go back in time with all of the knowledge that you have now, would you do it? I love thinking about that question (and if you’re curious about my answer, I would absolutely go back in time for a do-over), and I haven’t found many books that discuss that question.

Another aspect of the novel that drew me in is that I wanted to live vicariously through a character that did something that I really wanted to do in college. Before I dropped out of my political science program (because it was making me angry and cynical), I really wanted to study abroad in the U.K. Aside from my obsession with British history (which started in high school out of the blue), like Shane, I also wanted a social do-over. I’ve always been the quiet, meek girl, and have always had an irrational desire to move to a new place to become a different person. It’s never worked, of course. As Neil Gaiman wrote in The Graveyard Book, “Wherever you go, you take yourself with you.”

That’s all that I feel comfortable saying about the plot of the novel, so let’s move on to my review.

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While I was entertained by this novel in a guilty-pleasure sort of way, objectively, it wasn’t good. For the first several chapters, I seriously considered DNF-ing it, but I talked myself out of it and read on. It was a fun, light story, but one that I probably wouldn’t read again.

The book itself and its characters were incredibly cringy and overwhelmingly silly. First, we have the characters’ names – Pilot Penn, Babe Lozenge, etc. Second, nearly everything that Shane does made me cringe, from the way she talks to her crush, Pilot, the never-ending Lost, Dan Brown, and Taylor Swift references, to just Shane’s behavior in general. Her character is awkward as hell and, again, super cringy. Shane has a tendency to act much more immature than a college student should have. One out of the many, many examples: On their first day in the dorms, Shane and Pilot walk to a grocery store and the whole time Shane is trying to decide if it’s a date and if he’s going to kiss her. Seriously? She literally just met him and knows nothing about him. It was an annoying part of the book.

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The relationship between Shane and Pilot was mediocre. For one thing, Shane becomes obsessed with a guy she barely knows. It’s very insta-lovey, which is a trope that drives me insane. For the majority of the book, she obsesses over everything he does, in a manner that is borderline stalkerish. Also, Pilot has a girlfriend back in America. Once Shane discovers this information, it doesn’t stop her from swooning over him and pretending that he’ll still choose her. I can never get behind cheating in a relationship, even in a fictional story, so that alone was one of the reasons I gave this novel a lower rating. Shane is way too okay with continuing to flirt with Pilot without ever talking to him about his girlfriend; at least until his girlfriend comes to visit and she is forced to confront the issue. It’s one of Shane’s characteristics that make her an untrustworthy character, along with the fact that she lies to her parents about why she’s in London.

While I knew about the magical aspects of the novel ahead of time, it still caught me a little bit off-guard. The time travel was done pretty well, but it was incredibly predictable. I doubt many people would be able to read this book and not predict its outcome.

One of the positive things about this novel was that it was a pretty decent portrayal of social anxiety. Shane obsesses over how she appears to her new friends and has to force herself to become more social. That’s something that a lot of us can relate to.

The last thing I want to say in this review (which is turning out to be quite a bit longer than I was expecting) is that it’s very clear that Shane is Christine. I feel like she didn’t even try to disguise the similarities. First, Shane is a blogger that writes under the name FrenchWatermelons19. Second, the description of Shane’s character could also describe Christine. Third, there are tons of references to books that Christine talks about frequently on her channel, such as Twilight, Harry Potter, and the Shadowhunter books.

In the end, while I did enjoy reading this book, it wasn’t good. There were so many issues with the writing and characters that I found myself unable to overlook. If you’re a fan of Christine Riccio and want to read this novel, go ahead. However, if you’re looking for great literature, this is most definitely not it.


Have you read Again, but Better? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!


Looking for some more contemporary fiction?

With the Fire on High | The Unhoneymooners | A Very Large Expanse of Sea | The Hate U Give | The Simple Wild




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The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas – A Review

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The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas
Science Fiction | Mystery
Published by Crooked Lane Books
Released August 9, 2018
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars

I didn’t know too much about this book before starting it. I saw it at my local library, and thought to myself, “Wow, that’s a cool cover. And I love time travel!” So, I promptly checked it out and brought it home.

I’m glad I brought it home, because WOW. This book and Kate Mascarenhas’s writing blew me away. I inhaled this book in just a couple of days because I was hooked.

The Psychology of Time Travel is a non-linear mystery story involving time travel. Four women worked together to create time travel in 1967. One of these women, Barbara, has a bit of a mental breakdown and is promptly given the boot out of the team.

Fifty years into the future, Barbara’s granddaughter, Ruby, finds a small, origami rabbit on her doorstep with a date in the near future. She becomes concerned that the date might be that of her grandmother’s death and sets out to uncover the truth about the Time Traveler’s Conclave.

We also meet Odette, who stumbles upon the scene of a gruesome murder and is trying to figure out the mystery of who was murdered and how.

This novel is complex and told in a non-linear format. We jump from past to future frequently, but I never felt lost or confused. The story is easy to follow.

The characters are wonderfully written with very distinct personalities and motives. One of the aspects of this novel that I enjoyed was that practically its entire cast is made up of female characters, with LGBTQ representations. It’s so rare, especially in science fiction, to find a novel that isn’t dominated by male characters.

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It’s very clear that the novel is written by someone with a degree in psychology, which Kate Mascarenhas has. The novel is focused on how people would deal with time travel and how it would influence our perspectives. The impact time travel would have on crime was particularly fascinating:  Would authorities be able to use time travel to catch the perpetrator, or would it still happen?  Questions like that are examined throughout the novel.

My favorite aspect of the novel was the examination of how Mascarenhas’s characters dealt with traveling into the past to see loved ones who had passed.

“When you’re a time traveler, the people you love die, and you carry on seeing them, so their death stops making a difference to you. The only death that will ever change things is your own.”

So much of time travel literature and media is limited by paradoxes and not running into your former selves, but that is not the case in the world Mascarenhas has created. In this novel, it’s normal to watch yourself die, hang out with your future or past selves, or even to have sex with yourself. Without the limitations of paradoxes, so many opportunities are opened up.

The novel also deals with difficult topics, but in a new light, such as mental illness, trauma, sexuality, love and loss, and death. All of these issues are touched on and examined through the lens of time travel.

This book has stuck with me as few others have. Usually, it’s simple for me to finish a book and go on to another, but this book left me with an intense book hangover. I kept coming back to the story over and over again in my head. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read before.

I sincerely hope that Kate Mascarenhas will write more novels in the future.


Sidenote: Kate Mascarenhas’s website contains some dioramas inspired by the book. Check them out here. There’s also a video of her talking about the book, which is fascinating.




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