This is my first book review here for 2020. I meant to post one in January, but my wisdom teeth came out, and with that came the ability to write for a few weeks as I was recovering. Another review will be up, covering what I have missed.
You never know what you’ll get when a book appears in the New YA section, and the summary draws you within it. I nearly let the due date run out on this one, but decided to give it a chance. The story grabbed me.
Again, But Better
Again, But Better is a story about second chances by BookTuber Christine Riccio. The main character is an aspiring writer, who is pushed by her parents into becoming a doctor. Shane wants more out of college than studying, however, and feels burned out from the constant lack of socialization. She decides to take a semester abroad in London, just to try and accomplish her list of kissing a guy, trying to get drunk, and have more adventures in general. That means lying to her parents about working in an urgent-care facility while interning at a rocking travel magazine for teens.
A mysterious lady meets her on a plane and encourages her to fulfill everything on her list. Just as Shane makes headway, the guy she likes has a suspicious girlfriend and her parents angrily force her to come home when they learn the study abroad program didn’t have any premed options. (They really need to chill; my older sister was an English major and she is a fabulous radiologist now.) In the meantime, she falls out with her family, the guy in question named Pilot, and her writing dreams.
Shane is shown how wrong things have gone about six years later when she is interviewing for residency. Her cousin Leo, who is a bit of a jerk, drops out of school and loses a scholarship; he becomes a pariah to the family. Shane had written him off because he was mean to her about getting busted for lying to her parents. It turns out that Leo could have used a confidante, but he was unable to find the words to express his fears and felt alone. I won’t spoil what the thing is.
More importantly for Shane, she’s engaged to a nice guy who is perfect for her but they also have little to no chemistry. On an impulse trip, Shane goes to visit Pilot to confess her feelings and get closure. Pilot gets furious at her for opening old wounds, but then they end up back in London, in 2011. The lady returns, telling them they have a chance to make different choices. As an added bonus, their memories don’t get wiped, so they can figure out where they went wrong. Shane realizes her epiphany means not wanting her boring, safe future but taking risks.
Growing Up Adventurous
I come from a family of doctors, and I am lucky that I was not pushed into taking that route. My family has let me decide what I want to do, which includes writing on Medium here. Shane’s more alone in that she really doesn’t have a choice, in terms of what her family expects her to be. Even when she does everything they want in the first timeline, they’re not happy with her. It takes her deciding to show that her way is successful for them to change their tune.
We all wonder what would happen if thrust back several years into the past, and we decided to take a second chance on choices we did or didn’t make. (I would have done that summer program and taken the risk of an unknown city.) Obviously, not all the choices we make are the right ones. Shane’s pursuit of Pilot once more leads to her being late for her dream internship and making a bad first impression, while the first time she had done a better job at that. Others make more sense; she reaches out to Leo and asks him what’s going on while having the experience to not post on Facebook and get harassed by her cousins.
Shane realizes that she can’t wait for life or conflict to come for her; if she wants to succeed, she must be proactive. Whether that’s making coffee for her boss or standing up to Pilot for being a coward, Shane has to take action. That is how success happens, after all.
I will say the book is too long in how it details the way life turned out for Shane and Pilot in 2017. That part could have been condensed, as the important part is them having regrets and wanting to change what happened in the past. It could have been reduced to a few pages instead of a few chapters. Apart from that, however, the book struck all the right notes of emotional pangs and wish fulfillment.
This was a great book to start the year, to remind us of “what if?” and analyzing the factors that control our future. As we march into an uncertain 2020, Christine Riccio reminds us what it was like to be a teenager and how far we have all grown and changed.