A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Christine Riccio's Again, but Better is all about second chances. Part 1 opens in 2011, as 20-year-old college student Shane Primaveri is headed to London for a semester abroad. Her parents think she's continuing her pre-med studies, but she's actually pursuing her first love, writing. She develops a mad crush on one of her flatmates, Pilot Penn, but he already has a girlfriend, and the semester ends with her love still unexpressed. Part 2 opens in 2017, as Shane decides to contact Pilot and see if there might be a chance for them. There is, of course, a second chance, as the two are magically transported back to 2011 and must make a life-altering decision: Do they return to their lives or stay in the past and make a new future for themselves? There's a fair bit of profanity ("f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "bitch," "crap") and a briefly described shower scene in which characters kiss and remove each other's clothes. Teen readers may know or follow Riccio, as she's one of the three YouTubers behind Booksplosion, the platform's longest-running book club (since 2014). Her own channel, PolandbananasBOOKS, has more than 400,000 subscribers.
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What's the story?
AGAIN, BUT BETTER: That's what Shane Primaveri wishes for when it comes to her relationship (or lack thereof) with Pilot Penn. Part 1 begins in 2011, as Shane is arriving for a semester abroad in London. Shane's hoping her time in London ("I'm leaving the country because I have no friends") will bring adventure, new friends, and a longed for first kiss. She's even lied to her parents, telling them she'll be continuing her pre-med studies rather trying for a writing internship. Pilot is one of her assigned flatmates, and they soon bond over a love of the Beatles. During the semester, Shane and her friends travel to Rome and Paris, she gets a much hoped for internship at a travel magazine, and it's revealed that Pilot has a girlfriend back in the U.S. Shane does get that first kiss, with someone she meets in a bar and is known only as "Rugby Guy." Part 1 ends with Shane never telling Pilot how she really feels about him. Part 2 opens in 2017, with Shane in Boston interviewing for a medical residency. Yes, her parents got their way. She has a boyfriend but can't resist making an unannounced visit to Pilot's office. Thanks to a mysterious copper-headed woman and a falling elevator, she gets her second chance with Pilot. They find themselves back in London in 2011, told they can either rewrite their past or return to their 2017 lives by using a "reset button" they'll find when they relive a trip to Rome.
Is it any good?
With a semester abroad in London as the backdrop, this light romcom by one of YouTube's top booktubers gives two young Americans a magical second chance at love. Readers are likely to either be delighted by the Shane in Part 1 of Again, but Better or feel as if they've been locked in a room with a self-absorbed 20-year-old who leaves no thought unexpressed and is certain you'll be interested in even the most mundane detail of her day. One thing Riccio never adequately addresses is the abusive behavior of Shane's parents, who make it clear they'll support her (financially and emotionally) only if she becomes a doctor.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Again, but Better depicts what it's like to spend a semester abroad. Is this something you might like to do someday? Where would you like to study?
How do you find out about new books you'd like to read? Do you follow booktubers on YouTube or a blog or podcast that reviews books for teens? Which ones are your favorite?
Do you think parents should have a say in what their children study in college or the career they choose?
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