Title: Better Together
Author: Christine Riccio
Pub. Date: June 1, 2021
Pub: Wednesday Books
Genre: YA LGBT Contemporary Romance
Jamie’s an aspiring standup comic in Los Angeles with a growing case of stage anxiety.
Siri’s a stunning ballerina from New Jersey nursing a career-changing injury.
They’ve both signed up for the same session at an off the grid Re-Discover Yourself Retreat in Colorado. When they run into each other, their worlds turn upside down.
Jamie and Siri are sisters, torn apart at a young age by their parent’s volatile divorce. They’ve grown up living completely separate lives: Jamie with their Dad and Siri with their Mom. Now, reunited after over a decade apart, they hatch a plot to switch places. It’s time they get to know and confront each of their estranged parents.
With an accidental assist from some fortuitous magic, Jamie arrives in New Jersey, looking to all the world like Siri, and Siri steps off her flight sporting a Jamie glamour.
The sisters unexpectedly find themselves stuck living in each other’s shoes. Soon Siri’s crushing on Jamie’s best friend Dawn. Jamie’s falling for the handsome New Yorker she keeps running into, Zarar. Alongside a parade of hijinks and budding romance, both girls work to navigate their broken family life and the stresses of impending adulthood.
Freaky Friday meets The Parent Trap in New York Times bestselling author Christine Riccio’s Better Together, a sparkling and heartfelt story about sisters, second chances, finding romance, and finding yourself.
This will be a spoiler free review. I split my reading between an eARC and Audiobook. Thank you to NetGalley and Wednesday books for providing and eARC in exchange for an honest review.
My expectations were high.
My excitement was through the roof.
I really loved Christine’s debut – Again, but Better, so I was really looking forward to Better Together.
This didn’t meet my expectations in the slightest. While I did end up enjoying the book (it was a really rocky start) the beginning just kind of hurt the book for me. The first part of this book is rough. It’s hard to get through. The MCs aren’t really likeable, the euphemisms Siri uses to curse are atrocious. No one talks like that. I can understand not wanting or liking to swear, but “gluteus Maximus trench” “underworld” “excrement” and “you’ve got to be intercoursing kidding” are just fucking obnoxious. It’s not quirky or cute or anything. It’s just obnoxious.
On top of that – knowing she’s dealing with a lot prior to smacking into her sister – she’s still whiny and insecure and irritating. Maybe I just can’t relate at all, but I wanted to take her by the shoulders and tell her to get over herself. That’s unfair of me to say, since she’s dealing with something really traumatic for her, and it’s not something easily to just move past, but omfg I just wanted her to buck up.
Jamie is crass and abrasive to the point you just want her to stop talking. Her ego is self-inflated, she has little respect for anyone and seems to think the world exists for her, and her alone. She thinks she has the world figured out – keep everyone at a distance, don’t let anyone in, and all will be well with her life. Her stand-up comedy was okay, but it never had me laughing. I feel like if you’re going to write comedy, you need to be good at it. I just never really bought into it as Jamie’s career choice. It’s an interesting choice you don’t read about often, but I didn’t find it funny, and shouldn’t it make the reader react?
And while they’re both seriously fucked up emotionally, I felt very little sympathy for either of them.
But more on them later.
Let’s talk plot.
So much happens in this book. It’s obviously Parent Trap meets Freaky Friday – which I’m not upset about and knew going in. And true to Christine form, there’s a little touch of magic (an element I love).
But a lot happens.
Arguably almost too much. The plot felt a little jumbled. I’m sitting here thinking about it and honestly, I’m not entirely sure how we got from Point A to Point B. It was a whirlwind – which isn’t helped by the fact that the beginning was incredibly difficult to get through.
I nearly DNF’d this book. I really wasn’t impressed, I wasn’t a fan of the characters, found the male love interest to be so-so (my opinion of him does change for the better, later) and I really wasn’t a fan of the whole Timothee Chalamet cameo.
Can we just address that for a second? Personal preference aside (he does absolutely nothing for me, I don’t understand why people love him) it was weird that he was a character in this. I really didn’t like this element, found it to be very strange and completely random. Okay, cool, Siri like’s Billie Eilish, but she doesn’t have a speaking part in this book. It just read weird, and I really wasn’t a fan. It felt like Christine was just making an assumption, and maybe so am I, but he comes across as pretentious and above having what basically equates to a high-end outdoor barbecue. I just hated the whole interaction and continued incorporation of him in this book.
Also, is this actually being marketed as YA? Upper YA sure, but it definitely read more like a NA Contemporary – especially when it comes to Jamie and Zarar. All the characters are 18+ dealing with some heavy emotional and traumatic stuff.
For me, this book only got interesting after Jamie and Siri switch places, and the Freaky Friday element comes into play. The whole stint at the camp was boring and it was nothing more than a tool to get them to “accidentally” meet. I wasn’t invested until they stepped into each other’s shoes. But even then, it was mild investment at best.
I did eventually get sucked in, I started liking Jamie and Siri more – it was almost like, if they’d be each other from the get-go, they would have been infinitely more likeable. But, honestly, probably not.
This is when I started to like Zarar and I found myself wishing I could be Jamie lol. Shocking, I know. I really loved the two of them together, found them to be really cute. Their dynamic worked really well, and it was so clear how much he was into her.
Jamie and Siri became much more tolerable – likeable in the second half of this book. They’re still pretty annoying at times, but I started to root for them feel for them. There was definitely still a disconnect between myself and the story, but I no longer wanted to listen to it, just to see how bad it could be. I kept hoping that it would get better – and it did. Just not as much as I’d hoped.
The very ending felt a bit anticlimactic, and I was left underwhelmed, but everything leading up to the culmination of the Parent Trap/Freaky Friday plot had me invested. I found myself wanting to know what happens next.
I wish I’d loved this as much as I did Again, but Better. I’m glad that my opinion changed as I read the book. I honestly thought I was going to have to give it a 1- or 2-star rating. Do I regret reading it? No, I’m glad I did, and I’ll still probably read whatever Christine writes next. I just had high hopes and they weren’t met. This book has a lot of issues, and I can only hope that Christine’s characters grow to become more likeable as she hones her craft.
I don’t want to recommend not reading this book – it’s definitely worth the chance. The emotionally charged scenes towards the end are really good and keep you wanting to know more, to see what happens. Just know, that the first part of this book is going to be brutal, the “cussing” is going to drive you insane, and the character personalities leave a lot to be desired. But if you can push past the first ~150 pages or so, the book finds a groove and takes off. It’s out now, so you don’t have to wait.