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// Genre & Themes: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, romance, sister story

// Publisher: Wednesday Books

// Synopsis: 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.

Jamie and Siri are sisters who haven’t seen each other in 14 years. After Siri gets an injury that prevents her from her ballet career and Jamie fails a stand-up show, they both end up at a retreat for self-reflection. After they reunite Jamie proposes a plan to swap places and confront their parents. Thanks to a little magic found in the woods, it becomes easy to pull it off and Jamie is off to New York, and Siri is in LA.

To start, I really connected with Siri. While I don’t have the same anxiety that she does, I related to how she talked about managing her anger, and not wanting to be angry all the time. She’s also bisexual (like me) and I loved her romance with Dawn. I felt the chemistry between them.

But we need to talk about how she swears. Examples:

“Are you intercoursing kidding me?”
“What the underworld?”

She says that she doesn’t use “vulgar words”. . .but there’s already alternatives for those who don’t like to swear. Using “intercoursing” as an alternative to “fucking” adds two extra syllables and doesn’t roll off the tongue. She uses these words pretty often, and it ruined my immersion because it was so unnatural.

Jamie is our other protagonist. And she is extremely frustrating to me. Right off the bat her characterization was inconsistent, and it made it hard to get to know her or like her. I’m going to use an example with Zarar.

Within the first 50 pages, she meets Zarar, remarks on how attractive he is, and then flirts with him. A lot. It’s borderline harassment, especially because he doesn’t seem to like it. And then he asks her out and she. . .says no. And then talks about how weird it is for him to ask her and why does he seems to like me so much? Then she was back to flirting with him in the next few pages. Confusing, to say the least.

Throughout the book she treats Zarar, and others like shit and when he finally puts his foot down and says no, she acts all confused. “I didn’t mean for this to happen!”, “What did I do?”, etc.

Honestly, I didn’t get why he liked her. I felt like their romance was forced and awkward. But maybe my tolerance level was low—Jamie isn’t exactly a likable character. She’s a self-proclaimed asshole. So I was never really rooting for her.

Click for spoilers about Jamie and Zarar

At the end, when he finally gets mad at her for ghosting him, she goes back to him, offers a peace offering, and then asks a favor. Just imagine going up to someone pissed at you, not saying sorry, and then asking for a favor. 😑

After that, she never truly apologizes. She does something kind of cute, but I don’t get why he would be into her. She’s been treating him like shit since day one but she writes him a note that literally says “sorry for ghosting you” and they’re good?

I don’t know. There were points where I thought Jamie was getting better, and then she just doubles down. As someone who struggles with the cripple self doubt of ever finding someone (#AsexualProblems) I think it’s just frustrating for me to read characters tanking their own relationships because they can’t get over their own issues.

Part of the aesthetic I made for Better Together. Find the full Pinterest board here

I do like the magic aspect. I’m a fan of adding a big of magic in a contemporary novel. While I prefer more surrealist style—like Elatsoe—I kind of like it. The way the magic is written kind of reminds me of late 90s\early 2000s movies. I’m not entirely sure how to describe it, but it just fits that aesthetic.

I’ve seen some reviews that cash how the magic is done, but I was actually a fan of it and I think it’s pretty cute.

I also enjoyed the writing style. I’ve already said it, but it really fits the late 90s\early 2000s Disney aesthetic, and I could totally see it as a movie in my mind. Even though Parent Trap is a comp title, it was far enough away from the movie that it didn’t feel like a retelling.


Overall, I gave Better Together three stars. The beginning was rough, Jamie was mostly insufferable, but I really connected to Siri, and I liked the nostalgic Disney vibe I got. I also liked the writing style and the setting. I think Christine Riccio is a good writer, and I’ll probably read more from her in the future. Particularly if she writes more characters like Siri.

Photo by Nadim Merrikh

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