Jamie is 20 years old and aspires to be a stand-up comedian. Although, after one particularly terrible set, she is not sure if she has what it takes. She lives with her producer father in California, and he has recently made her sign a contract to move back home after she was evicted from her apartment for paying rent two days late. The first item on the contract is to go to therapy or to the retreat her Grams has been talking about - the Re-Discover Yourself Retreat in Colorado. Ultimately, she elects to go to the retreat and thinks she can work on improving her material there.
What neither of them expects is to literally run into the other there. Siri has been told that Jamie was a figment of her 4-year-old imagination, and Jamie has not looked back since she left with her father when she was 6. As they slowly get to know each other and notice how much they look alike, they formulate a plan to get back at their parents - a switch for 5 days before they lure their parents to Vegas to switch back. With the help of a happy haunted walking trail, they also accidentally switch bodies that seals the deal.
As they try to figure out how to undo the magic and learn about the parent they haven't seen in 14 years while dealing with all the baggage of such a separation, Jamie and Siri must also heal from their pasts and move forward with their lives.
What I loved: I was completely riveted by this read from the start. The mix of Parent Trap and Freaky Friday was absolutely delicious and I loved the way it all played out here. The light touch of magic and the way it all happened added a nice touch of comedy that totally played into the book. The writing itself was a cross between serious and comedy, and I appreciated that it did not shy away from the hard stuff but tackled a lot of it head-on, while also managing to thread in some humor. Both sisters have a past from which they need to heal and a lot of wounds that they are hanging onto. The inclusion of therapy was a great touch here, and I appreciated that it was helpful - a great example for young readers.
Jamie has a twisted view on relationships and love because she remembers those early years. With the help of a new love interest, Zarar, who was completely adorable and sincere, she begins to realize the truth of the matter and the important things in life. I really loved the romance for her, and the way she navigates her feelings. Zarar takes a lot, but I also appreciated that he does push back when needed.
Siri is more of an open book, but she feels a bit aimless with the guiding star of professional ballet. Her sincerity and emotional maturity act as a balance for the more impulsive Jamie. I also really loved the way her story unfolded with ultimate acceptance of what she cannot change, and a totally sweet and swoon-worthy romance with Jamie's BFF, Dawn. Siri remains sensitive to the needs of those around her, and I loved the way she began to come into her own.
With a plot that is absolutely thrilling and thought-provoking themes around romance, family, sisterhood, and future paths, this book is absolutely fantastic read all-around. I also have to give some mad props about the "happy haunted" forest, which has me tickled pink. It's a wild idea, but Riccio totally pulled it off with aplomb.
Final verdict: Riveting, comedic, and charming, BETTER TOGETHER is a compelling YA contemporary read about family and sisters with the perfect dose of romance and magic.