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. 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.
Before long, they come up with the idea to switch places. While they aren't twins, they look alike enough, and they think they can pull it off since their parents haven't seen the other child in more than a decade, since they were little children. While one sister works through her emotions by trying to write a comedy routine, the other feels a huge sense of loss since her dream of being a ballet dancer has ended after an injury. Their relationship evolves, slowly but surely, and they plot to teach their parents a lesson for separating them and keeping them from each other for so many years.
Angst, raw emotion, and heartfelt drama comes jam-packed into this novel that captures themes of staying true to oneself and finding the voice and path that are right for each individual. Christine Riccio has written a creative, magical, and thrilling story of relationships, love, loss, and everything in between.
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.