Title: Alex Approximately
Author: Jenn Bennett
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Release Date: April 4th 2017 from Simon Pulse
Format: Personal Kindle Book
Goodreads Synopsis: Classic movie fan Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online as Alex. Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.
Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new archnemesis. But life is a whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever it is she’s starting to feel for Porter.
And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately.
So when this book came out last year, this contemporary was popular on Booktube and at the library I work at. I had read a couple contemporaries by that point and was really interested in this one, so I bought it on my Kindle. About a year later, I finally read it and became very disappointed in the end. I enjoyed about the first half of the book, but the last half had a lot of stuff that made me feel cheated. Now, there will be possible spoilers in this review because some of my beef deals with stuff later in the book. If you not sure if you want to read this whole thing, then definitely come back and read this when you finish the book. But with that fair warning, let’s discuss why this didn’t work for me. These five things aren’t in any order.
1. Suspending your belief/Implausibility
There is a side character named Davy in this book, who is a trouble maker and used to be Davy’s best friend. He has a limp and is known for getting into drugs, so he’s painted as a villain in the book. What made me scratch my head is that the book claims is that this kid keeps getting out of being arrested on a technicality and then never brings it up again. But I’m sorry, but getting into narcotics is a huge thing and drug charges are severe. If several people know that this kid is into drugs and getting drugs, he should have been arrested already. There is also a lot of victim blaming on him with his decisions. If Porter’s family cared about him enough, wouldn’t they try to help get him in rehab? What about his guardian or parent? I didn’t like that he was just painted as a jerk and an addict. Plus, the implausibility that he’s avoided arrest for so long was something I couldn’t believe.
2. Too long
This book is basically 400 pages, which feels like it’s pushing too much for a contemporary. There are some I’m sure that use the pages well, but this one felt a bit too long. The plot got repetitive with Bailey going to work, wondering about Porter and eating churros. I feel like that the story could have cut about 100 pages to narrow down the plot, cutting out repeated scenes and dialogue that goes on for too long. I was skimming several paragraphs of bland descriptions and weird dialogue to get to more of the story’s “substance.”
3. Bailey as a character
This is where I started feeling frustrated. Bailey calls herself the “Artful Dodger” with being a loner and making sure she doesn’t get attached to anyone. She did have something happen in her past, which is understandable to a point. She is very selfish, a self centered “proper” film buff and also kinda stupid. At first, part of her wants to tell Alex that she’s in town after moving to live with her dad. But she allows herself to not chase after something she wants. Once she meets Porter and starts fantasizing about him after a few encounters, she basically drops the idea of Alex completely because Porter is right there and giving her attention. And what does become of the online relationship? Bailey *NEVER* figures out that Alex is Porter! Porter has to basically tell her. We are told time and time again that Bailey is “such a good detective” but I’m sorry but that’s total bull. There are several obvious hints that the reader and some side characters clearly see that reveals who Porter is and she doesn’t get it. But she does a few things that were even more stupid that I’ll talk about in a minute.
While I understand why she is that way in the beginning, she is still hard to root for at times. She continues to be selfish to even family and friends, threatening relationships that she has and I felt like there wasn’t much of a reason for those things.
4. Unnecessary Drama
So going along with the online relationship, this makes the last 25-30% of the book hard to read. Due to Alex never figuring it out, Porter does figure it out and he basically ignores her. He is, of course, mad that she never told him about her being Mink. But after a few days, he goes to visit her acting like it wasn’t a bid deal, but then holds it over her! His attitude was very sudden and didn’t feel like him, since they have been pretty close by that point. But then by the end, when they finally meet and talk about their online friendship (now turned romance), it’s all sunshine and a happy ending. The drama makes the story feel completely messy. They fight, hold things over each other and never actually communicate their feelings. There was also a scene with a side character at the end that just came out of nowhere. It’s frustrating when it feels like they were making progress during most of the book, but then that one thing becomes a problem for ten seconds and then it’s ok. The author’s decision to end this story felt like it was cheap to the story and characters. The drama could have been avoided if someone brought up the online friendship thing to prevent heartbreak.
5. Lack of discussion on serious topics
This aspect is mainly for Bailey, with a bit of Porter’s past as well. When you finally learn what happened to Bailey, it’s sad and also touching when she finally confronts it to Porter. Her moment of vulnerability is good to see and it made me hope that she would hopefully change for the better. But after finishing the book, her situation never feels finished. Her parents clearly didn’t do enough to take care of Bailey’s mental health after what happened. There’s also the thread of her mother never calling her after she moves, which felt like a cheap drama thread that isn’t completed by the end. Her aspect of her past could really be a good discussion of handling trauma and moving on. There’s also the side plot of Davy with drug addiction that could have been incorporated into the story to make it more realistic and present a discussion, but it was never actually there.
I will end this on a good note, since I didn’t hate this book. These are all the pros of this book that I did enjoy:
- Classic movie references: Every chapter has a movie quote at the beginning and there’s a lot of talk about classic films that I really enjoyed. If you’re a fan of classic Hollywood movies, this will be perfect for you.
- Diversity: Porter is half Polynesian, with his mother being full Polynesian. His dad only has one arm from an accident. Grace, a friend that Bailey meets at her summer job, is half British and half Nigerian and is the highlight of the book! There’s several Latin side characters. All of this made the book more fun and brought more reality to it.
- Setting: Oh my gosh this summer town in California made me feel some major wander lust! There’s a boardwalk, summer food, cats, an old museum and surfing to fulfill the summer vibes. I was so hungry every time a churro was mentioned and I wanted to go to a seaside town so badly.
Overall: While I did like a decent amount of the book, I ended up disappointed and kinda pissed off by the end. I felt like the author’s treatment of her own story didn’t work with the poor romantic drama, pushing a couple tough topics under the rug and a main character that never actually progresses much beyond her unlikable behavior and decisions. I also had a personal disconnect with a couple of the messages in the book, which doesn’t affect my rating. But I won’t be reading anything else by this author.
Rating: 1/2 stars
Have you read this book? What were your thoughts on it? Do you have other YA contemporaries that you would recommend?