Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett
Our Rating: 4
Goodreads Rating: 4.01
This Book in a Song: Escape (The Pina Colada Song) by Rupert Holmes
The one guy Bailey Rydell can’t stand is actually the boy of her dreams—she just doesn’t know it yet.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.
Bailey, a classic movie fan with the same hairstyle as Lana Turner, moves across the country to live with her dad and attempts to find the boy she’s been messaging online in this retelling of You’ve Got Mail. During her search, she finds friends, escapes her comfort zone, and meets a different boy entirely, creating a summer that she’ll never forget.
Before I actually review, I’ll be upfront: I’ve never seen the movie this book is retelling. I get the basic plot, but I’m not entirely sure which details are Bennett’s and which are from the original movie. Forgive me if I sound ignorant.
First things first: I absolutely loved the setting. It was drawn so perfectly that I wished it was real and that I could visit it-sort of like a SLO/Carmel-by-the-Sea feel. I absolutely love beach towns, and this was the quintessential beach town. The museum and the boardwalk and the beach itself were all perfect, and that was probably my favorite part about the book other than the movie quotes. The museum in particular was the best. The way Bennett described each of the rooms reminded me of a museum I used to go to as a kid, and it furthered the book’s great kind of whimsical vibe.
The quotes in the beginning of each chapter were fabulous. I loved, loved, loved how I knew a lot of them and how they correlated to what would happen in the chapter. It was such a clever way to tie in Bailey’s love of classics/movies in general and just give the book a certain feel, and Bennett did it a lot better than Brashares in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.
Another thing I loved: the great characters, even the ones who didn’t show up too often in the book (Lana, Mrs. Roth, Mr. Roth, etc). I especially loved Bailey’s dad and Grace. The only character whom I didn’t love nearly as much as I thought I would was Porter, and I still can’t place a finger on what it was that made me feel so lukewarm toward him as a character. Maybe it was because I didn’t entirely feel the spark between him and Bailey. He wasn’t my favorite on his own, either. It could have been his odd love for quizzes from Cosmo and stuff, which still feels like a strange character quirk for him. Other than that little tidbit, Bennett did well writing her characters realistically, but not so realistically that it was boring, if that makes sense. The outside relationships really contributed to the story and made it more than a book merely about a boy and a girl.
Something I didn’t love? The whole online communicating thing. Okay, I know this isn’t Bennett’s fault and this is the actual plot from the movie and everything, but it was the DMing that got me. The only thing running through my head whenever I read the DM pages was Catfish. It’s someone Bailey has never met, and they could totally be catfishing her, and I know that it was an integral part of the plot, but still…and then the fact that he just happened to live in the same small town as her father? It seemed too coincidental and not believable enough. I feel like Julie Buxbaum made the surrounding circumstances better in Tell Me Three Things, where they have a less sketchy reason/way to be talking to each other and it doesn’t make me think about how it could be a fifty year old man on the other side. But I’m also me, and I’m distrustful of anything where you can’t see someone’s face, so there’s that.
Seriously, though, she could have joined a local film geek thing before she moved. I don’t know. It could have been amended and given me less concern about the practical reality of it. At least Bailey wasn’t stupid and knew that she could be meeting a sketchy guy.
Bailey as a character gave me mixed feelings; she was relatable in some aspects (didn’t like confrontation, film geek), but at the same time, she doesn’t stand out in my mind like some characters do. She also got on my nerves sometimes, and I just felt irritated, not always for a particular reason, although that can double as a good thing, because it means she felt real. The voice was mediocre to good, definitely very bubbly and easy to read, but again, nothing entirely special.
What really bothered me about the book was how hormonal it was. Like, I get it if someone’s attractive, I do. But I felt like that was almost too much of the relationship. It might just be me-I’m definitely more of a Kasie West to Stephanie Perkins level person when it come to physical romance description-but I didn’t enjoy that aspect of the relationship. Bailey was thinking about Porter physically more often than she was thinking about him emotionally or romantically at parts, and while that’s also part of a relationship, it just seemed like too much, at least for my taste. Maybe it’s because it was probably a more accurate depiction of actual high school relationships and I prefer the less realistic, more romantic ones; no matter, it wasn’t my favorite.
In all, I was happy once I finished the book. It was a great summer read, and it was a quick one at that. Although I had my problems with it, the pros overshadowed the cons in the end, and I closed the book with a smile on my face. If you want a fairly light, easy book with a summery vibe and a ton of movie quotes, this is the one for you.
Picking Escape (The Pina Colada Song) by Rupert Holmes as the song is actually cheating, but I couldn’t resist. Toward the end, Porter says that their relationship is like this song, and while I was originally going to pick an old song, the book practically demanded this instead.
Side Note: I cannot believe that she’s never had a churro. Who hasn’t at least seen a churro? They sell them at Costco, and as someone who lived on the East Coast for half her life, I can affirm that East Coast Costcos do indeed have churros.