Title: Alex, Approximately
Author: Jenn Bennett
Genre: YA, Romance, Contemporary
Published On: April 4th 2017
Publisher: Simon Pulse
My Rating: 4 Stars
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 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.
OH BOY. So I really didn’t expect to love this book as much as I did. The plot was definitely what caught my attention because the main characters meet online and then become romantically involved. That’s not a spoiler, I promise. But then the blurb on the back also had some cheesy and predictable lines about Bailey having an archnemesis who just happens to be “irritatingly hot”and whoops surprise they fall in love. Yeah… totally seen that line before and totally read that kind of book before. WELL, that’s what I thought at first.
Let’s talk about the characters…
This book surprised me quite a bit. Especially the characters. Bailey captures the logic and reasoning that teens and young adults typically have, so reading from her perspective and seeing her thought process was lovely. Bailey is a smart girl, but she’s pretty naïve at times. Especially regarding her own mental health and how she handles socializing with others. It’s clear from the beginning that something has happened to Bailey that was traumatizing and that she has adopted a policy of avoidance when it comes to anything stressful or difficult. Which is very unhealthy.
Fortunately, Bailey learns throughout the course of the novel and develops better ways to handle the pressure of difficult situations.
Porter is… a complicated character. I think it was difficult for me to see him and Alex as the same person at all, but as the book progressed, it made more sense. He was definitely irritating at times, but also very adorable. I absolutely could not stop myself from shipping him and Bailey together from the start.
Apparently this book is a spin on the movie You’ve Got Mail (1998) but I’ve never seen it, so I can’t comment on that aspect of the book.
I can, however, say that I LOVED that Bailey and Porter (Alex) were film fans. I thoroughly enjoyed reading their banter and discussions because they always felt so genuine and funny. The film facts and such were a wonderful addition to the story and characters.
The plot is undoubtedly centered around the romance. This is absolutely a YA romance novel, so don’t go into this book expected some other complicated plot. There is a subplot involving Porter’s friend Davy, but it’s really not that significant. I think it serves a purpose in relation to pointing out Bailey’s fear of guns and her overcoming her fears, though.
Speaking of funny, this book had a lot of humor and lighthearted scenes which I loved. It was a wonderful end-of-summer read. But there’s some sad aspects in Alex, Approximately too. Both Bailey and Porter have experienced tragedy and trauma in their lives, and they both help each other cope and heal as their relationship progresses.
Porter and Bailey’s relationship was complicated, because they were both unknowingly flirting online with each other as well. If I hadn’t known Porter was Alex before I started the book, I probably would’ve felt more weird by Bailey’s flirtation with both boys, but since they were the same boy it wasn’t as weird.
ANYWAY, I loved how Bailey and Porter’s relationship transitioned from strangers to enemies to friends to lovers. It didn’t feel forced or sudden or insta-lovey at all. (I’m sorry for all the ‘or’s and my lack of grammar.)
I liked how Bennett handled the sex scene in this book as well. I liked that Bailey didn’t agonize over her virginity or make it into a huge drama. Bailey was thoughtful and careful about her decision to have sex with Porter, although the actual scene itself did feel a bit spur of the moment and sudden. Which I can’t help but think is accurate in many ways for actual teens. That said, this book would likely be suitable for ages 15+.
I loved the California backdrop in this book. Bennett weaves in details into every scene that really brings the setting to life. The beach, boardwalk, and local details really added something special to the book and made the setting feel authentic and real.