Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett
Published by: Simon Pulse
Pub Date: April 4th 2017
Format: e-arc | Source: NetGalley
Genres: young adult, contemporary
In this delightfully charming teen spin on You’ve Got Mail, the one guy Bailey Rydell can’t stand is actually the boy of her dreams—she just doesn’t know it yet.
Classic movie buff Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online by “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 arch-nemesis. 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.
You’ve Got Mail sort of books have become the hot new thing lately (anonymous penpals, adversaries in real life) so I was immediately drawn to Alex, Approximately especially since I loved The Anatomical Shape of a Heart! And I honestly think this is the most You’ve Got Mail-ish book I’ve read yet 😀 It doesn’t just take the basic premise and run with it, but parallels the movie too, which I love. Even if you haven’t seen it, you will still enjoy this book which has a lot of moving parts and a lot of positives.
So often, it can feel cheap to have your teenaged MC be obsessed with the “past”. Not every kid today loves 80s music, you know? But Bailey was such an awesome character and felt totally authentic and real. Her enthusiasm for classic movies shines through and her need to avoid conflict spoke to me. I never fought with friends because I couldn’t stand the idea of it, it made me so uncomfortable. Seeing her come out of her shell in a brand new environment was really cool. I loved her friendship with Grace, her relationship with her dad (who was fantastic and working so hard to succeed at the single parent thing) and his new girlfriend, her online friendship with “Alex”, and of course Porter! My god. Swoon city. The “fighting” and banter was A+ and he was honestly such a great guy- he never pushed Bailey romantically further than she wanted to go and seeing consent spelled out so blatantly but realistically on the page is so important. Plus his hidden depths and his relationship with his tight knit surfing family- I just adored it and their role in the story. I loved that Mrs. Roth was Hawaiian and instilled a love of her culture in her children, and I loved that they were all movie buffs!
Of course there are the inevitable giant misunderstandings which always stress me out, but in this case (and most YA books to be honest), you know that it will probably work out for the best. Alex, Approximately did get darker and heavy at times, especially the storyline with Porter’s friend Davey. There was more violence than I expected. But I think it toed the line and stayed connected to the main story.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the setting!! Bailey moves to a coastal northern California town from D.C. to live with her dad and I could picture every inch of town. My parents live in a small coastal southern California town so that helped with the mental image, as did commercials for the Santa Cruz boardwalk on tv! The salty air, the smell of churros, the beach bonfires, Bailey’s vespa, the quirky local museum- it painted a clear and compelling image. I also loved that Bailey worked in the ticket booth of a museum because I did too! I knew exactly what she was going through with those customers and making friends with coworkers, especially the security guards. It was an extra layer of fun for me 🙂
My other favorite part of the book was the movie quotes at the beginning of every chapter. From classics like The Philadelphia Story and Roman Holiday to Clueless, 10 Things I Hate ABout You, and Pitch Perfect, each quote set the scene for that chapter and made me grin in recognition. It was a charming addition.
Have you read Alex, Approximately yet? Is it on your list? And what’s your favorite teen movie? Let me know in the comments!