Thursday, March 30, 2017

Title: Alex, Approximately
Author: Jenn Bennett
Series: n/a
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: April 4, 2017
Source: ARC received from publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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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.

Do you ever get a book and then put off reading it for eons because you're so afraid it won't live up to your expectations? That was me with this book. I adored Jenn Bennett's YA debut The Anatomical Shape of a Heart, going so far as to name it as my favorite contemporary of 2015. So, to say I had high expectation for Alex, Approximately would not be an exaggeration.

But I just couldn't hold out any longer, and you know what? I absolutely loved it. It was quirky and adorable and just all around clever. I really related to Bailey and her status as an evader, her way of avoiding uncomfortable situations by running away or simply pretending it's not happening. But even when she did find herself in an awkward situation -- and Bailey herself was being incredibly awkward -- I didn't find the scenario cringe-worthy. Instead, there was this sense of solidarity because I could easily have found myself in the same situations.

This book was sooo sex positive, too, much like Bennett's last novel. Sex wasn't presented as this insurmountable obstacle, nor was it glossed over in some fade-to-black scene. The awkwardness of first experiences is there but also the open discussion that needs to happen between two consenting adults. Self-pleasure is even presented as a normal, healthy thing. I truly wish there had been books like this when I was a teenager so that I wouldn't have felt so woefully unprepared in those days.

And the relationship that develops between Porter and Bailey is just so genuine and honest. Sure, it has its ups and downs and things aren't perfect 100% of the time, but what relationship is? They have frank discussions about trust and their pasts and how to handle going public with their relationship, and I think it's just such a great portrayal of how a healthy relationship progresses.

This take on You've Got Mail is so unbelievably charming, with the classic movie references and the movie quotes at the beginning of each chapter. But what I especially adored were the forum messages between "Mink" and "Alex". They reminded me of how me and my best friend met online, how we synchronize watching shows together and how well we've gotten to know each other through email and text and miracle of miracles, via chatting on the phone every weekend for hours on end. We're even planning a meet-up this summer. So, I get the sense of camaraderie that Mink and Alex share online but also the anxiety of finally meeting face-to-face.

The only thing I'd change about this book is that summary. It hints at too much. I was constantly waiting to see proof that Porter had discovered the truth; I think it would have been less stressful if I didn't know beforehand that he figures out Bailey's online alias...or even that he was Alex, at least not from the beginning. That's something I like to learn as I read, not know from the get-go.

Even with that looming over my head, this book still managed to be everything I wanted it to be...and more. Bennett easily balances the depth of her characters' pasts with the frivolity of a summer job in a weird museum in a tourist town, along with a swoony romance that is aces above what I usually find in contemporary YA. I already can't wait to read it again. I just hope there's not so long of a wait between this book and her next. ;0)


GIF it to me straight:

About the Author:

Jenn Bennett is an artist and RITA-nominated author of the Arcadia Bell urban fantasy series (Kindling the Moon) and the Roaring Twenties romance series, including Bitter Spirits, which was chosen as one of Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2014 and winner of RT Book Reviews Paranormal Romance Book of the Year, and Grave Phantoms—which was awarded RT's May Seal of Excellence for 2015. The Anatomical Shape of a Heart, (aka Night Owls in the U.K.) is her first YA contemporary romance. She lives near Atlanta with one husband and two evil pugs.

Find Jenn:

Website | Twitter | Goodreads | FacebookInstagram | Tumblr


  1. Glad you loved it!!! I read this a few weeks ago and MEH. I thought it was too long. And even though in the movie, the audience knows who the 2 people are, I felt kind of ripped off that I knew who Alex was so early on. I thought it would be something that would come out mid-way through the book instead of the first 5 minutes she was in town.

    I did think it was super well-written though-- and I loved the museum!! Maybe if I felt more of a connection with Bailey, I would have liked it better?? Who knows. I'm not opposed to reading more by this author though!

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