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.
This is a book I really wanted to like. And I really mean it when I say that. The blurb sounded cute, the ratings were good, but most of all, Haven thought it was an example of fluff done right. And while I see why people like this book so much, I also think that I’ve read too many almost identical contemporaries to truly enjoy this formulaic type of book anymore. Sorry, Haven. 😦
Alex, Approximately is a retelling of You’ve Got Mail, and the premise is actually very cute. I appreciated that Bennett understood that the fact that Alex being Porter was too obvious to turn into a plot twist, and thus we were told of this in the blurb itself. The book itself started out predictable, but still cute. Bailey is likable, her friend Grace enjoyable, and Porter was the current-asshole-with-a-dark-secret-but-wait-you’re-gonna-love-him kind of guy. After the start, however, I felt there was a pretty significant drop in enjoyability; my irritation was probably increased by the fact that I was on a feminist literature streak, and contemporaries are not known for being amazing in this department.
I don’t want to make this entire review about the bad, since I did enjoy this to a certain extent, but I can’t help it. My first problem with it is how long it took Bailey to figure out the Alex-Porter connection. I don’t generally do well with dramatic devices that involve the audience knowing something the characters don’t, and I quickly lost patience with Bailey. The moment we’re waiting for really only happens in the last 10 pages of the book after huge amounts of stalling, and while I understood why it was written that way, Bailey came off as pretty dense to me.
My second problem is the “villain.” Fluff contemporaries generally have bad guys who are zero-dimensional (typically in a “mean girl” form) and this book was no exception. Because it’s a facet of the genre, I don’t mind this type of villain, but I thought the character of Davy was grossly abused in the writing. He’s portrayed as Porter’s old friend who’s now an all-around idiot and asshole, but he has a chronic injury, is addicted to narcotics as a result, and his parents don’t care about him enough to address it. That sounds like a character who’s desperately in need of reconciliation and help, but he’s just the “bad” guy in this book and is dismissed as such. I think this book would have been stronger if there was less victim blaming, or even if Davy just stayed zero-dimensional without all these cries for help.
My final problem is the incredible amount of guys doing things for girls because females are incapable creatures. Maybe I’ve been on a feminism streak lately (as I mentioned earlier), but I was waiting for Bailey to finally stick up for herself, and was relatively disappointed. Bailey is initially a “serial avoider” (a pushover), and the growth potential was enormous. Although she does come out of her shell and make out with Porter, this book is still filled with: Porter punching people to “defend her honor”, Bailey nursing his wounds and swooning, Bailey obsessing over Porter when he’s mad at her and begging him to stop being mad (even though she knows she did nothing wrong), and much more. Porter’s sister could potentially have been a strong female addition to this book, but we didn’t really get enough of her. I will admit, however, that Grace is a wonderful character and fun to read about.
Despite this in depth analysis of flaws, I did truly enjoy this book – it’s a fluff novel that succeeds in doing its job. Perhaps I wasn’t in the mood for fluff when I read this. Perhaps I was in the mood of something deeper, and this overly harsh review is evidence of that. Regardless, if you’re looking for a fun rainy day read, this review shouldn’t stop you from picking it up.
(Click here to read Haven’s review, which is more positive and does more justice to the genre)