Alex, Approximately – Jenn Bennett – Simon Pulse – Published 4 April 2017
Classic movie buff Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent half of her junior year falling for a sensitive film geek she only knows online as “Alex.” Two coasts separate them until she 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—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, the oddball Cavern Palace Museum. Or that she’s being tormented daily by Porter Roth, a smart-alecky yet irritatingly hot museum security guard. But when Porter and Bailey are locked in the museum overnight, Bailey is forced to choose whether she should cling to a dreamy 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.
Mixed feelings. On one hand I enjoyed reading Alex, Approximately. It was predictable (and sometimes unpredictable) in a satisfying way. And yet there were a few things that made me disengage.
I didn’t even read the synopsis before knowing I wanted to read this book. I loved Jenn Bennett’s previous novel Night Owls, (AKA The Anatomical Shape of A Heart) and so it was an easy choice to put this book on my to-read list. And then the synopsis sounded pretty awesome too.
Bailey has moved across the country to live with her dad, moved to the town where her long-term pen pal, Alex, lives. She just hasn’t told him yet. As she settles in to a new job, new friends, and even some new enemies (the gorgeous, but annoying surfer workmate Parker), Bailey is determined to find Alex and see if they share the same connection face to face as they do online.
Alex, Approximately is set in coastal mid-California. Hot summer days, beaches, surfing – it’s a great setting and the smell of sunscreen almost seeps through the pages. As does the small, surf town vibe.
There is lots of dramatic irony to be enjoyed while reading Alex, Approximately because the reader, unlike Bailey, can hazard a pretty good guess at exactly who Alex is going to reveal himself as. I was surprised at how the big reveal all unfolded though, and was pleasantly impressed that it didn’t happen in the way I expected.
Bailey is where my mixed reaction to this book originates. I thought she was instantly relatable. I too am a habitual evader. No one hates and tries to avoid conflict like I do, so I completely understood why Bailey decided to uproot her life and escape her current situation. As Bailey says, it’s not easy being this screwed up. But as the story progressed I began to disconnect with her character. She’s judgemental of people and self-centred, and her reactions seemed over the top at times. Also, she’s quite happy to let someone get physically violent on her behalf. Oh, it scares her but it was for her so isn’t that nice…. No. I don’t think so. So there were a few things that happened in the story that didn’t sit right with me. I’ll also note here that I would recommend Alex, Approximately for a mature audience due to very frequent drug references, with a number of characters often using drugs or being referred to as high or other related terms, and strong sexual references and implied sex scenes.
Alex, Approximately didn’t live up to the brilliance of Night Owls, but it has a catchy premise and an interesting way of bringing a number of different elements, online relationships, face-to-face relationships, film, family, friendship and beach culture, together.
The publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Online relationships, friendship, classic films, summer, beach culture, surfing, shark attacks, romance, sex and dating, relationships.
Reading age guide: Ages 14/15 and up.
Advisory: Very frequent drug references – a number of characters frequently use a range of drugs and are often referred to as high or other related terms. Strong sexual references, implied sex scenes and with some detail, references to mast*******. Coarse language, f***, sh**, sl**. Physical violence, fist fights.
Published: 4 April 2017 by Simon Pulse.
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 400 pages.