Saturday, September 16, 2017

[Review] Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

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Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Pages: 388
Source: Library
Genre: YA {Contemporary}

Violence | Sexual Content | Profanity

Book Tunes

My Rating
My thoughts

Sometimes, talking about a book that you just read is simply the best thing ever, leaving you with a smile on your face and sighing constantly, relishing and reliving the epic reading adventure you had just breathed in. Unfortunately, sometimes it's more like getting a filling at the dentist. 

Alex, Approximately had so much going for it: wicked California vibes (awesome setting - tick!), cutesy summer hate-to-love romance with smarmy surfer guy, classic film fanaticism, good fashion and meeting an online friend for the first time. I liked the concept of it, and I was so ready to read a fluffy contemporary that would give me all the fuzzy feelings. But I could not stop comparing this book to Fifty Shades of Grey, just with like 90% less sex, and like yeah, it's good to see YA books that address sexuality since it is a big part of growing up, but on the other hand, it was kind of like, ew, gross, TMI.

US Cover
So, this story starts with tragedy, estrangement and divorce in the Rydell household. Bailey's dad moves out to California while she and her divorce-lawyer mum (ha) move to Washington with the new husband. When things go awry with that marriage, Bailey is quick to jump on the next plane out of there, to California (where her mutual film-geek online friend Alex lives). A self-proclaimed "Artful Dodger", Bailey decides to not tell Alex that she's in town. Instead, she's going to do some sleuthing and find him, you know, just so she can figure out if they would work out, maybe as a couple? (It's not stalking if it's for good intentions, she reasons.) But when she gets a summer job at a local cave-museum joint, the plans change when she just can't get the security guard, Porter, out of her head or out from under her skin...

Honestly, I enjoyed the first 200 pages of this book, which if you think about it is a good chunk of the novel. I adored the setting, and I liked following Bailey around town. She eats a lot of churros, apparently there's a churro cart along like every corner along the pier? And the museum job was pretty funky, I liked the characters that she meets at the job, and just the whole thing in all. I love reading when characters have a job and it's like a big part of their life during the narrative. Some of the moments she shares with her co-workers were funny and memorable. Newsflash: working in ticket booths sucks.

I also enjoyed all the film references. Every chapter is paired with a memorable quote from a famous movie. Bailey also frequents the local DVD shop and dresses like her favourite classic movie stars, and she strikes up a conversation with a guy she thinks could be Alex because he looks like a film geek too, maybe, which was hilarious and all kinds of awkward. One thing I didn't like was the fact that Breakfast at Tiffany's gets slammed - guys, it is a classic for a reason, and the racism just shows a sign of the times. Ugh.

One thing that really grated on me was the fact that this book could have been like 100 pages shorter if Bailey had just been upfront about everything. It is not such a bad thing to tell a guy you're seeing that you have an online friend who also lives in town, and you maybe tried to find him once so you went to some pretty crazy extremes involving a map and textas. I know that she's an "Artful Dodger" (and a child of divorced parents to boot), but it is frustrating to see unhealthy patterns in a relationship . . . and just in general how she didn't really try to open up to anyone about what was going on in her life. I wish that I could have connected with her a little more, but I just found her frustrating and clumsy, over-dramatic and awkward. You would hope that a 17-year-old might have it a bit more together, but then again, she is her father's daughter. And yeah, there is a super traumatic past, which I sympathised with, but I kind of can't be stuffed to even go into that here.

When a book is 300+ pages you need to like the writing otherwise you feel the length, which I definitely did. The writing style and voice of Bailey was just not for me, it felt kind of young for a 17-year-old, I think? It was very casual and simple, I guess I just like my writing to be a bit more well-crafted, and I know that this is YA but I expect more from what would be considered an older-YA title.

Let's talk about the romance now. I will be honest and say that I am extremely picky when it comes to romance. In fact, I prefer books that have no romance at all, at least there's no chance of messing it up. I just find that too often are romances cheesy, rife with cliche and cringe-worthy moments and lines. I heard that Alex, Approximately was super swoon-worthy, but I was not swept away like I was hoping. There were some cute moments, but I felt frustrated by their miscommunication and I got the feeling that their attraction for each other was just that: attraction. Lust. It didn't seem like love to me, I don't know, it just didn't work. The middle was such a slog, it felt like in every page Bailey would think about Porter's sexy body and how just his touch makes her skin tingle, etc, etc. And yes, I know that feeling, but can a girl get her head on right and focus on something else every now and then? And also, the fight? Bailey is kind of simultaneously turned on and scared that he became like an animal, and I was just like, no, he's a guy. Guys can fight, doesn't mean they're animals.... I guess I like my girls with a touch more independence and drive in them. I did like Porter though, and I found his weather-geekery and layers quite endearing. I also liked his family, and how they rose above their tragedy and feel so cohesive.

Two last things:

  • How did Bailey not get who Alex was? Seriously? She must have a potato for a brain. I guessed it from page one. Feelings of anticlimax were through the roof when that aha moment finally came. *yawn*
  • Why even Davey? I felt like his whole story arc was a waste of space. Ick.

Sorry. Maybe the hype was the biggest letdown. I was so sure this would blow me away and it just... didn't. Once again I get to be a black sheep. Don't get me wrong, there were some good things, it just didn't mesh well with me overall. Not when everyone else has been giving it 4/5 star rave reviews, saying this is a MUST READ. Luckily this was another borrow from the library, so this copy is going back where it belongs: among the shelves.


First lines:

"He could be any one of these people.
After all, I don't know what Alex looks like. I don't even know his real name. I mean, we've been talking online for months now, so I know things that matter. He's smart and sweet and funny, and we've both just finished our junior year. We share the same obsession - old movies. We both like being alone.
If these were the only things we had in common, I wouldn't be freaking out right now. But Alex lives in the same town as my dad, and that makes things . . . complicated.
Favourite lines:
"Just because I'm quiet doesn't mean I'm aloof. Maybe I just want to be alone. Maybe I'm not good at conversation. We all can't be cool and gregarious and Hey, bro, what up? like he apparently is. Some of us aren't wired for that. (66)

I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

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