Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Published: April 2017
Genre: young adult, contemporary, romance
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 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.
Bailey is an Artful Dodger: she likes to avoid confrontation, she dislikes new environments without checking them out first, and she’s wary of new people. The one true friend she has someone named “Alex” online on a classic Hollywood film fanatic website, and he happens to be living in the same California coastal town Bailey just moved to. Before telling him she’s moved there, she wants to test the waters first and see if she can figure out who he is before the summer’s big film festival on the beach. But her new job at the local museum, and the annoying boy Porter she’s beginning to fall for, are making her Artful Dodger plans to meet Alex unravel. Or are they?
This was such a cute contemporary, and definitely something the doctor ordered! It has an awesome surfer/beachy vibe to it without it being all about going to the beach and getting tan or catching boys or getting up to shenanigans. Bailey’s interest in old Hollywood films also adds retro flavoring — she dresses like classic film stars and even drives a Vespa! So cool.
Bailey’s voice was engaging, and I liked the recipe for romantic banter between her and Porter: the kind that is genuinely funny, there’s no game involved, and they don’t hate each other. They just know how to bicker really well, and really affectionately. It was almost like reading an old couple’s bickering conversation — laced with love, but still poking fun at one another.
Elements of the novel that really appealed to me included one perspective (gosh, this feels so rare in contemporary YA lately — or YA in general) and a super cool, unique job. She’s not working at one of the many churro stands along the beach, or a boardwalk shop, or fast food restaurant, or babysitting, or any of the other super predictable summer jobs for teens. No, in this YA, Bailey is working at an interesting, local, wacky museum that’s part manor house part cave, curated by a wealthy couple from the 1920s and full of all sorts of odds and ends within themed rooms. This is the perfect job for Bailey because she would like to be a museum curator one day.
I’m not sure if I wanted to know that Porter is Alex. In many ways it makes Bailey look dumb — to no fault of her own. I tried to read this without my extra insight getting in the way. Would I have noticed this clue if I were Bailey? But I have to admit that part of the fun of the book was waiting to see when Bailey (or Porter) would figure it out.
If you’re looking for a grounded YA contemporary that’s not too fluffy but not too serious, has great “we met on the internet” vibes, and you’re eager to dig your toes into some figurative sand, grab a copy of Bennett’s latest novel!
This qualifies as book 6 of 5 library books in 2017.
Trigger warning: guns, shark attack