5 In Review

Review: Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

Review: Alex, Approximately by Jenn BennettAlex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett
Published by Simon Pulse on April 4, 2017
Pages: 391
Format: Hardcover

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.

Bailey Rydell is perhaps the most cultured, educated 17 year old I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading about. She is incredibly intelligent and sassy, with an interest in being a museum curator and a dream of working with classic films. A child of a rather sloppy divorce, Bailey is taking a huge risk and moving from her mom’s (mostly useless) arms in Washington DC to her father’s beachside town in California. And that’s where our story begins.


How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend

Bailey is, like most teenagers were when I was 17 (way back in Ye Olde 2006), active on message boards – in particular, one about classic films. There, under her screen name Mink, she meets another witty teen, a guy named Alex. They exchange banter for what feels like lifetimes, but Bailey knows he lives in California – what he doesn’t know is that she’s moving there.

Our precocious Bailey has the idea to take a map of her father’s – and allegedly Alex’s – beachside paradise town, and via process of elimination figure out which store Alex must work in using context clues from hints he’s dropped over the months. Unfortunately, Bailey’s Nancy Drew-ing is cut short by her dad’s insistence that she get a summer job – luckily, he’s even gotten one for her, at a local museum called The Cave. It’s like spelunking meets the Winchester House, and I am here for it – and so is Bailey, grudgingly. The bad part? One of the security guards – Porter – is such a cocky jerk that Bailey can’t stand being around him without wanting to scratch his eyes out.

The twist? Porter is Alex. The twist: part 2? Bailey has no idea, and neither does Porter. (I’m not spoiling you because 1) it’s obvious and 2) it’s on the book flap).

So while we enjoy waiting for the two of them to figure out what we’ve known all along, we watch them slowly start to become closer and closer. I love Porter because he’s realistic – he has flaws and issues, and he fights against them just like we all do – he is not the typical perfect guy we see in YA romances. Each character in this beautiful novel can stand on their own – they have their distinct personalities, and even folks like Bailey’s dad’s girlfriend are memorable – characters that ordinarily would be glazed over by the author. This book is the perfect summer read.

The Bottom Line

What I really want to talk about is this sort of B-plot that involves Bailey having what is likely PTSD, stemming from a gun violence-related incident in her past that I won’t spoil for you. I knew I loved Bailey when I got to that part of the book, because I also have gun violence-related PTSD. When she spoke up after hearing an unexpected gunshot, I felt empathy rocket from my heart all over my body – oh, Bailey. I understand. “For the love of guns, it had been four years! How long did I have to be in “trauma” mode? Wasn’t I allowed to make some decisions for myself and enjoy life?” – I’ve been here, stood in these shoes (though it hasn’t been four years for me yet), and I understood her viewpoint so deeply that I knew I was Team Bailey Ride or Die forever from that point forward.

Jenn Bennett does not sugarcoat these things, ranging from the aforementioned PTSD to self-pleasure. Normal things a 17 year old would engage in, but for some reason YA authors never discuss. I am beyond grateful that Ms. Bennett discusses them anyway – with great aplomb, and more than once, no less.

Let’s be real: once you read the book flap you know how this book will end. And you’re not wrong. But you’re not reading it for the plot twists any more than you watch You’ve Got Mail because you think ShopGirl will realize who she’s been talking to this whole time. You’re reading it for Bailey, for Porter, for Bailey’s BFF Grace, for their families. Trust me, you might think you know how this book will go, but don’t let that stop you from falling for this story line. I promise, it’s worth it.

When I had 60 pages left, I immediately bought Ms. Bennett’s other 2 books. That alone should tell you something.

“Sometimes you have to endure painful things to realize that you’re a whole lot stronger than you think.”

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  • Reply
    July 13, 2018 at 2:47 pm

    100% how 17 year old Katie would have gone about plotting where to find The Boy, rather than, you know, asking

  • Reply
    July 14, 2018 at 9:29 pm

    Really like the sounds of this!

  • Reply
    July 14, 2018 at 9:58 pm

    this sound fun, im glad you liked it

  • Reply
    July 15, 2018 at 6:45 pm

    I keep hearing about this, definitely going to check it out now.

  • Reply
    July 15, 2018 at 11:59 pm

    I love the added book stats! I really want to get to this book ASAP!

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