First off, I just need to state that I don’t go deliberately looking for authors who have surnames that begin with the letter ‘B’. It just so happens that I have a grand total ten books in the ‘B’ section of the index, and hardly any for any other letter.
‘Alex, Approximately’ is the first book I’ve read that’s written by Jenn Bennet, and I have to admit I Iove the cover. Or, at least the UK cover (I think that’s the cover with the vespa/ scooter on it?) I love minimalistic covers, and more often than not they are the ones that draw me in.
This, much like ‘We are Young’ was another book I picked up from the library. And, after ‘We are Young’, I quite fancied a light-heartened young adult contemporary. Which to be fair this book delivered, but for me it didn’t quite click and I found myself yelling in frustration at some parts. Maybe it’s because I’m too old, and maybe I am growing out of YA*, but I found myself struggling to connect with the book. That’s not to say it’s a bad book, it was enjoyable but it just wasn’t for me.
I found that the cover, the blurb and the premise really played into the cute summer romance. The novel is also somewhat of a retelling of the 1998 rom-com ‘You’ve Got Mail’ starring Tom Hanks and Megan Ryan. Although, in this book the real-life dislike between the characters dissolves after about twenty pages.
The premise of the novel is that Bailey (Mink) and Alex are cyber friends who bond over their mutual love of classic films (and I’m not just talking cult classics from the 80s). The novel begins with Alex asking Bailey to go to a film festival with him. However, what Alex doesn’t know is that Bailey is going to live in California with her dad, who happens to live in the same town as Alex. Bailey avoids telling Alex about the move, and instead opts to sneakily find him with the few clues she’s accumulated online.
I enjoyed the premise of the book. However, I would’ve liked to read more of the online conversations between Bailey and Alex. I found that once other characters were introduced, the frequency of the conversations took a dip. It seemed more of a case of ‘well, I don’t have anything else going on, so I may as well message Alex,’ and not ‘I need to message Alex, because we have a deep meaningful connection,’ which I originally thought it would be.
I also liked the movie quotes at the top of the page, and I thought they were pretty neat, as in some instances they related to the events in the chapter. Or, at least the Jaws one did. I would’ve liked to have seen some of the movie quotes make their way into everyday conversations though. Just a character saying “I have a bad feeling about this,” would’ve been awesome.
Bailey was an alright protagonist. Honestly, I found her oblivious to pretty much everything. (And her dad calls her a good detective!) But I found that neither her nor Porter (another MC) stood out to me. I also wasn’t a fan of the tragic backstories that seemed to mandatory for every character. I know I probably seem harsh here, but do we need a tragic backstory for every character? For some it added to the story but for some just didn’t seem necessary. I also didn’t like the fact that it was implied that trust means telling someone everything.
I did like Lana and Grace (or at least what we saw of them anyway). And, I wish they got a few more scenes in the book.
Before I finish, I would just like to include my favourite line of this book: “I like your brows. Glamorous.” This line is said when one character is introduced another character, and all I could think of was Regina George’s mum from Mean Girls going “I’m not a regular mom. I’m a cool mom.” In all seriousness though, who comments on someone’s eyebrows upon introduction of said person?
Overall, I would give this novel approximately 3/5 stars. I liked the premise, but I didn’t really like the main characters (mainly Bailey). I did appreciate that the characters had flaws, such as Bailey being the artful dodger and avoiding confrontations. And I also liked how the characters actually ate, since food rarely seems to get mentioned in books, although it did make me pretty hungry…
*While I do think I’m growing out of YA, I still enjoy reading a lot of YA, I find now that I prefer books that have representation to just YA contemporaries.