Thursday, January 25, 2018

"Alex, Approximately" by Jenn Bennett

Fair warning. This review is going to contain lots of spoilers ... if you consider Alex's identity a spoiler, which I really don't, as the book's description tells you. But if you don't want to know, don't read any farther.

In this delightfully charming teen spin on You’ve Got Mail, the one guy Bailey Rydell can’t stand is actually the boy of her dreams—she just doesn’t know it yet.

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.

This book should've been adorable. On the surface, it's a YA version of You've Got Mail: Bailey "Mink" and Porter "Alex" correspond online without knowing each other's true identities. Bailey moves to Porter's small town and goes about trying to identify Alex, all while forming a love-hate relationship with Porter.

Here's the problem, though: Bailey is ... really clueless. I can forgive Porter for not figuring out Bailey's identity right away, as "Mink" never told "Alex" she was moving to town. But Bailey spent her time actively looking for Alex, and, despite all the clues, never once even considered he could be Porter. Give me a break! (Also, for the record, I didn't read the whole book description before I read the book, so I didn't know know that Porter was "Alex." Except that I figured it out the very first time Bailey laid eyes on him.)

Note: I did have a similar complaint about Julie Buxbaum's Tell Me Three Things, which also has a You've Got Mail vibe. But I could forgive that character's obliviousness because the story was just so cute. Not so much here.

While the big reveal didn't go down as I expected it to (kudos to the author for that), it was also pretty unrealistic (the scene where Bailey finally learns Alex's identity is perhaps the closest mirror of You've Got Mail in the whole book, so I get why it happened as it did). The thing that bothered me the most about it was that Porter and Bailey's dad both knew the truth, but neither told Bailey, and by that point, she was absolutely miserable, as Porter had freaked out on her, basically dumped her, then wanted her to pretend everything was OK ... and refused to explain his actions.

Then there's Bailey's relationship with Porter. They dislike one another at first, but that so quickly shifts to an intense attraction. Their physical relationship moves very quickly, and, while nothing is explicitly described, they begin a sexual relationship shortly after beginning to date.

I didn't dislike everything about the book, though: Bailey's dad is a really great guy, Porter has a wonderful family, and I thought that Bailey's relationship with her new friend Grace was pretty spot-on when it comes to female friendships.

Alex, Approximately contains a fair amount of teen drinking/drug use (always portrayed negatively), quite a bit of swearing (including the misuse of Jesus' name), and sexual activity. I kept reading because I wanted to see how it ended, but I can't say I much enjoyed it. 1-1/2 stars.

Jenn Bennett is an award-winning author of young adult contemporary romance books, including: Alex, Approximately; The Anatomical Shape of a Heart (aka Night Owls in the U.K.); and Starry Eyes. She also writes romance and urban fantasy for adults (the Roaring Twenties and Arcadia Bell series). Her books have earned multiple starred reviews, won the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® Award, garnered two Reviewers’ Choice awards and a Seal of Excellence from RT Book Reviews, and been included on Publishers Weekly Best Books annual list. She lives near Atlanta with one husband and two dogs. Visit her at


  1. Bummer! So sorry you didn't like this one. I have it on my shelf, so someday (again with the "someday") I'll get around to reading it. :)

    1. Ha, ha! Maybe you'll like it more than I did ... I mean, you can't like it much LESS than I did ;-)


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