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 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.
Description taken from Goodreads.
I love Jenn Bennett’s contemporary romances. Haven’t checked out her paranormal yet, and I’m not sure if I ever will, but if it’s anywhere close to as good as The Anatomical Shape of a Heart and Alex, Approximately, then I can see the appeal. There are a few great elements that really bring Bennett’s books together, but what I love most is the way she manages to make her romances start off as believable friendships. The pacing is always spot-on, the development of the relationships is believable, and the transitions are smooth.
I’ll admit that Bennett’s characters (from what I’ve seen) tend to draw parallels to each other. She uses similar archetypes and ideas to give them flesh and blood. I don’t mind that here because there are slight, distinct differences between each character. Besides, Bennett tends to make her characters passionate, and I love seeing that in YA lit.
Here, Porter was much more rule-following, boy-next-door than The Anatomical Shape of a Heart‘s Jack, and the issues Bailey had in her past broke her off completely from TASoH‘s Beatrix, regardless of what personality traits they had in common. Speaking of Bailey’s issues–I was on the fence about how I felt concerning the way Bennett incorporated the sad backstory. It gives the characters depth, but it also isn’t any major part of the story. Not so much with Bailey, but with Porter, it felt like the sad backstory was almost meaningless, just there for filler. With Bailey, it was different in that her trauma made Alex, Approximately more of her story rather than her romance story. She matures, becomes more than her past, and learns how to cope with the difficulties she faces. Maybe this was what Bennet aimed to accomplish for both characters, but it was far more successful in Bailey–perhaps rightfully so, since she’s the main character.
The ending was the only disappointing part of the story.
First, the online relationship between Alex and Mink deteriorated. A lot. By the middle of the story, the chat logs between them had disappeared entirely. Now, I normally hate chat logs. I don’t think they have any place in novels (and yes, that means Illuminae only barely worked for me). But here, it worked, and it was great. It’s understandable that, as Porter and Bailey get deeper into their relationship, the online friendship isn’t as big of a plot point. I’m not saying that Bennett made the wrong decision; what I’m saying is that, personally, it felt as though something important or promising was lost there.
Second, the execution of the grand revelation as to whom Alex is could’ve been significantly improved. It really only took place in the last five pages or so. The ending got closer and closer, and I thought Bennett would demonstrate that it didn’t take that much time at all to artfully unveil the truth. The revelation should’ve taken more time. It was one of those very brief and exaggerated get-mad-then-kiss-and-make-up types.
And another note on that: before I began reading, it occurred to me that the blurb may encompass the entire book, considering that it essentially screams that Porter is Alex. The blurb-as-an-outline is generally terrible when it happens because nothing is a surprise. But for half a second, Bennett got me. She introduces another boy early on when Bailey is looking for Alex in her new town, and I thought that just maybe, another boy could be Alex.
Kudos to the author for that, and the person who wrote the blurb–please don’t do that.
Overall, it’s not incredibly special, but it’s solid, feel-good contemporary. Would recommend The Anatomical Shape of a Heart above this one, but both of them are good choices. 3 stars.