I was underwhelmed by this book. It was an easy read, and it was entertaining, but a lot of the time it felt forced (especially at the beginning), and I thought it was a little too long. I’m glad I read it, but I probably won’t be reading it again, and unless the premise is too good to resist, I probably won’t be reading any future books from this author.
So Alex, Approximately is basically a retelling of The Shop Around the Corner/You’ve Got Mail in YA book form. You’ve Got Mail is one of my most favorite movies, so this was understandably exciting to me. But really, the premise is almost negligible here. The author doesn’t do very much with it. Bailey and Porter (aka Mink and Alex) form an online friendship and begin to crush on one another (on a film lover’s website). Porter/ Alex so happens to live in the California seaside town that Bailey’s dad moved to after her parents’ divorce. Bailey/Mink decides to move there but doesn’t tell Alex, wanting to get settled first. The excerpts of their online conversations we see are pretty short, and not really very much evidence of a connection between them.
Bailey happens to get a summer job at the same kitschy museum where Porter works, and after he humiliates her on her first day, they develop a bit of an antagonistic relationship, which turns into a romance pretty quickly. Bailey is a self-described “evader”, which annoyed me at first because I didn’t think she was being well developed by the author, but it turns out there is a pretty traumatic reason for her behavior, that retroactively made me feel better about her as a character. Alex also has trauma in his past, and that shared connection strengthens their bond.
The book is entirely told from Bailey’s point of view, and most of it features a romance between them that has almost nothing to do with their previous online friendship. And unlike in its “source material”, Porter’s POV is not seen. YMMV on whether that works or not (I think it’s a huge missed opportunity for narrative tension) but like it or not, it makes the “premise” seem unnecessary. I actually think I would have liked this book better had it dropped the online friendship angle entirely.
I’m sounding way more negative about this book than I meant to. I did enjoy it! (I read it in a day and a half.) And especially after the first third or so, the book comes into its own. There were some lovely vulnerable moments between the two characters, and I’ve never read a book about a surfer before. It just seems a little shoddy in its construction in places, and it took a while for the characters to work for me.
Big thanks to scootsa1000 for mailing me her hardcover after she was done with it! Hey, scootsa, do you want this back? If not, I’d be happy to send it on to someone else to read!