Title: Alex, Approximately
Author: Jenn Bennett
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: April 4th 2017
Jenn Bennett’s Alex, Approximately is the terrific summer read with a fun, beach setting and adorable first love story at its center. Bailey Rydell hates conflict. She’s more likely to retreat into herself than face any of her problems head on. The mounting tension between her mom and stepfather is almost too much to handle, but instead of sticking it out, she hops on a plane and travels across the country to move in with her father in California. This new town means new possibilities. It also means that Bailey might just get to meet her online crush, “Alex” with whom she shares a passion for old movies. Bailey doesn’t expect Porter Roth to ruin all her summer plans. Their chemistry is undeniable, but Bailey’s tendency to evade uncomfortable situations might derail their relationship.
I loved that even though this contemporary focuses on Bailey falling in love for the first time, it also gave the protagonist an important character arc that revolved around her alone. A traumatic past experience has caused Bailey to retreat into herself and as a result, she isn’t always good at forming new relationships. She’s used to compartmentalizing and this tendency to keep parts of her life separate makes it hard for her to open up to new people. Her online relationship with Alex that mostly revolves around their love of old Hollywood classics is only one facet to who she is and although I would have like to have seen more of this relationship, I think it was important to give Bailey’s real life relationship with Porter more of the spotlight. It is through this relationship that Bailey is forced to confront her propensity to bail when things get tough and though it’s a slow process, she does end up understanding that running away is the worst possible way to deal with her problems.
Porter was a really sweet love interest for Bailey. At first he does come across as a real jerk and though I don’t think this was really necessary, it thankfully doesn’t last long because it would have been really hard to root for this relationship if Porter had continually antagonized Bailey. I appreciated that Bailey wasn’t the only one hesitant about their relationship. Porter’s last serious relationship didn’t end well. These trust issues made him more relatable when he could have very easily been a cliché love interest. Several of his interpersonal relationships play vital roles in the story which gave him added depth.
The book does have some shortcomings. If you read the synopsis, the main plot twist isn’t meant to be concealed from the reader. I went into the novel knowing important information the characters didn’t. I thought the author would play with the idea of mistaken identity more, so was kind of disappointed that the identity of Bailey’s online friend really wasn’t much of a factor until the very end of the book. I also found it really hard to wrap my brain around Bailey’s mom’s complete absence. There is absolutely no contact between the two of them during the entire duration of the novel and although we’ve given a semi-convincing reason as to why at the end, I still found it hard to believe. I feel that this relationship was a missed opportunity. Part of the reason behind Bailey’s attitude toward conflict stems from what she’s learned from her mother, so it would have been interesting to actually explore this relationship rather than be told about it.
Bennett does a wonderful job of capturing those new, exciting feelings that come with your first serious relationship. I also appreciated that the author allows her characters to make mistakes and learn from these experiences. If you’re looking for a summer read that will have you swooning and agonizing over the ending Alex, Approximately is the one for you.