Goodreads: Alex, Approximately
Published: April 2017
Bailey Rydell’s crush is a fellow classic film buff who goes by the name of Alex online. Then Bailey moves across the country to Alex’s California hometown. But Bailey is an evader. Hesitant to tell Alex that she could be living down the street, Bailey determines to try to find Alex herself first. But then Porter happens. Porter is annoying. But also incredibly handsome. And maybe a little funny. Soon Bailey finds herself falling and she wonders if this is fair to Alex. What she doesn’t know is that Porter and Alex are the same person.
I initially picked up this book because I had heard that it is a retelling of The Shop Around the Corner. However, the story stands on its own. Led by a charming protagonist who loves to evade people (and sometimes) problems, it offers a romance that feels realistic but is also disarmingly sweet. I do not usually read contemporary YA, but this one stole my heart.
Although the plot summary focuses on the conflict between Bailey’s interest in Alex and her new crush on Porter, the book itself spends most of the time chronicling Bailey and Porter’s falling in love. Though they love to argue, their chemistry is clear and readers will cheer them on from the start, knowing that the two are destined to be together. Alex fades into the background as Bailey becomes more invested in the boy she knows in real life. And Alex, of course, does not seem to mind. After all, he has a real life romance of his own!
The relationships depicted feel very real and very contemporary. Most of Porter’s flirtations are not very cute or sweet, but rather indications that he finds Bailey physically attractive and wants to get physical with her. And that’s pretty much what happens. The two get handsy and hop into the back of a van together before even determining what they mean to each other or what their relationship status is. Older readers may find this odd and perhaps alarming, but it’s hard to deny that this is what dating looks like now for many people. The teen crowd for whom it is intended may largely not bat an eye.
Bennett balances the pick-up lines with some sweet gestures by Porter, which at times make this book feel more like a woman’s fantasy than anything else. Porter does sweeping romantic gestures. He opens up to Bailey and is emotionally sensitive. He is very careful about making sure Bailey is comfortable and asking for consent. Frankly, if you think about it too hard, it feels a little too good to be true. I mean, the guy is even physically ripped and goes around beating up other dudes to defend his girl’s honor or something. Fantasy for sure.
However, the relationship between Bailey and Porter is sensitively drawn. Both have baggage, but both are learning to grow up and to open up. In many ways, they help to bring out the best in each other. Initially I read this book for the classic film references. I kept on reading because I loved Bailey and I wanted her to find happiness.