I’m going to be honest – I only bought this book to brink my shopping cart total up to get free shipping. The premise seemed cute (totally taken from You’ve Got Mail?) and I figured that that would be a pretty hard premise to mess up. Sadly, I was mistaken and this was easily one of the most boring and under-baked books I’ve read in a long time.
Alex, Approximately follows Bailey as she moves across the country to move in with her dad in beautiful California. She’s an avid movie fan – she lives and breathes classic cinema and is a part of an online community of fellow film fans. On these online forums she meets Alex, and they spend every waking hour discussing and watching movies together. When Bailey starts a new job, she meets Porter – a typical California surfer dude who she starts to feel things for. She spends the rest of the summer getting to know Porter while also low-key trying to find Alex – who turns out to be the same person as Porter.
This was the most paint-by-numbers, formulaic books I’ve ever read. It’s almost like they were trying to hit all of the popular YA tropes: the lead girl is a quirky Mary Sue, the parents of the main character just don’t get what she’s going through, there’s a terminal illness diagnosis, there’s a character being pressured by his parents to be something he’s not, there’s forbidden love, there’s a love triangle, and the list goes on and on. Sure, there are plenty of books that hit a lot of these same tropes and turn out to be wonderful stories. However, in the case of Alex, Approximately, it reads more like a lazy plot device to avoid actually developing the characters or any important plot points. A lot of the ‘major’ events in this book happened and then never really contributed to moving the story forward (or were altogether forgotten after a chapter).
Bailey was as generic a Mary Sue as you can get. Her only defining characteristics was her love of movies and her self-proclaimed evasiveness (or artful dodging, as she calls it). It’s hard for me to care about a character who really doesn’t have any substance. Porter was no better – a lot of his actions seemed to lack rhyme or reason. Their chemistry together also fell pretty flat. I would have liked to have seen the Mink and Alex vs Bailey and Porter dynamic explored a lot more. Also, as a nitpicking side note – some of the dialog and narration was surprisingly dated and generally not how you would expect a teenager to talk. From a writing point of view: I’m a big fan of show don’t tell, which is hardly ever used in the telling of this story.
Alex, Approximately was a very tedious and generally directionless book. It feels as though it’s trying hard to please as many different audiences as possible, but it lost itself in all of the tropes it jammed in. It really focuses on the instant gratification of the reader at the cost of the quality of the plot. And please, leave classic Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan rom-coms out of this. 1/5.