Contemporary Romance, Young Adult

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

Alex, Approximately

Pages: 390

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: April 3, 2018

Genre(s): Contemporary Romance

Format: Paperback

Goodreads Synopsis

“Classic movie buff Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online by “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 arch-nemesis. 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.

In this delightfully charming teen spin on You’ve Got Mail, the one guy Bailey Rydell can’t stand is actually the boy of her dreams—she just doesn’t know it yet.

What Did I Think?

One of the things I always love about Jenn Bennett’s books are their unique overall concepts, and that of Alex, Approximately is no exception. I loved that while the setting was in California, there was a small town vibe to it that makes the reader feel like we’re locals. I’m a suckers for playlists, illustrations, and anything else that breaks up the chapters and tells us more about the characters, so seeing the messages between Alex and Bailey via the film fanatics website was so cool to see and even more fun to read. While there were some really heart wrenching moments in the book, they were balanced out well by the quirky characters and their witty senses of humor. I also really appreciated the fact that while Bailey and Porter don’t necessarily have a “traditional” upbringing, the family they do have in their lives are so supportive of each of them and always have their best interests at heart.

I loved our protagonist, Bailey, from the very first chapter. She avoids conflict at all costs (including moving all the way across the country to do just this), has a very distinct sense of humor, and isn’t afraid to get nerdy about all things film. She’s had to come to terms with some pretty traumatic events in her life thus far, but I love how this doesn’t hold her back from taking a chance on new things as she explores her new Cali home. While she starts out reserved and avoids the spotlight, I loved the moments where Bailey came out of her shell and lost her temper at people who tried to walk all over her. Though her character didn’t develop all that much, I think that moving to a different placing, getting her first real job, and finding her voice were realistic steps in her journey to become a more mature young adult, and I could see this change in her by the end.

Porter, our main man, really threw me for a loop. I really REALLY did not want to like him, especially after the little charade he pulled during Bailey’s training day at the museum. But eventually his natural charisma drew me in and I couldn’t help but like and respect him once I got to know a little more about him. I loved the fact that he was always eager to help his family, even when it was inconvenient for him to do so, and how proud he is of his sister’s surfing accomplishments. Like Bailey, he has had to deal with some hardship in life, but I loved the fact that he took those memories and used them as fuel rather than cow-tailing to his fears. Overall, as mad as I got at Porter, my anger never overshadowed how good of a guy he really is at heart!

While there is very little not to love about this book, I couldn’t give it a full five starts for a few reasons. The main reason is that the biggest spoiler on earth is literally on the back of this book in the synopsis: Porter is Alex. GEEZ! That literally took the mystery out of the whole thing, and I was really bummed about it. While the reader surmises pretty quickly that this the case, I wish we would have been left to figure it out on our own rather than being spoiled BY THE AUTHOR HERSELF. Another less upsetting issue I had with this book was that while I loved the fact that there were so many intricate details thrown in, by the end, I just felt like there were loose ends that still needed tying up. This is not to say that the ending wasn’t satisfying (it TOTALLY was), but some things just didn’t feel complete to me. However, don’t let these issues deter you from giving Alex, Approximately a chance because overall, it was a fantastic read!

Alex, Approximately was about as loaded of a contemporary romance as you’ll find, and I loved every moment of untangling all the little details! The characters had such unique backgrounds and personalities, and I enjoyed the fact that the connection that each of these characters have with their families remained at the forefront of the story. The plot was well-paced, and I found myself completely engaged in Bailey’s new Cali adventures from beginning to end. Alex, Approximately was both heartwarming and heartbreaking, funny and cringe-y, and just an overall blast to read.

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

Looking for a summery contemporary romance with a strong emphasis on family, friendship, and learning how to overcome your past and reshape your future, this book is for you!

If you’re like me (aka you’ve read her latest works before picking up this gem up) and enjoyed Jenn Bennett’s Starry Eyes and Serious Moonlight, I highly recommend you give Alex, Approximately a read!

I’d also recommend this book to fans of Morgan Matson, Rainbow Rowell, Katie McGarry, and Sarah Dessen.

Contemporary Romance, Young Adult

Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett

Amazon.com: Serious Moonlight (9781534425149): Bennett, Jenn: Books

Pages: 426

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: April 16, 2019

Genre(s): Contemporary Romance

Format: Advanced Reader Copy

Goodreads Synopsis

“After an awkward first encounter, Birdie and Daniel are forced to work together in a Seattle hotel where a famous author leads a mysterious and secluded life in this romantic contemporary novel from the author of Alex, Approximately.

Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell…discovering that the most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.”

What Did I Think?

This book had it all: a SUPER awkward first (err, second?) encounter, some unauthorized detective work, an octopus named Octavia, and a whole lotta pie-eatin’, and I LOVED IT!

I don’t now how she does it, but Jenn Bennett always manages keep readers on their toes when it comes to the overall concepts she constructs. Serious Moonlight was totally unlike any other contemporary I’ve ever read. While I don’t normally read mysteries or detective stories, I absolutely loved the main plot of this book, which centers around Birdie and Daniel becoming the modern-day versions of Sherlock Holmes and Nancy Drew as they try to learn more about a reclusive writer they think is staying at the hotel they work the overnight shift at. The majority of the book takes place in and around Seattle, WA (a place I’ve never been to before but felt like I had by the end of the book), and having Birdie take the ferry in and out of the city from the island she lives on was a super creative touch. I also really appreciate the fact that both Birdie and Daniel have such wonderful support systems standing behind them to provide guidance when they need it. Overall, I thought all of these tiny little details worked together to create a super intriguing concept that would appeal to a wide variety of readers.

I saw a lot of myself in Birdie’s character. She’s very connected to her family, and I love the bond she has with her late mother’s (frick frackin’ hilarious) best friend, Mona, who Birdie grew up living with. She also, like me, tends to sweat the small stuff. Throughout the book we see Birdie struggle to work through quite a few things, including her anxiety, another health condition she’s been avoiding dealing with, grief after losing family members, and trying to break out of her introverted shell. While I’m not a huge fan of mysteries myself, I had so much fun learning about Birdie’s love of reading about and solving mysteries. I found myself appreciating the fact that Birdie’s character didn’t have a whole lot of new development, but instead just became more in tune with and honed her true personality over the course of the novel. I will say that it took me a little while to connect with her because the concept of the novel was so complex and took a little bit to establish before the reader really gets to know her, but once I did I really enjoyed Birdie’s character!

As if this book couldn’t get any better, Serious Moonlight also has its own personal magician– Daniel! There was not one thing I didn’t love about his character. He’s sweet, funny, witty, charismatic, and overall, just a great guy. The fact that he has a man bun is also a nice touch, and likely means that yet another fictional character has better hair than I do (le sigh). After he and Birdie reconnect at the Carlisle Hotel (now as work buddies, yayy but AWKWARD!), he’s convinced that their meeting again was an act of fate, which irks Birdie to no end, as she really wants to just sweep the whole situation under a rug. However, I’m totally with Daniel on this one, because I think they balance each other out really well, and let’s face it: they were meant to be from the get-go. Daniel also gets bonus points from me because he knows and is invested in what Birdie is interested in and makes an effort to take her on adventures in Seattle that are geared toward those interests. I’m thinking of one outing in particular and really want to spoil it for you guys, but I’m gonna keep it to myself and let you enjoy the moment yourselves when you give Serious Moonlight a read!

I cannot sing the praises of Serious Moonlight enough! I found Bennett’s storytelling so compelling and the overall concept she created brilliantly unconventional. The pacing of was right on the money, and I enjoyed all the little plot twists that managed to sneak up on me when I least expected them. I couldn’t help but love and relate to all of the characters and their quirks, and I’m hard-pressed to find two people that suit one another better than Birdie and Daniel do. The romance that sparked between these two was constructed in a way that made it so realistic and believable, given all the awkwardness their past experience with one another brought to the table. I enjoyed every moment of reading Serious Moonlight, and I have a feeling it will go down in history as one of my favorite contemporary romances of all time!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

Looking for a book with a truckload of mystery, romance, and some quirky, flawed characters you can’t help but love and relate to? Give Serious Moonlight a try. You won’t regret it, I promise!

If you’ve read Jenn Bennett’s other contemporaries (Starry Eyes and Alex, Approximately), I’m almost 100% sure you’ll fall in love with Serious Moonlight! I’d also recommend Serious Moonlight to fans of Rainbow Rowell, Kasie West, and Jenny Han.