Sunday, 20 August 2017

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

Title: Alex, Approximately
Author: Jenn Bennett
Published by: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 27th July 2017
Pages: 388
Genres: Young Adult/Contemporary/Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Bailey Rydell has found the boy of her dreams. 'Alex' is smart and sweet and loves the same movies as her. The only problem?

They haven't actually met...

So when Bailey moves to California to be with her dad, who happens to live in the same town as her online crush, she decides to use all her detective skills to track him down. Turns out, it's not easy finding someone when you don't even know their real name. And with the irritating but charismatic local surfer distracting her at every turn, will she ever get to meet the mysterious 'Alex'?

I've found it really difficult to read books this year. Before and during exams, I suppose I got out of the habit, and it has proved much harder to get back into the swing of things than I thought it would be when I wrote that excitable and wistful post on 'books I'm going to read this summer'. So innocent, so naive. Months passed. I barely put a dent in the TBR that is made up of several piles lining the entirety of my longest bedroom wall.

And then Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett arrived in the post. I'd never heard of it before, but the cover grabbed me and I quickly scanned the back to discover what was inside. Immediately, I wanted to read it - and the next day at YALC I found myself fangirling over the book when I saw it on the publisher's stand, even though I hadn't even read the first page?! With me, subconscious anticipatory fangirling is always a good sign.

The bare bones of the concept? You never know who you're talking to online... and what happens when you end up getting scarily close offline? If I didn't make YouTube videos, I could be a cat with insane typing skills and you'd be none the wiser. Seriously, though, you might be looking at that thinking it's not the most original concept ever - and it's not. The whole 'hidden identity' thing has been done loads, both in books and film. What pulled me in was the embellishment, the dressing up... the consequences and the madness of it all. I love a 'sliding doors' moment, me.

Bailey is a fan of classic films. On an online forum, shedding her real name and going by 'Mink', she is close friends with Alex - maybe more. But when she moves to his town to live with her dad, she decides not to tell him how close she is, and instead tries to focus on getting a summer job and scoping him out from a distance. Damage control. California, however, proves distracting: a new friend in quiet but hilarious Grace Achebe, a confusing colleague in infuriating and frustrating Porter Roth, a father to get used to again, and a whole local history to uncover. Bailey's narrative is funny, warm and relatable - as is Porter's - and I loved their spiky, sarcastic chemistry. All of the characters jumped off the page, and for a pretty wild concept, it was very believable, too. Ahem, sequel, please...

This is the easiest and most adorable read I've had in a long time, with a fascinating concept to boot. Always helps. Plus, there were elements of other books I've loved: Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins, When We Collided by Emery Lord, Wing Jones by Katherine Webber, and Blue by Lisa Glass. If you liked any of those, you'll love this. Who can resist well-written romantic surfer YA with depth?

In short, I adored it. Alex, Approximately is one of those books I'm going to be recommending to everyone for quite a while... starting with you!

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

In Photos: Wandering Around Shoreditch With a Camera and a Bag Full of Onion Rings

I mean, that's literally what we did for hours. What else was I supposed to call this post?

On Wednesday 9th August, I finally got to meet one of my oldest blogging friends, Hawwa. Back in the day, she'd email me under the code-name Jazz and fangirl over my hair. Six years later, we're actual friends, she's long since revealed her actual name to me, and she wouldn't be caught dead fangirling over anything to do with me even if you offered her a hundred quid. You can see a brief history of our 'friendship' (online annoyance might be a better term?) here.

We had a very ~aesthetic~ day. If you can't hipster in Shoreditch (that's in London, for any of my far away readers), where can you hipster, am I right kids?

I desperately wanted this t-shirt, but I didn't desperately want the comments I knew it would attract if I wore it out. Yay, society.

After Spitalfields Market, we went for burgers (GBK, obvs) before heading to a mosque so Hawwa could pray, and then we found Brick Lane and got snap happy. I love graffiti when it's well done. Maybe controversially (?) I think the streets need more of it. More art can only ever be a good thing, right?

 And then we went... somewhere. I don't know. Google Maps wasn't working for either of us so we just walked and ended up under a bridge by some awesome community gardens. So many Instagram opportunities, guys. So many.

After that, we headed to the British Library - I wrote a love letter to it the first time I visited; that's how cool it is. Hawwa had never been before, though, so we went. We were going to get one of their amazing brownies to share, too, but they'd ran out. I MISS YOU, BEAUTIFUL BROWNIE.

I'm hoping that next time I see Hawwa, it'll be nearer her, in Manchester. *eyes motorway suspiciously*

Have you met any of your 'online' friends?