Synopsis: The one guy Bailey Rydell can’t stand is actually the boy of her dreams—she just doesn’t know it yet.
Classic movie fan Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online as 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 archnemesis. 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.
Back at it again with the one-star reviews. (Was that a misguided and severely outdated Damn Daniel reference? You decide.) Anyway, did you think it was over? Did you think I’d recovered from my near-pathological habit of giving out one-star ratings? It didn’t happen. God, if only, you know?
But seriously. I’m pretty embarrassed that I was so excited for this book.
Like…I hate books that are cringey, and I hate books that are pretentious, but it’s so rare for me to get the opportunity to hate one that is BOTH!
Ughhhh. God. I’m someone who is extremely susceptible to the charms of an old movie, so when I saw that there was, essentially, a retelling of You’ve Got Mail (a fairly good movie, I guess) in which old film brings the ~romantic interests~ together, I had to be in.
And then I read the first 20 pages and cringed unbearably and put it to the side for, presumably, ever.
Yes. I planned on DNFing this book after 20 pages. Just so everyone knows: I never ever do that. EVER. But I instantly knew this book was going to be ALL WRONG.
But then I saw a metric sh*t ton (one of my favorite phrases, by the way) of positive reviews. From very trusted sources! And I’m not just talking, like, three-and-a-half-stars “fun fluffy read” reviews. I mean five star, this book is amazing reviews.
Unfortunately, my dumb gut was right the first time. So let’s talk about why this book is garbàge, using the Caraval review structure I only whip out when books got a whole lotta sh*t goin’ on.
PLOT, I GUESS
We follow Bailey, who leaves her dirty rotten mom behind in DC to live in sunny SoCal with her cool nerd dad. Bailey is a cinephile,apparently, and writes (flirty!) messages back and forth on a cinema forum with this kid Alex. Guess where Alex lives? In the same small town as Bailey’s dad. Guess when Bailey tells Alex she’s there? Ding ding ding! If you guessed “Never, for reasons that are stupid,” you’re today’s winner!
Anyway, Bailey meets this kid Porter, who she “hates” (for all of 20 pages before the whole thing dissolves into sexual tension and smut, never to return). But guessssss whooooo Alexxxxx isssss? Just kidding, you don’t have to guess. It’s in the f*cking synopsis. It’s Porter.
Now we just have to wait for the dumbest protagonist in world history to figure out what has been increasingly apparent since, like, page 5. GRUELING.
Going to try one of my world-famous character impressions on for size. Here’s Bailey:
Wow, am I ever going to find Alex? All I know about him is that he loves old movies, and has best friend problems, and works in his family’s business on the boardwalk within view of the ocean by a stray cat and a churro cart, and doesn’t know if he can go to college because his family needs him, and watches movies at work, and has a coworker who smokes a sh*t ton of weed, and that his girlfriend cheated on him. It surely can’t be Porter, who was in the old movie section of a DVD store, and knows Roman Holiday and old sci-fi movies and a million others, and has best friend problems, and works in his family’s business on the boardwalk within view of the ocean by a stray cat and a churro cart, and doesn’t know if he can go to college because his family needs him, and watches movies at work, and has a coworker who smokes a sh*t ton of weed, and whose girlfriend cheated on him.
Semi-spoiler alert: Bailey NEVER FIGURES IT OUT. Her f*cking dad does, and so does Porter. PORTER HAS TO TELL BAILEY IT’S HIM. My God. The sheer idiocy is overwhelming. And to think, her dad told her she’s a “good detective.” In the immortal words of Alicia Silverstone, “As if.”
On top of this sort of mind-boggling, makes-me-wanna-claw-my-eyes-out stupidity, this book was also so pretentious and made me cringe so often. I ALMOST DNFED IT TWICE.
I just feel so lied to. All I wanted was a contemporary with some chat logs and old movie discussion, and I was CHEATED ON BOTH FRONTS. I’m so anguished it makes me fear for my caps lock key. The online messages are few and far between, and those that we are granted are less than impressive, and really the best old movie discussion we get is from the quotes at the beginning of the chapters – WHICH INCLUDE FILMS LIKE PITCH PERFECT AND CLUELESS AND EASY A! Don’t get me wrong, all great movies, but not exactly anyone’s idea of vintage!!!!!!!!!!! Ugh.
THE WORST TROPE OF ALL TIME
And also, guys, in case you needed a disappointment cherry on top of this infuriating sundae, Bailey is so totally not like other girls. The first example arrives at the literal beginning of the book: “It’s not exactly the kind of movie you ask a girl out to see when you’re trying to win her heart – not most girls, anyway.”
This is when I put this thing down for a couple weeks.
When I returned, rested, rejuvenated, hopeful, I was dealt another blow: “I’m not going to be one of those girls who goes wobbly-woo over a boy and picks at her food.”
Poor Bailey. How does she survive as the only tolerable female in the entire universe?
NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL PRETENTIOUS
Bailey also sh*t talks the East Coast constantly? And I mean, I’ve grown up on East Coast beaches. And my question is: What the fuck kind of East Coast beach was Bailey going to? Where does the ocean smell like “bleached metal” and make you want to “roll up a window”? Sweet Lord Jesus. It smells like an ocean. It’s great. Maybe that stick up your ass is impairing your sense of smell. And when she’s standing in the f*cking woods, she rants and raves about how that’s just the kind of Quality Smell™ you just can’t get in the east. Um, it can smell like “pine” here too, you ding-dong.
Continuing along the path of misguided pretentiousness, this book goes on a rant about Breakfast at Tiffany’s that cut me to my soul. Don’t misunderstand me: Mickey Rooney’s racist-ass character is supremely f*cked. It’s far from a perfect movie. But people are allowed to like it! It’s a classic! My God, this book, man.
CRINGE CENTRAL, PARTY OF ME
THIS SECTION IS UNFORTUNATELY EXPLICIT
RATED T FOR TEEN SMUT
Now let’s talk about that full-on cringe-fest, baby. This book substitutes a plot with gooey looks and smut and I guess what would be considered the stepping stone between flirting and sexting. It’s always just a couple of hot and bothered teens, and it made me SO UNCOMFORTABLE. I don’t like smut much in the first place, but when it’s a first-person seventeen-year-old girl talking about her daydreams and fantasies and masturbation habits and what I can only describe as a passion for getting fingered…it kinda makes me wanna Die™.
And God, a light breeze could turn this girl on. Here are some examples of things that spur Bailey into fantasizing in public:
– The cringeworthy-by-itself phrase “Porter likey”
– Extensive injuries from a fight
– Porter informing her she should wear sandals more often because he likes her feet (GAG ME WITH A SPOON)
-Generally being glanced at, touched by or close to Porter
And nowwww it’s time forrrr – GENERAL STUPIDITY! I haven’t had the privilege of writing one of these sections in a hot sec. Longtime, long-suffering followers know that this is the section I use for books that contain small mistakes or irritations that just don’t make sense.
In this book, it’s mostly the dialogue. For example, when Bailey meets the forty-year-old cop girlfriend of her father, guess what said cop says?
I’d bet you a hundred thousand million dollars you didn’t think it’d be this: “‘I like your brows,’ she finally says. ‘Glamorous.’” THAT’S LIKE A FORTY-YEAR-OLD FEMALE COP SPEAKING TO A TEENAGER.
Something that just kind of bothers me: Bailey’s hair is constantly described as being like Lana Turner’s. People even recognize her hair as being in the style of Lana Turner’s. But Lana Turner didn’t HAVE just one hairstyle! She had like, a million pinup girl variations! I just want answers. Which one which one which one?
ADDICTION IS THE VICTIM’S FAULT NOW AND THEY SHOULD BE BLAMED AND TREATED LIKE A VILLAIN, IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING
So, remember the briefly aforementioned best friend of Porter? The one he “hates”? That best friend’s name is Davy. Davy screwed up his leg surfing so badly he still limps years later. When he was prescribed painkillers, he, like many people, became addicted to the prescription. So when the prescription ran out, he continued to (illegally) source pills. Later, like many people, he moved onto the much-more-affordable heroin. That’s an addiction that is almost impossible to break, and, we’re told, the sh*ttiness of Davy’s family life only spurs him more toward drugs.
But none of that is handled with the understanding it deserves.
Instead, Davy is treated like the villain of this book. All characters carry nothing but disdain and hatred for him. They act like it’s his fault and he should ~just stop~. When he shows the warning signs of many addicts, like stealing and lying, they blame him. Porter beats the sh*t out of him at one point.
But the worst bit of all is what Porter says to Bailey about his supposed best friend, who is addicted to maybe the worst drug out there. “I’m less worried about him right now, and more worried that you’re sorry you ever gave me your number and will never go out on a date with me, because now you’re thinking all my friends are trash and we really have nothing in common.”
Yup. Yes. He’s not that worried about Davy being on one of the most addictive and dangerous drugs in existence. And on top of it, Davy’s “trash” for that addiction.
Bottom line: I said a-nope, nope, nope-ity nope, I said a-nope nope nope-ity nope!