by Emily Henry
Published by Berkley on May 19, 2020
Sub-Genre/Theme: Chick Lit, Contemporary, Women's Fiction
Format: ARC, Audiobook
Buy: Amazon, B&N
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I received an advance copy of this book from Libro.fm.
A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.
Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.
They're polar opposites.
In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they're living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer's block.
Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She'll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he'll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.
I’m so bummed that Beach Read by Emily Henry didn’t work for me. I’ve seen mostly rave reviews for this book on Instagram and elsewhere, but the story came out lacking for me.
First, the characters of January and Gus read to me like new adult characters, not like established adults who are both accomplished authors in their own circles. They very much come across as people who are just figuring things out–on their own and with each other. I feel like this book could have been marketed more accurately if it had been pitched as new adult instead of romance/chick lit/women’s fiction.
While on that topic, the whole “writer characters describing the writing process and chuckling together about book reviews” spiel felt a little too meta to me. After reading the author’s note at the end and learning what Beach Read is actually about, things start to become clearer.
The “bet” between January and Gus starts out as a cute idea: they’ll each spend the summer writing a book in the other person’s genre. But throughout the course of the story, the bet seems to have been forgotten, if not abandoned altogether. It is picked back up again at the end, but doing so feels like an afterthought.
I really feel like not much of substance takes place between the 50% mark and 70% mark of the book. The trips to New Eden? Sure, they’re supposedly research for Gus’ novel, but the subplot comes across as filler.
You know it’s a bad sign when you’re zoning out and even fast forwarding the sex scenes. 😫 Never, ever a good sign for me.
So, what did I like about the book?
It has quite a few snort-laugh moments early on, which I found promising. Unfortunately, as the drama ramps up, the dialogue becomes more unnatural, which is too bad because I really enjoyed the earlier banter.
I also found the plot surrounding January’s dad to be the strongest part of the story and wish the book would’ve expanded on that more instead of taking us to New Eden for a trip into left field. The family issues, combined with January and Gus’ burgeoning relationship, should have been the book’s main focus. As it were, so many other competing subplots made the overall story seem disjointed.
4 stars for the first half of the book, 2 stars for the second half, 3 stars overall. I’m disappointed that this didn’t work out for me but I think it’ll appeal to many others who know what to expect beforehand.
Rating: 3 stars