"Beach Read" by Emily Henry: 8.5 out of 10
After graduating this November, I had a bit of free time before the holiday season and I wanted to keep my mind moving as I relaxed in Flagstaff. I asked a friend of mine who is an avid reader if I could borrow a few books from her that I could read over my time off and she lent me this one, along with "Such a Fun Age" that I am chipping away at now. This was a quick but satisfying read.
"Beach Read" follows January Andrews, a young adult who is realizing her life wasn't as perfect as she always suspected. Before the book begins, January's father passes away, and at the funeral, she is met with an unfamiliar face. She discovers that her father had been having an affair and owned a beach house where he escaped to, which has now been left to her.
Almost unwillingly, January goes to stay at the beach house, because she needs to write a new book, one she has been promising her publishing agency. Before this, she had written and published numerous romance novels, but is now struggling to write a happy ending when her life is nothing short of dark clouds.
While she is staying at her father's second home, she doesn't dare venture through many of the rooms, afraid of the secrets she will uncover. She doesn't even open the letter given to her by her father's mistress, unsure of what the contents will unfold. She spends most of her time sitting at her kitchen table, pretending to be productive and on the back patio, looking out at the beautiful sea. Early in her stay, she has an awkward encounter with her new neighbor and the two get off on the wrong foot.
What January doesn't realize until later is that her new neighbor is her college rival Augustus Everett, with who she shared one (almost) forgotten steamy night. Augustus, who now goes by Everett, is also a writer and had always been a sore spot for January, with his books hitting just slightly above hers on the Top 50. Slowly, January and Everett become friends, and on the way back from a book club mishap, make a bet with each other. This bet entails a genre swap, in which Everett must write a romance novel and January must step out of her element to write a darker piece that doesn't have a squeaky clean happy ending. Whoever gets their book published first wins, and each weekend they will take each other on "field trips" to delve into their new genre. January will take him on cheesy rom-com dates, and Everett will take her to cult stomping grounds.
Without spoiling too much of the plot, Henry does an amazing job at disproving the ability of a perfect life. The book begins with January remembering amazing times with her parents, like her mom beating cancer and the three of them going to dance the night away in celebration. Henry then helps January, and the reader, understand that beautiful moments and memories can still exist even if they weren't exactly how you thought they were. Henry brings in memories of January's ex-boyfriend, who was also too good to be true, and helps further her narrative of imperfection is key.
This book was written spectacularly well and even the biggest twists felt realistic. The characterization of the main characters was effortless, and even background characters felt fully developed. The writing style felt wistful and beautiful as our heroine learned her lessons.
Though, while I am often a fan of a rivals-to-lovers trope, I do think that the book could have been just as good if January and Everett had never known each other in college. In some ways, it felt a little too on the nose, but it worked really well in other moments of the novel. This one storyline is my only complaint because I think the story could have relatively had the same motifs and plot points if they had simply first met at their beach houses.
I would definitely recommend anyone to read this book, especially if they are a writer themselves and have dealt with writer's block before. The two main characters find a way to push themselves out of their comfort zone and break their writer's block and write new and interesting novels themselves. This book is also a quick read and has a multitude of funny, sweet, sad and sensual moments. After finishing this book, you may even reflect on how imperfectly perfect your own life is.
Book Read by Emily Henry
© 2020 Sabrina Proffitt