Review: Beach Read by Emily Henry

Title: Beach Read
Author: Emily Henry
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: May 19, 2020
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Adult
Rating: ☕☕☕☕☕ (5/5)

I saw this book going around Twitter and got curious. And then Bibliophile Guild PH assigned this to be the May BOTM and I was all set. Read this in a whim and I did not expect to like it this much! Here’s why:

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.
(via Goodreads)

THOUGHTS

when the world felt dark and scary, love could whisk you off to go dancing; laughter could take some of the pain away; beauty could punch holes in your fear.

Reeling from a devastating revelations that somehow sent her life into a spiral after losing someone she loves, January Andrews decided to withdraw from the world and stay in a vacation house her father left her. Only to discover that his college nemesis (and former crush), literary fiction superstar Augustus Everett, is his neighbor. Coupled with a sudden shift in her belief in true love, January tries her hardest to come up with a new bestselling romance book while trying to deal with grief and loss. One thing led to another and Gus and January decided to make a deal: they will try to write a novel in each other’s genre and see who rakes more sales.

I know this book received a couple of mixed reviews but Beach Read has actually been such a personal read for me. Romance aside, January’s journey in dealing with grief and betrayal hits too close to home. Those nuanced moments of her reflecting on the revelations that were brutally revealed to her and her using writing as a vehicle in somewhat “dealing” with those feelings are moments that I truly cherished when I was reading it. It was selfish and self-absorbed, yes, as others pointed out… but grief does that to people. And as a wise person once pointed out to me, each person has a unique way of dealing with it – which made that whole side-plot resonate with me so much. With January’s (former) absolute belief in love and how it changes the lives of people touched by it, it broke my heart reading about the moments she questioned herself.

He tasted like coffee and the tail end of a cigarette and I couldn’t get enough.

As to the romance, it was well in my taste. Enemies to friends. Friends to lovers. It was slow-burn realness and I really savored every minute of it. The banters are precious and I really enjoyed each moment January and Gus are both on page. I would’ve like it to be more sauce-y but that’s just me. This book also tackled some heavy subjects on the side (cancer, effects of domestic abuse, even cults) that I personally think were handled decently.

One issue that I have would be that the marketing for Beach Read was not that accurate? I mean, it was marketed as this One issue that I have would be that the marketing for Beach Read was not that accurate? I mean, it was marketed as this easy-going chick flick but it was definitely heavier both in theme and plot. I would think it would throw me off if I charged to this book expecting a light, fluffy read – because it is not. And it is more than that, luckily for me.

No matter how much shit, there will always be wildflowers. There will always be Petes and Maggies and rainstorms in forests and sun on waves.”

Overall, though, it was a really great read for me. There are a couple of moments in the book that are a little too personal for me, ones that were given solidity through words even if I wouldn’t even dare to think about them myself – reading snippets that felt like I am reliving specific moments in my life – so that’s another special personal layer that made me like it so much. Although I loved the eventual romance in this book, it took a back seat as, for me, this book is more about dealing with loss, slowly learning to forgive the people we loved who wronged us, and accepting that shit will always be there, but no matter, there will always be wildflowers. That living – and loving – isn’t half as bad.

ADDITIONAL NOTE:

  • Wouldn’t it be great if Emily Henry released the novel January eventually wrote as a stand-alone ala Rainbow Rowell’s Simon Snow series? And Gus’ book as well, though it was not really explored in the book. Would it be *inspired* by his and January’s story? Well, that would be something I would like to see.
  • The argument around “women’s fiction” as a genre? Amen.
  • I also found Gus to be on the pretentious side at times – but it didn’t matter. I guess I like my men that way. Sorry not sorry.
  • I’ve highlighted stuff more than usual and necessary, I’ve noticed, obviously because of some personal stuff. This quote hit me so hard “If memory were accurate, then Dad couldn’t have been here, in this house, when Mom’s cancer came back. He couldn’t have been because, until he died, I had memories of them dancing barefoot in the kitchen, of him smoothing her hair and kissing her head, driving her to the hospital with me in the back seat and the playlist he’d enlisted me to help him piece together playing on the car stereo.” and it just emphasized to me (more than I would like to face it) how heavily our perception of people is dependent on what they present to us. I could understand the hurt and denial on January’s side because these are feelings that I’ve also dealt with before (even now) and recognized in my own.

QUOTABLE QUOTES

I missed feeling that deep curiosity about people, that spark of excitement when you realized you had something in common or admiration when you uncovered a hidden talent or quality.
Sometimes, I just missed liking people.

God, I missed the days when the words poured out. When writing those happy endings, those kisses in the rain and music-swelling, knee-on-the-ground proposal scenes had been the best part of my day. Back then, true love had seemed like the grand prize, the one thing that could weather any storm, save you from both drudgery and fear, and writing about it had felt like the single most meaningful gift I could give.

That whole night had taken on a hazy, soft-focus quality like we were only dreaming it. Looking back, I thought we sort of had been: him pretending to be endlessly interesting; me pretending to be spontaneous and carefree, as usual. Outwardly we were so different, but when it came down to it, we both wanted the same thing. A life cast in a magical glow, every moment bigger and brighter and tastier than the last.

He fit so perfectly into the love story I’d imagined for myself that I mistook him for the love of my life.

Happy. Not giddy or overjoyed, but that low, steady level of happiness that, in the best periods of life, rides underneath everything else, a buffer between you and the world you are walking over.

“Oh, honey,” Sonya said quietly. “We can never fully know the people we love. When we lose them, there will always be more we could have seen, but that’s what I’m trying to tell you.

Falling’s the part that takes your breath away. It’s the part when you can’t believe the person standing in front of you both exists and happened to wander into your path. It’s supposed to make you feel lucky to be alive, exactly when and where you are.”

Yes, I thought. That is how life feels too often. Like you’re doing everything you can to survive only to be sabotaged by something beyond your control, maybe even some darker part of yourself.

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Auditor by profession and a 'round-the-clock geek 🤓 from the 🇵🇭. I'm a coffee-holic INTJ with an unhealthy obsession with books and stationery. I word-vomit over at Twitter and posts book pics at Instagram: @pagesandcc . I also blog at https://pagesandcoffeecups.com/ .

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