Spoiler-Free Book Review: Beach Read by Emily Henry

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Beach Read by Emily Henry

Adult Fiction // Categories: Contemporary, Romance
Release Date: May 19, 2020
Publisher: Berkley (Penguin Random House)
Format: ebook • 384 pages
Rating: 5 stars

Links: Purchase from The Book DepositoryAdd to Goodreads

January Andrews, author of romance novels that end in happily ever after, no longer believes in love and is now at a standstill with her next book. Because of this, she ends up agreeing with her college nemesis and literary writer Augustus "Gus" Everett to switch genres. While January works on the next "Great American Novel," Gus will write something happy. Of course, the two end up spending time together doing research and, well, you know what happens in a romance novel!

In my mind, it is simply a fun and light story that you can't put down. Macmillan Dictionary says it's "a book you can take on holiday, which is good enough to keep you engaged but not so serious it will spoil your holiday," and I agree!

So ... is Beach Read a beach read? It took me a while to decide, because of the many reasons listed below, but I would ultimately say yes. It was laugh-out-loud funny and highly entertaining, but it was also equally dark and, at times, devastating. Although the themes presented are very serious, I don't think it will spoil anyone's holiday.

Beach Read starts with January's entire life flipped upside down. Her long-term relationship ended, she has no money, and something her father did has now tainted her image of him. With all that to deal with, January's idea of a good time does not include going to her dad's lake house and getting it ready for the market. It also doesn't help that the next-door neighbor is a grouchy man. Enter Gus.

Like January, Gus also carries some baggage. What that is exactly is revealed to readers slowly throughout the course of the entire novel, and it guides his (what seems to be) strange urgency to learn about cults and cult suicides. (Note: If this is a trigger for you, I would suggest skipping Beach Read. It's a topic that's not only mentioned in passing, but it comes up multiple times.) I love a good love interest, and even more so when we get to learn about them beyond who they are to the main character. Even with everything these two carry, Emily Henry did an excellent job balancing it all. I love that it was both happy and sad—that's what life looks like. Sometimes it's everything, all at once.

January's first encounter with Gus is a hint of the banter that will come, which is arguably the thing I love the most about Beach Read. Both characters are quick-witted, which made all of their conversations so entertaining to follow. I love a good roast, and there were MANY because of their clashing personalities. There were some cheesy/cringy moments, but what romance novel doesn't have them? (If you know of one, please let me know!!! *Insert "I would like to see it" meme*) It really was only two or three occurrences, so no big deal.

As a romance author, January has faced a lot of judgment.

"I never corrected people when they said singular "book" rather than plural "books," but sometimes the assumption dug under my skin. It made me feel like people thought my career was a fluke. Like I'd sneezed and a romance novel came out. And then there were the people who acted like we were in on some secret joke together when, after a conversation about Art or Politics, they found out I wrote upbeat women's fiction: Whatever pays the bills, right? they'd say, practically begging me to confirm I didn't want to write books about women or love." (p. 33)

Emily Henry challenges those who look down on romance novels, as if it is inferior to other genres, by showing readers why January herself loves writing happily ever afters and how it relates to the things she'd experienced in life. I completely understood her passion for it, and I hope you'll be able to see that too.

"... 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. I decided then that my life would be full of all three." (p. 3)

Interestingly, we also see January bring up this issue with Gus. She has this idea that Gus is someone who sees her in a different light because she loves writing romance, and all I'll say is that he makes her think twice about her assumptions. This spills into how they both view and experience love—not just romantic love, but with family and friends—and I think this was done so well.

Both of January's parents are physically absent in this book, but we still see her relationships with them change as she confronts her feelings about the past. Things are complicated and messy, but Emily Henry wrote it all in a really impressive way. It's not that all the problems were solved in the end, but it still felt hopeful? It's hard to express without spoiling something, so I'll just say that there are a lot of layers in this story—which I love, obviously.

  • This is an adult romance novel, so yes there are sex scenes. Please be aware if this is something you want to avoid.
  • This is 100% making my top ten books of 2020!!!

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