Beach Read might be the perfect Beach Read, but for me, it wasn’t a perfect book.
Beach Read by Emily Henry follows January, a romance writer, who will spend her summer at her recently deceased father’s beach house to finish her latest novel. At the beach house, January runs into Gus, who she competed with in college and published a widely successful literary novel. After some tense interactions, January and Gus challenges each other to write a novel in the genre of the opposite person.
When I went into Beach Read, I went in with huge expectations. I saw the synopsis for Beach Read awhile and I was instantly intrigued by the premise despite my reservations for reading books about books. Beach Read wasn’t totally the type of read that I expected, which in some ways was a good thing, but in other ways, it wasn’t my cup of tea.
Before I start my review, I would like to disclose some triggering content in this book that you wouldn’t really expect based on the synopsis. When I heard about this book, I expected it to be much lighter than the actual story inside. While I appreciate the depth that the author sought to give these characters, some of content in this book may be difficult for some readers to read and I feel like this isn’t very clear in the book’s marketing, so it is important to disclose to anyone who is considering to read this novel. In Beach Read, the main characters research a suicide cult, which includes interviewing members who survived and family members of this who didn’t survive, as well as visiting the former site of the suicide cult. Additionally, one of the main characters in this book experienced significant trauma in their childhood as the result of a physically, verbally, and emotionally abusive parent. These are important topics to discuss within literature, but at the same time, I know that many readers will not expect this going into the story. If any of these topics may be triggering for you, I would recommend skipping this book.
January and Gus was the typical enemies-to-lovers romance that you would see in other similar novels, so if you like this dynamic, then this could be a great book for you. January and Gus have a lot of witty banter, especially about their respective genres, which was fun and enjoyable to read. The backstories of these characters definitely took this novel in a darker direction that I expected, but I appreciated how the author really fleshed out these characters which I don’t always see in similar novels. That being said, this book does have the whole “I liked you, that’s why I was/am mean to you” attitude in it, so if you don’t like that, then this relationship may not be your favorite.
For me, like much of the novel, the relationship between January and Gus was hit-or-miss for me. Like I mentioned previously, I did enjoy the banter between January and Gus, especially the back-and-forth about their writing. That being said, many of their conversations were repeated over and over again, especially in the second half of the book, which made the story very repetitive and less interesting. I am also personally not a huge fan of some of the actions in their relationship of this book. While some of the misunderstandings in this book are understandable based on the personality of the characters, I feel like these misunderstandings aren’t always full addressed and covered up with something cute to make up for it (especially in the ending of the novel). In a romance, you want to believe the characters will last off the page, but for me, I never really got there with these two characters despite how much they confessed that it would happen.
I also have conflicting feelings towards the pacing of this book. For me, this book started off really strong. The first chapter had a particularly strong voice and the set-up of the novel was very well-developed. However, as the book stretched on, particularly in the second half, the story really slowed down for me. Like I mentioned earlier, there was some repetitiveness with the interactions between the characters and I found some of the scenes unnecessary. While I breezed through the first half of this book, the second half dragged on and I found myself just trying to get to the end of the story, which isn’t a good sign.
(MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD)
There was also one particular scene in this book that bothered me. I don’t know if I am being overly sensitive, but as I was reading, it just didn’t sit right with me. Throughout the book, January goes with Gus to interview people who survived a suicide cult or family members of people who didn’t survive the cult. At one point in the story, January and Gus actually visit the site of the cult, which includes remnants of the burned buildings. January and Gus hike a little bit away from the cult where they have several very physically intimate moments. Even though January and Gus weren’t on the site of the cult when this happened, this event in the story made me feel very uncomfortable and I found it very inappropriate and unnecessary.
If you like an enemies-to-lover romance and enjoy books about books, then you will probably enjoy this book. If you are expecting a very sunny book that primarily takes place on the beach (there is barely any beach in this book, just fyi), then you probably won’t enjoy it. For me, there were some aspects of this book that I enjoyed and others that I really didn’t enjoy. Overall, this made Beach Read just an average read to me. I give this book three out of five stars.