“He fit so perfectly in the love story I’d imagined for myself that I mistook him for the love of my life.”
Oh my gosh I loved this.
Much like The Simple Wild, this book was way more than a simple romance novel (not that there is anything wrong with that). It was more of a character study where the main protagonist happened to fall in love over the course of the book. This was touching and deep and poignant and very, very genuine. It was well developed and well written, and overall a great example of how books like this should be done. You can maintain the tropes and the lightness of the genre, while also making it raw. Make it mean something.
This book did just that.
Honestly, I think the title really sells the book short here. Beach Read evokes a sense of lightness and fluffiness, a whimsical and very summer feel. The title actually almost made me skip over this book or at least put it on my “I’ll get to it one day” list, because I wasn’t in the mood for a super light, silly rom com. I am really glad I listened to all of the early reviewers singing this book’s praises, though, and picked it up right away. It is so much more than a light, fluffy romance! The romance is a big part of this book, but it is almost an effect of the character change and growth that we witness for the main protagonists, not the main cause. I loved that this was first and foremost about the characters coming to terms with some hard truths and tragic situations. Nothing was fixed by love and there was no sense of “suspend your disbelief,” because it was real and gritty. Ugh it was done SO WELL.
The writing was brilliant here. So poignant and deep, without being pretentious. January’s thoughts and musings were so heartfelt and emotional. Her tragedy and conflict felt very natural. Some of her observations about life and her experiences really connected with me and I just love when that happens in a book. Since we were only in January’s perspective the whole time, we did not get to hear Gus’ thoughts directly, but the author did a great job of writing his character and his mannerisms. January’s impression of Gus and her misconceptions of him are very believable. And that makes the slow reveal so great! The dialogue, too, is top-tier here. Nothing ruins a decent romance novel like some cheesy, wooden, or cringy dialogue, but to find one this well written in rare. Everything that Gus and January said was in character, true to their age and experiences, made sense, and was very believable. They sounded like real people; they made jokes that real people would make, they offered up personal stories like real people would, they were awkward or lied or got uncomfortable or angry like real people would! Bless. The dialogue was fantastic.
I could go on and on about how this book “wasn’t like other romance novels” haha, but it really is so true! The plot was definitely unique and touched on a lot of heavy issues, including infidelity (not between the main couple), death of a parent, abandonment issues, cancer, deceit by a parent, loss of self, depression, forgiveness, and coming to terms with things you cannot change. These issues were dealt with in a very mature and intelligent manner. The ultra slow burn romance left room for the characters to really get to know each other and learn how to accept each other, flaws/scars and all.
I love a good slow burn romance and this one was done to perfection. The tension and the banter was SO GOOD. And when the tension was lifted, my goodness it was steamy! Very hot AND responsible because the characters remembered to wear protection even in the heat of the moment and it was actually written so naturally and not awkward or preachy at all. Noice! I also just really enjoyed their relationship and how they developed together. The fact that they were both writers was also so cool because it was something I could relate to and aspire to find. Also, Gus reminded me of Jess from Gilmore Girls a lot and we all know how I feel about Jess okayyyyy!
The side characters were well developed, as well, and added to the story. They did not feel token or gimmicky; they were essential parts of Gus and January’s lives. I particularly liked January’s friend Shadi and I adored the description of her that January gives near the end of the book. It was so nuanced and thoughtful, narrating a certain type of personality that is hard to pin down. I would 100% read a whole book about Shadi, but I don’t know the direction the author is taking her next books or if they will even be related to Beach Read at all. The characters involved in January’s backstory were so well written that they created such a presence and had a very large impact on January and the reader, without being on more than a handful of pages. I was so intrigued and angry and sympathetic about what happened to January’s mom and even the other woman, Sonya. I felt bad for her dad and liked him too, even while I disliked him. Same with her ex and Gus’ ex. The author has such a knack for writing real characters that it is impossible to just lump them in a box or write them off with one feeling toward them. Very impressive.
Clearly, I loved this book. It is one of my favorites now and I am really really happy I read it. Everything about it was just so good! The hype is real with this one, guys. I can’t wait to see what the author comes out with next.
Thanks for reading, friends!