Book Review: Beach Read by Emily Henry

Being that beach reads are my favorites, I was obviously going to read a book titled Beach Read no matter the reviews (which I found to be mixed). But here’s the thing…there has been a lot of debate over whether it’s actually a beach read.

What is a beach read anyway? The New Yorker dissected its history in a piece last year. Until recently, I always thought beach reads were overall feel-good reads. That didn’t mean they were “fluff,” as I’ve heard some skeptics claim, but that it was something you could enjoy on a day on the beach when you probably don’t want to be diving into learning something new or weighing something heavy.

After watching my #bookstagram friends all summer, I decided beach reads fall into a few buckets: romance, women’s fiction, thrillers and summer new releases (which can encompass memoir, literary fiction and all sorts of other genres). I recognize, however, that it’s up for debate. At the end of the day, a beach read is whatever book you want to pack up and take to the beach. Or to the backyard when you’re pretending you’re at the beach.

Which brings us back to Beach Read. The cover very clearly looks like a book set at the beach. Classic beach read atmosphere for obvious reasons.

Except it’s not a beach with an ocean. It’s a beach on a lake in Michigan, a fact many readers and reviewers I saw took exception to. I was so intrigued by this debate (especially as someone who always grew up going to beaches in Florida), I decided to do a poll in my Instagram stories. I asked: Do you consider a sandy shore on a lake a beach? The results…

Okay, so for some of you this book already has a strike against it because it’s set at a lake house in Michigan. And, if I’m remembering correctly, there are only two brief visits down to the beach in the entire book. At no point are the characters down on the beach reading or writing as the cover would suggest.

Some will argue that although the cover might lead you to think the main setting is a beach, the book is actually titled Beach Read because the author who is the heroine in the novel writes beach reads. Except the character never says she writes beach reads. She says she writes romance novels. And yes, romance is one of the genres I think commonly gets categorized as a beach read, but it still makes it seem like an odd choice for the title.

Which brings me to my review. I think the title is misleading, and that’s why I think I saw some negative reviews and some “DNF” (aka, Did Not Finish) from my #bookstagram friends. If you want a light, feel-good beach read…this is not it.

All that being said, I thought it was a great book. It dives into some heavy stuff around grief and confidence and complicated personal relationships, but it’s gritty and real. It’s not my usual type of read at all, but I still really enjoyed it. I think at least part of the reason is that I’m an author and enjoy reading books about authors (and this one had two–the heroine and the hero). But I also love a good slow burn kind of romance, and this was definitely one of those.

If you’re willing to put aside the title, you’ll find a great opposites attract tale that’s somewhere between women’s fiction and a romantic comedy. January Andrews and Augustus Everett are both bestselling authors in their own genres–her romance and him literary fiction. Oh yeah, and they both totally crushed on each other in college although neither of them had any idea. Now they’ve run into one another again as they become neighbors, both struggling to write their next book.

In true rom-com fashion, they decide on a bet. They’ll swap genres and each try to write in the other’s genre–whoever sells their book first wins. Of course, they’ll not only be living next door to one another, they’ll also be taking each other on field trips to teach the other important aspects of their process for their respective genres.

Fighting their attraction for one another goes far beyond simply thinking the other isn’t interested, however. They both have some major demons to face. I found it grappled with much bigger issues than the types of romance and women’s fiction I generally review here. Augustus is also not the typical hunk you find in most of the books I read, and I know a lot of readers who said the reason they didn’t like the book was that they couldn’t imagine being attracted to him. I get that. I didn’t find him attractive either, but their chemistry was off the charts and that kept me hooked.

But it was a great read. I finished it in just a few days and was really rooting for them the whole way. Even with the mixed reviews and the tendency to feel like you’re not getting what you bargained for based on the title and cover alone, I still highly recommend this one.


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