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Beach Read


Beach Read

Following a highly successful career as a young adult novelist, Emily Henry turns her eye to adult romance with BEACH READ, a laugh-out-loud, emotionally resonant exploration of love, writing and, yes, death cults.

January Andrews is a bestselling women’s fiction writer. Or at least she was, until her father died suddenly, her family imploded and she found herself unable to pen anything remotely happy or romantic. For years, January thought she had the perfect family: together she and her parents had beaten her mother’s cancer, launched her own successful writing career and stayed close throughout all of it. But when her father dies suddenly, and a mysterious woman arrives at his funeral, January realizes that her family was not as close-knit and happy as she thought.

Drowning in her own despair, January is soon dumped by her perfect boyfriend and is essentially homeless. Even worse, her father has left her a beach house that he once shared with her. With her mother refusing to talk about what happened, January finds herself alone in a bohemian beach house with only an impending book deadline to keep her company. Oh, and an incredibly grumpy neighbor who just happens to be her insanely talented and shockingly handsome college rival.

"...a laugh-out-loud, emotionally resonant exploration of love, writing and, yes, death cults....True to its title, BEACH READ is the perfect beach read..."

Jonathan Franzen-like in his talent, Augustus Everett arrived in January’s college writing class with a dark background and a sharp dislike of her particular brand of literature. Though they took turns beating each other in class discussions and seminars, they also shared one intense night on the dance floor of a frat party --- and though she has fallen in love since then, nothing has quite matched the heat of that evening for her. Until now.

As January packs up and prepares to sell her father’s illicit love shack, she learns, to her dismay, that Augustus is the local golden boy, and that his small town family and friends want nothing more than to see them become friends --- after all, they’re both writers, so they must have something in common. It turns out they do: they are both in a rut, writing-wise, and desperate to make their next books happen.

After numerous meet-cutes and witty banter sessions, the two strike up a bargain: January will pen the next Great American Novel, and Augustus will write a book with a happy ending. Whoever sells their book first not only will win, but will have it blurbed, praised and talked about by the other. Of course, both are experts at their craft, so they do not leave the other hanging. In addition to the bet, they will help each other with their research --- Augustus will take January to interview former death cult members on Fridays, and January will take Augustus to romantic settings on Saturdays. What could possibly go wrong?

BEACH READ is a quintessential rom-com with lots of heart, just enough heartbreak and all the witty banter you could ever want. But that’s not all. Henry has produced a thoroughly wonderful romance novel that not only ensures a happy ending (sorry, Augustus) but weaves in plenty of important topics, like infidelity, acceptance, abuse and the importance of self-discovery.

When we meet January and Augustus, they are at an impasse in their lives: January feels like she no longer believes in love, and Augustus is, well, a bit of a headcase. Raised in a dysfunctional family, he is obsessed with the darkness in humans and what makes them feel like they cannot escape it. So January is a bit like the flame to his moth --- the once-happy-go-lucky romance writer he once knew is now drinking wine out of her purse and yelling at her neighbors in dirty sweatpants. Similarly, January’s interest in Augustus comes not only from her college rivalry, but also from the loss of her belief in perfection, which allows her to explore and accept Augustus’ flaws. And did I mention the witty banter?

Emily Henry is absolutely masterful in her dialogue. She never wastes a word, and though the banter is every bit as sarcastic and punchy as you’d expect in a rom-com, it never feels forced or unnatural. She employs pop culture, literary references and her characters’ own personalities to make every line even stronger than the last. However, I would have liked to have seen more of Augustus’ side of the story. So many romances are written with two perspectives these days, so I was disappointed that there were no Augustus chapters.

Even so, January is a perfectly riveting protagonist, and I loved her for her sweetness, her loyalty and her limitless (if momentarily suspended) belief in love and happily-ever-afters. True to its title, BEACH READ is the perfect beach read, and I suspect that Henry will have many readers itching for her next foray into romance.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on May 29, 2020

Beach Read
by Emily Henry