Beach Read by Emily Henry tells the story of January Andrews, an author who is suffering from writer’s block. This is largely due to the fact that her father has recently died, and she has since learned that he had been unfaithful to her mother for years. She moves back to her father’s hometown to clear out his old beach house, and next door, she runs into Gus Everett, an old opponent from her creative writing classes in college. They strike up a grudging neighborly rapport, and eventually learn both of them are having trouble with their new books. They agree to swap genres for the new manuscripts, and as they write and get to know each other better, feelings start to develop.
I liked January and Gus pretty well. January has some issues with her parents and past, but she is also strong and a believer in hope. She’s got a great narrative voice, and you root for her throughout. Gus seemed a bit like a jerk at the beginning—it was a pretty Darcy-like entrance, honestly—but he grew on me as we got to know him. And seeing their relationship grow was nice and felt pretty natural. The other characters such as Maggie and Peet were excellent.
The plot mostly has to do with January and Gus’ writing and their dates to learn about each other’s genres. The outings January arranges are pretty standard romcom fare, but make for fun banter and cute exchanges. Gus’ outings are pretty much the polar opposite, showing January how to research for a much darker, more morbid plot. They didn’t mesh perfectly, in my opinion, nor did either of these with January’s coping with her father’s lies. These three plot threads felt somewhat disparate, though not so much that I wasn’t still invested in January’s overall journey.
The best part of this book, for me, was definitely the discussions of writing. January is a romance writer, and Gus writes more serious literary fiction. This gives them certain expectations of each other and their works, but the analysis of the problems with putting people and books into constricting boxes was excellent. This novel is a celebration of romance and romantic books, certainly, but is also a criticism of stereotyping and prejudice within the book industry. For Henry, all types of novels are important, and I loved seeing that explored in such a nice way here.
In the end, Emily Henry’s Beach Read is a fun summer read. It has a depth of emotion about passion, work, family, and love, features an enjoyable lead couple, and makes some savvy observations about elitism in the writing community.
Overall rating: 8.2/10