Last year, one of my favorite books was Beach Read by Emily Henry, and since then, I’ve been counting down the days until her second adult novel, People We Meet on Vacation, would be released. Although it’s not due out until May 11th, Book of the Month spoiled their subscribers by offering the new book a whole month early! It came in my April box, and I started reading it almost as soon as it arrived. Spoiler: It’s even better than her last book!
|People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry|
|Setting||United States, mostly|
|Number of Pages||361|
|Format I Read||Hardcover (BOTM)|
|Original Publication Date||May 11, 2021|
Two best friends. Ten summer trips. One last chance to fall in love.
From the New York Times bestselling author of Beach Read, a sparkling new novel that will leave you with the warm, hazy afterglow usually reserved for the best vacations.
Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart—she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown—but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.
Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since.
Poppy has everything she should want, but she’s stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together—lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees.
Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong?
In contrast to Beach Read, People We Meet on Vacation is a friends-to-lovers romance. And I’m going to be real with you: This is not a trope I read often or usually enjoy that much. Give me enemies-to-lovers angst or the hilarity of fake relationships any day! But I’m here to take some of that back, because friends-to-lovers can actually be super satisfying, heart-warming, and fun. Emily Henry has just proven it.
How did she do it? First, let’s look at these two starring characters. Poppy and Alex are so different – opposites in many ways, really – and yet they’re so complementary to each other. Poppy is an energetic ray of sunshine, full of ideas and enthusiasm, an extrovert with a lust for life. Sometimes characters like this can be annoying or even emotionally draining, but with Poppy, it feels authentic and charming. I really liked her, even if I’m not quite so bubbly myself. Perhaps I have more in common with Alex: He’s a nice guy, thoughtful, methodical, introverted, and a fan of reading books at home. Yep, that’s me. Well, except for him wanting to stay in his small hometown his whole life. In that regard, I’m more like Poppy: Sign me up for endless travel and a home in NYC!
As unalike as they may seem, though, Alex and Poppy have just enough in common, and enough mutual caring and love, that they work really well together. Their near-constant banter is hilarious, full of inside jokes and fake insults and random tangents. People We Meet on Vacation is possibly the funniest book I’ve ever read. I was laughing out loud almost the entire way through. Seriously, how does Emily Henry come up with such hilarious and witty banter?! My conversations aren’t nearly so fun, and especially not that consistently.
Of course, I should point out that this isn’t just 100% fun and games. People We Meet on Vacation offers a lot of depth, too. There is heartbreak, both between Alex and Poppy (thanks to that two-year gap in their friendship) and between Alex and his on-again-off-again girlfriend. We see Alex’s struggles with his own family, the resulting burden he’s carried for so long, and the effects that has had on his interactions with Poppy. And for Poppy’s part, we see how career goals and shifting dreams can lead to “millennial ennui,” as her friend Rachel describes it. (If that’s not a real thing, it should be. It sounds legit.) Alex and Poppy each have their own insecurities and fears, and I really appreciate how they learn to address them by the end of the book.
Here’s another (obvious) thing I loved in People We Meet on Vacation: the travel!! Poppy just might have my dream job. I loved getting to vicariously travel with Alex and Poppy (all I can enjoy until Covid is over!). It’s so fun to get to know a new city or a new country; they each have their own distinct flavor and vibe. Likewise, each vacation destination seems to bring out something different between Poppy and Alex. They embark on a variety of adventures, from island beaches to Tuscan hills, each allowing them to grow their relationship in a new way.
I enjoyed how this book is set up, alternating between “present” time and previous vacations Poppy and Alex went on in summers past. It gives the book more variety, not just for its settings, but also for the stage of Alex and Poppy’s relationship and for the way they interact. And though this format can seem to slow down one or both story lines in other books, in this case, it adds to the momentum. Though I will say, the flashbacks to past vacations – especially the earlier chapters – also made it feel a bit like continually starting a new book; it takes a moment to get situated! But once I got used to the format, I grew to like it.
My final verdict, then? People We Meet on Vacation is even better than Beach Read. Don’t get me wrong, I adored Beach Read. It was tender and heartfelt and funny and angsty. But People We Meet on Vacation is the kind of book that I needed right now. It’s light and breezy, but with just enough emotional depth and character growth to make it impactful and memorable. I laughed, I cried, I swooned, I marveled, and in the end, I’ve determined that this novel is something special.
Emily Henry has earned a spot as one of my favorite authors at this point. People We Meet on Vacation is a spectacular novel, even surpassing its predecessor. It’s only her second adult novel (she also has a few young adult releases), and I can’t wait to read her next book.
About the Author
Emily Henry is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of People We Meet on Vacation and Beach Read, as well as several young adult novels. She lives and writes in the Cincinnati and the part of Kentucky just beneath it.
Her books have been featured in Buzzfeed, Oprah Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times, The Skimm, Shondaland, Betches, Bustle, and more.
Find her on Instagram @EmilyHenryWrites.