People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry: Romance Review
Overview: Poppy and Alex have been taking summer trips since college. They started as dirt cheap trips around North America on their shoestring college budgets that Poppy chronicled on her budget traveling blog. Over a series of ten summers, Poppy's blog grew enough to land her a staff writing job at the elite travel magazine, R+R, and the trips got increasingly fancy to match. Still, regardless of if they were staying in a five star hotel or a cheap Airbnb, what mattered is that the two best friends were getting to spend a week together after their adult lives had pulled them in totally separate directions. Now, after a year of not speaking, Poppy is determined to fix things with one more summer trip. Overall: 4
Shout out to Nicole Rafiee who convinced me to pick up this book because she loved it so much. Here's her recent video of book recommendations that tend to trend towards romance.
Characters: 4 I enjoyed getting to spend time with Poppy and Alex, but I struggled to get fully invested in their characters. With all aspects of this book, I felt just a little too stuck on the surface to get super deep into the characters or the storyline. Poppy and Alex have always been opposites. Alex is careful and conscientious. He writes short stories and got an MFA to pursue that. Now, he teaches English at the same small town Ohio high school he attended. He recently broke up with his long term on and off girlfriend. Alex is extraordinarily normal.
Poppy took a bit of a different route. She's impulsive, driven, and intent on living in the moment. She fell in love with traveling in college and spent all of her money and time putting together any kind of trip she could to see a new place and meet tons of new people. College was never a fit for her, and she dropped out to move to New York where she waited tables until she landed her dream job writing about travel. While it was the perfect job for a while, Poppy is starting to feel that lingering discontentment again.
As far as Poppy and Alex's chemistry, I feel like we were told just how perfect they were for each other and how they fit together perfectly far more than we were shown it. Even in the scenes that were meant to organically show the strength of their bond and just how perfect they were for each other, it just felt like we moved from Poppy's internal monologue expressing how perfect they are to their somewhat awkward dialogue relaying it.
I feel like this review already sounds overly harsh on the book. I did enjoy it, and Poppy and Alex are a friends to lovers you can absolutely cheer for. Alex is incredibly sweet and makes for a great love interest. It's confusing why it's taken them ten years to actually admit their feelings for each other, but it makes for a cute story. I also like the intertwining thread of Poppy finding discontentment with her dream life and having to address a What Now question at a time of life that's generally seen as so set in stone.
Plot: 4 The plot weaves together the present day storyline where Alex and Poppy go to Palm Springs in the middle of summer with flashbacks to every summer trip that they've ever gone on. These flashback chapters fill in key moments that they reference as inside jokes later and develops their history together more. These trips move forward in time to the infamous Croatia trip that caused them to stop talking. I feel like this part was a little overplayed and the constant references got a little annoying, but I guess it was an attempt at foreshadowing. If you love travel or tropey books where everything that could go wrong does, then you'll find this book super charming.
Writing: 4 This book was a lot of fun, and the writing is quick and easy to read. I was surprised to find out that the book was 384 pages since I was reading it on my Kindle, and it didn't feel like the book took me a particularly long time to read. That's what I love about romance. The books are just so easy to read that they practically prevent reading slumps. Emily Henry is really the it author of the moment, and I feel like just how good her books were going to be got over-inflated in my head. I think if it hadn't been built up so much, I would've been less harsh in my review, but the book just consistently left me wanting a little more from it. I think I will definitely still pick up Beach Read when my hold comes in.
I did find it super fun how the main character was a blogger turned magazine writer who was best friends with an Instagram influencer, and it was a totally normalized part of the story. I love books with online content creator characters, and I wasn't expecting to find it here when I first picked up the book. It was cool to see these jobs talked about like just another kind of career a person has, a cool job for sure, but it wasn't a huge part of the plot or made to be weird. I feel like it does reflect the world more accurately considering how many people do create content online now, so that was probably my favorite aspect of the book.
*Edit note: when I got online to take the photos for this post, I realized that this Emily Henry is the same YA writer Emily Henry who wrote Hello Girls and A Million Junes. I always find it so cool when YA writers get to find success in multiple genres!*
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