Review: People We Meet On Vacation, by Emily Henry
Emily Henry, you've done it again!!!! This book made me happy sob and feel all of my feelings in very much the same way Beach Read did, even though People We Meet On Vacation is a bit more of a straightforward romance than Beach Read was.
Very basically, the story is that of Alex and Poppy, two college best friends who go on a summer vacation together every year. Until something goes wrong on one of their vacations, and they go two years without speaking - but Poppy, who has been unhappy and dissatisfied since their falling out, convinces Alex to go on one last vacation to try and rekindle their friendship. And, oh, this book was perfect.
It was the perfect page-turner - the pacing was wonderfully well-handled, so even though I could see where the novel was heading (it remains a romance novel, after all!), I thoroughly enjoyed the process of getting there. Watching Alex and Poppy fall in love with each other, and pine for each other, and treat their significant others pretty shittily throughout the book because they were always waiting for the other one to fucking notice that they just needed to bone for the absolute love of fucking Christ, but oh it made me. So. Happy. There is pining! There are dramatic monologues! THERE IS KISSING IN THE RAIN IN A PARKING LOT!
This book tackles a few less themes than Beach Read does, but it does also mean that we get to spend more time in Poppy's head and developing her character and seeing the way she reacts to not only external, but internal stimuli. Because there are fewer themes, there are also fewer characters, and so we spend more time and more space with Poppy and Alex's relationship, and get to see it contextualized and nuanced in a way we don't always with romance couples - they're quite upfront about the potential drawbacks and the ways it could go wrong; and counterintuitively, it makes me root for them even harder and makes me even happier when they do end up getting together (that's not a spoiler; this is a romance novel, you go into it knowing there will be a happily ever after). This was also a really well-sketched adult relationship - these are two people in their thirties who have matured together, and know the worst bits of each other, and know that a successful relationship involves compromise and occasional rough patches and sometimes having to knuckle down and work for it. Watching that unfold was both realistic and incredibly hopeful, and I love Emily Henry for that.
The armchair travel that I got to do in this book, too - that was wonderful. Reading this added quite a few destinations to my own personal list, and I think Henry did a great job of giving each vacation spot its own distinct sense of setting and personality, which can be hard to do when two main characters visit more than ten distinct, very different places in the course of a 350-page novel.
And, perhaps most importantly - the sex is good! Emily Henry doesn't go into details (this is almost closed-door) but there is so much sexual chemistry and tension and just pure longing that builds up between these two characters throughout the course of the novel and their friendship, that by the time they finally made out it was so hot the book felt like it was burning in my hands. The sex that follows is, though it's only very generally described, sounds like it was amazing - hot and fierce but also really tender, the way it is with someone you trust absolutely.
Poppy and Alex were such great characters, too - complex, and nuanced, and occasionally very, very difficult to like. They were real, is basically what I'm saying - real people trying to bumble through life doing the best they can and occasionally causing the people around them pain, but the fierceness and the selflessness with which they loved each other was just *chef's kiss*. The conflict the author introduced into their couple never felt far-fetched or hard to sustain, which is always an extra bonus; I can completely see this situation unfolding in real life and I'm just so glad these two managed to work through it.
Yes, I know they're fictional, but whatever don't @ me. Fictional people are better than real people anyway.
Basically, I cannot recommend this book highly enough and I think everyone should read it, like, yesterday.
Also I would like Emily Henry to write me a boyfriend, please and thank you.
Okay bye, go read this book. And hopefully Emily Henry is currently finishing her third manuscript so I can read it very, very, very soon.