Review of People We Meet on Vacation

July 12, 2023

With several novels on the best-selling New York Times list since the release of her first book, Emily Henry has quickly risen to the top as one of the most currently read authors. With quick-witted, nuanced characters and satisfying arcs almost always leading to a hard-won romance, it is no wonder why. However, I hadn’t heard of Henry until one fateful day at the airport. My mom had brought over a book from the airport’s general store after reading the blurb thinking I would be interested. I sat down with it, putting aside the book I had already brought, and quickly found I couldn’t put it down. By the end of the vacation, I had finished it and came back to San Diego as a fan hungry for more. 


The book I had read was People We Meet on Vacation, which had been published in 2021. Inspired by the movie When Harry Met Sally, the plot follows Poppy and Alex, two college students who, after being forced to ride back to the same small town they both call home from college, strike up an unlikely friendship that spans well into their late twenties. However, after a falling out after one of the vacations they take every summer together, the two become estranged. This is where the story picks up. 


A friends to lovers arc can be difficult to pull off. The author must build up a believable rapport, a healthy tension, a slow build up. But Henry manages to do just that. 


This is the most striking part of the novel. Both main characters are fleshed out people, and although the novel is from the perspective of Poppy, Alex is given just as much depth. The two have conflicting personalitiesPoppy is a vibrantly dressed travel writer, and Alex is a khakis-wearing high school English teacherbut their naturally witty banter rife with inside jokes, satisfyingly revealed during the course of the novel, convinces the reader of the authenticity of their friendship. From the beginning paragraphs, their playful friendship is firmly established and steady throughout the novel. 


As for the structure of the novel, it provides timely flashbacks to each vacation the pair embarks on throughout their friendship and then returns to the current tentative state of their relationship. From Sanibel Island to Tuscany, the novel weaves back and forth, providing context for both of their characters. 


Perhaps a little anticlimactic, the reveal of their falling out gives readers the context they need to understand their estrangement. The title also seems a bit misleading considering the novel included a limited few characters from the vacations they take throughout the years, focusing instead on Poppy’s and Alex’s lives. 


Still, People We Meet on Vacation is a fun, fresh, and funny vacation read. It is an overall great introduction to the world of Emily Henry. Next up, try Beach Read, Book Lovers, or the recently released, Happy Place for more fun! 

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