Thursday 21 October 2021

#CBR13 Book 41: "People We Meet on Vacation" by Emily Henry

Page count: 382 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars

CBR13 Bingo: Travel

Official book description:
Two best friends. Ten summer trips. One last chance to fall in love.

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 this contemporary romance, we meet Poppy and Alex, who despite their different interests and priorities in life ended up best friends after a bit of a false start in college. No matter what they do for the rest of their year, they meet up every summer for one week of vacation together. However, two years ago, something happened, and they have neither seen each other, nor spoken since. 

Poppy is a valued travel writer for a prestigious publication but feels restless and unhappy and she's pretty sure the last time she can remember being truly happy was on that last trip with Alex. She sends him a text message, not really expecting a reply, but is surprised and happy that he's willing to exchange some pleasantries. Alex' younger brother is getting married, and the occasion offers Poppy the opportunity to invite Alex on one last trip when she's determined that she's not only going to mend their friendship but hopefully convince him to take their relationship to the next level. 

Alex is a high school teacher back in their hometown who, due to the early death of his mother, helps his father take care of his younger brother. Over the years of his and Poppy's friendship, both Alex and Poppy have had romantic partners, Alex has mainly been in an on-and-off-again relationship with a co-worker. For the last few years, however, he's been single. 

I'm not going to lie, this review will not be as good as it should be, as I finished this book back at the end of July, and we're now in the middle of October. I had relatively high expectations for this book, considering how affected I was by her first novel for adults, Beach Read. While I read a lot of positive write-ups of this book, the fact that I now barely remember many details at all about the book (while there are still scenes from Beach Read I can recall exactly) means that I've downgraded the rating of the book with half a star and will have to try to dig up my memories of what worked (and didn't) for me.

As with Henry's first novel, this story suffers somewhat from only showing Poppy's point of view throughout. We only know explicitly what Alex feels when he comes out and explains it, which for the longest time he doesn't. Since a lot of the conflict and complications in this novel come from a lack of clear communication between and a number of silly misunderstandings relating to what one or the other believes the other one is looking for as a long-term life goal, it ends up being frustrating to only get Poppy's side of things.

I seem to recall liking the various supporting players, including several of Alex and Poppy's exes, their family members, and even Poppy's demanding boss. There is no villain keeping the lovers apart here, just their own lack of clear communication. While this one didn't stay with me in the same way as Beach Read did, I will absolutely give Henry's next romance a chance when that comes out. 

Judging a book by its cover: Another bright and animated cover, this nevertheless doesn't really seem to capture the sort of journeys that Poppy and Alex like to go on. As with Ms. Henry's previous novel, the cover does not do the contents of her book justice. This suggests a different kind of book than what you're actually getting. 

Crossposted on Cannonball Read


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