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  • Writer's pictureAnnika Pillai

let's talk about emily henry

I’ve seen a lot of discourse on Emily Henry, and People We Meet on Vacation and Beach Read––specifically, which one is better. I’m going to be honest, and I feel like I’ll be in the minority, but I liked Beach Read a lot more than I liked People We Meet on Vacation.

I believe that I read People We Meet on Vacation around the time it came out, back in May, and it was one of my most anticipated reads of the year; I fully expected to be giving this book five stars. I know part of it was due to the fact that a lot of my friends enjoyed People We Meet on Vacation a lot more than Beach Read (I hadn’t read Beach Read at the time); they had complained that Beach Read was very melancholy and depressing––and I actually believed the exact opposite. I think that this book was a lot more depressing than Beach Read was. Let me explain.

People We Meet on Vacation follows Poppy and Alex, two best friends who met in college. Every year, they go on a vacation, up until two years ago. On their trip to Croatia something happened, and Poppy and Alex stopped speaking. Fast forward to today––Poppy is doing some life-reflecting, and she realizes that she hasn’t been happy since the last time she was with Alex, and asks him to go on one last vacation with her.

The story is told in sort of a dual timeline, and only from Poppy’s point of view; the first timeline is the present timeline, and then in between there are chapters from their first vacation, leading up to the vacation in Croatia.

I don’t hate dual timelines, but the one in this book really irritated me. Their vacations felt monotonous, and I started to hate the chapters where I had to read about them. I know that the book is titled People We Meet on Vacation and all, but none of their vacations were all that memorable?

I think that Emily Henry is a really great writer, but I don’t feel like she is necessarily a romance writer; rather than that giddy feeling I get after finishing a romance, I left this book wondering if I even wanted Poppy and Alex to be together at the end. They both had a whole load of issues to work through, and I mean, if you went two years not talking to each other after a simple misunderstanding, how am I supposed to believe this relationship will work out?

With how bleak and dreary the book is, it’s hard to forget that it only took place over the span of a few days. I’m not saying that all of my romance books have to be realistic, but them getting together, and fixing all their issues after not speaking for two years felt a little bit unrealistic.

The tone of the book felt weird, and it read more like women’s fiction, than it did a romance.

I think that the same complaint can be made about Beach Read, and I’ve actually thought long and hard about what exactly made me like Beach Read more than People We Meet on Vacation. Beach Read deals a lot with grief, but I think that People We Meet on Vacation, as a whole remains a lot heavier.

Although there is very much a huge focus on January’s character arc in Beach Read, I still did feel like there still was a huge romance plot, and Beach Read was much more engaging and easier to get through.

I, personally, thought that the pacing of Beach Read was great! It was a little bit more of a slow-burn than most romance novels, but I didn’t think there were any filler chapters or chapters that added nothing to the story.

In terms of third act’s, I wasn’t the hugest fan, if I’m being honest; I liked how it was not very drama-heavy, but because the novel is told from January’s point of view, and the conflict heavily involved Gus, it felt like the whole conflict was resolved off-screen––and the third act felt odd, and out of place.

Still, in spite of that, I really did enjoy Beach Read, and gave it five stars!

Although I did really enjoy Beach Read, I will maintain that I am still not 100% I would classify Emily Henry as a Romance author, more so than a women’s fiction author. Her story’s tend to focus on a character arc, or character growth, whilst having a romance subplot.

I think that if you are starting out in romance, or want to get more into the genre, her books are a great place to start, but I don’t know if a tried-and-true romance reader would necessarily enjoy them.

I am curious to see how her new release, Book Lovers, will hold up to my theory.

People We Meet on Vacation 3/5 stars

Beach Read 5/5 stars


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