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‘People We Meet on Vacation’ Review (Spoilers)

Let’s talk about TikTok for a second: we’ve all seen the videos.  We’ve all seen the BookTok recommendations.  If you’ve been on Booktok for a day, you’ve probably seen people recommending People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry.  The ratings that I had seen for the book were pretty good, but I knew absolutely nothing about it, as per usual when I’m on Booktok.  Call me crazy, but I usually stick to the authors I know and love and don’t really try new ones if I’m not 100% sure I will like them.  Then one review I saw said People We Meet on Vacation included the friends-to-lovers trope (my absolute favorite) and I immediately went to read it.  Let me tell you, this book might be the best one I’ve read so far this year.  Is this Booktok recommendation worth it?  Yes.  100%.  Read on to find out why.

First of all, there will be spoilers in this review, so stop here if you don’t want them!  If you do, feel free to read on.

People We Meet on Vacation is a friends-to-lovers one-bed trope love story that takes place in various places all around the world.  The main characters, Poppy and Alex, have been best friends for 11 years, ever since a chance meeting and a forced car ride made them realize that maybe opposites do attract.  Poppy is an aspiring writer with a serious case of wanderlust, whereas Alex is a homebody who wants nothing more than to stay at home and read.  Despite their differing personalities, Poppy and Alex have a bond that is unbreakable.  Or so they thought.  Every year, they take a vacation to a different part of the world, but ever since their vacation to Croatia two years ago, Poppy and Alex have not spoken.  Fed up with her job and her choices in life, Poppy decides to take one last trip with Alex and see if they can heal their friendship.

Okay, can I just say that I loved this book!  I’ve never read a book by Emily Henry before, so I was a little apprehensive to start this one.  I also don’t read very many adult books, so this was a leap of faith for me.  And boy, am I glad I took it.  Everything from the plot, the character development, Henry’s writing, the switching between time, the inside jokes - all of it was amazing.

First, I’ll talk about the character development because wowowow - these characters are so life-like.  I can tell that Henry probably had a really fun time coming up with these characters and all of their quirks, motivations, fear, what-have-you.  One of my favorite parts in the book was when Poppy and Alex got stuck driving home together after they had only met once before.  Their conversation was stilted at first, as anyone’s would be with a near-stranger, but Poppy is nothing but persistent.  She questioned Alex until he would finally tell her something that he liked - running.  They spent most of the car ride trading likes and dislikes, and I think this is where their personalities started to shine.  I love when characters have a bunch of little quirks, and these characters have those aplenty, with Alex’s vehement hatred for saxophones and Poppy’s fiery hatred for running.  Throughout the rest of the book, we find that behind Poppy’s quirky style and whip-smart jokes, she actually has a lot of heart.  Her breakdown towards the end of the book after the Palm Springs trip with Alex perfectly captures a feeling that I don’t think enough books talk about: career burnout after achieving all of your dreams.  When Poppy finally flew back to Ohio and confronted Alex at a bar, let me tell you, her speech could have rivaled any that I’ve seen in the last five minutes of a Hallmark movie.  The amount of reality and emotion that Henry has included in Poppy’s character really made her feel like a real person.  I was rooting for her and Alex, but I also just felt like I was rooting for her and her personal journey throughout the book.  She felt like a friend who I wanted to get her happy ending, and I think that’s one of the best things about this book.

The second thing that I really enjoyed in this book was the switching between times and vacations.  After each chapter titled, “This Summer” there was a chapter about a past vacation that Alex and Poppy have taken.  They started with the first one, 11 summers ago, and continued with 10, 9, etc.  I love how we got to see the history of Alex and Poppy’s friendship unfold as we see them in the present trying to rekindle it.  Henry blends these two stories seamlessly together, and although it did get slightly confusing at some points, overall I really liked this format for the book.  I also think that this book is a great one to read on vacation since it takes place all over the world.  Or, you could do like me and read it during the summer of COVID while staying at home.  I will say, it was a nice escape when I didn’t have anywhere to go.

Not only did this book have heart and romance, it also had a lot of humor.  There were times that I laughed out loud by myself because of Alex’s deadpan statements and the inside jokes, or “themes” for every past vacation Alex and Poppy had taken.  The first one was probably my favorite: while on vacation in Canada, a woman tried to sell Alex and Poppy a tiny statue for $21,000.  She tried to convince them that people will pay enough money for art that “speaks to them.”  This incident led Alex and Poppy to pick up random objects and ask, “Does this speak to you?”  This joke continued through a good portion of the book, and I laughed out loud every time they made that joke.  I even started to say it in real life, which I’m sure is something a totally normal person would do.

One last thing that I wanted to discuss about this amazing book is the only thing I didn’t love: the epilogue.  Right before the epilogue, in the proper ending of the book, Alex and Poppy have a cute moment, they confess their love and decide to be together, etc., and it’s all pretty perfect.  Then I read the epilogue, and in my opinion, I don’t think it was necessary.  I know that Henry might have wanted to give the readers a glimpse of Alex and Poppy’s relationship after they confessed their love, but I think it would have been more impactful if Henry hadn’t included it.  I like the idea of leaving something to the reader’s imagination and letting them decide how they worked things out, and although Henry did that to some extent, it didn’t feel entirely right.  This is just my opinion, and literally the only thing that I didn’t like about the book, because the rest of it was magical.

So, if you want a fun, heartfelt, comedic break from reality, I would highly suggest you pick up this book.  The plot was incredible and complex, the settings made you feel like you were on vacation, and the characters seemed to leap off the page.  I know that on BookTok, recommendations can be very hit-or-miss depending on what you like to read, but I would not want to miss out on this book.  People We Meet on Vacation is definitely worth the read (You could even say that it spoke to me).

Rebecca Geiser is a junior at The University of Akron. She is currently majoring in Media Studies with a minor in Popular Literature and Film and a certificate in Social Media Marketing. Rebecca is passionate about musical theatre, learning random history facts, and trying new kinds of Starbucks coffee.
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