The girls that get it, get it. The girls who don’t, just haven’t read any of Emily Henry’s books yet. Henry is one of those authors where once you read one of her books, you must read them all. You will crave more. Henry’s writing is breathtaking, comedic, and heartbreaking, all wrapped into a beautiful bow of raw, honest emotion. Thus far, Emily Henry’s books are all stand-alone stories – Beach Read (2020), People We Meet on Vacation (2021), and Book Lovers (2022). Each book is fiction, centralizing romance and personal growth. But what makes her stories unique from many other romance authors is that her stories explore the trials and difficulties of womanhood. I would argue that this allows readers to truly connect with the characters–but maybe I’m biased as I’m a massive fan of her writing.
On April 25, Henry released her fourth novel (the fourth year in a row!), Happy Place. Now, this book differs from her others; with Henry’s previous three releases, there was a guarantee that there would be a happy, romantic ending. Readers had security in knowing that no matter how gut-wrenching the middle of the story could be, there would always be a brighter side at the end. Happy Place is different, even when Emily Henry introduced her fans to the book via her Instagram (@emilyhenrywrites) on July 26, 2022, all she promised from the story was: “He broke her heart; she hates his guts.” From day one, we knew we would begin with heartbreak, and there are no promises that we would end in romance. The words “broken” and “hate” are strong, especially when coming from a romance writer. She gave us a clear warning to brace ourselves.
As a huge Emily Henry fan, with Book Lovers being one of my favorite stories of all time, I pre-ordered Happy Place the second I could, guaranteeing it would be at my doorstep on release day. My excitement was also met with tense nerves. Would I love the story if Henry strays from the mold I have come to trust? Maybe I’m a boring reader for wanting consistency. How could I blame myself? When the world seems so crazy, I could always get lost in a cheesy romance, smiling so hard my face hurts. I have grown to trust that Emily Henry would make me sob in the best ways, but what does it mean when she promises to make me sob from heartache? Despite the slightest of reservations, I was thrilled to see growth in her writing, a second wave of newness.
I read Happy Place in three phases, over the course of three days. There are so many things I want to scream and write about, but I refuse to spoil it. Instead, I will walk you through how I felt reading this story, and I am sure that will convince any reader to pick it up.
April 26, Day One, Phase One. I have never had a book make me so anxious. After every chapter, I had to put it down for a second and take a breather. I could feel the weight of my own nerves in my chest. I don’t read thrillers, so it was a different kind of anxiety. Rather the emotions Henry wrote about felt so real, so similar to my own, that I didn’t want to read what would happen next. It sounds ridiculous, how could this fictional story be a prophecy of my future, of my emotions? Yet, by the end of the first chapter, I knew I was connected to this story in ways that I had not connected to others because the heartbreak described is my worst nightmare.
April 27, Day Two, Phase Two. The second time I picked up the book, I was better prepared. It still stung, I still sobbed, but I needed to know more. However, at this point, I started to consider this book might not be about romance. Instead, the focus felt more on the transitions of adulthood. Examining how relationships, with more emphasis on friendships, change throughout our 20’s. As we move from the stability of schooling into jobs and adventures that may be ever-changing, how does this impact our bonds – the connections we always have and need to rely on? Henry also wrote candidly about mental health struggles, in a way that anyone could relate to no matter where they stand in their mental health journey. For so long, adult friendships and mental strains have not been discussed openly. Reading it from a fictional standpoint felt so normal, so right in the best of ways.
April 28, Day Three, Phase Three. The only reason I didn’t finish the book in the second stage was that I physically couldn’t keep my eyes open. So on the third day, before I even had my morning coffee, I was urgent to consume and embrace all that remained. I couldn’t put it down; not only was I dying to know what would happen next, but the writing was addicting. As Henry continuously proves, she tells dynamic stories that beg you to read them. I was devastated, astonished, delighted, and so happily full by the time I finished.
In Happy Place, Emily Henry asks us if all true love that is meant to be should be. She allows us to feel through words we may be too afraid or uncertain to say ourselves, captivating us in an imperfectly perfect love story where we truly don’t know what the end will bring until we get there. There is comfort in holding on, and there is growth in letting go, but sometimes it’s not so straightforward. But if we can find our happy place, the rest will come together naturally.