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Emily Henry — The Author Behind The Trope Renaissance.

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCLA chapter.

It is news to no one that the romance genre has largely been discredited and discarded by the literary community for as long as it has seen the stands. For quite some time, opting for romance over other genres was like reaching for a second cookie and getting your hand smacked in horror by someone mansplaining macros. 

Must all pleasures be guilty? According to Emily Henry, no, they mustn’t. 

With popularized discourse about tropes running rampant, especially on BookTok, this widely popular literary mechanism has found itself inextricably linked to the romance genre, despite having no exclusive claim to it. 

Thus, the literary community’s staunch trope resistance is nothing short of ironic, because as Henry discusses in her recent interview with Elle magazine, no one finishes a mystery novel and complains that the murderer’s reveal was “predictable.”

While pretentious critics have fostered a misunderstanding that paints tropes as writing cop-outs which are nothing more than trite and juvenile, here we have an author who has completely rewritten that narrative, in our eyes and on the pages in front of us. 

Emily Henry took our skewed understanding of tropes and turned it on its head; she opened us up to a world of writing in which tropes act not as a crutch, but as a concurrent foundation of familiarity. 

While to be clear, a trope is never Henry’s starting point, she has repeatedly demonstrated how a trope can serve as an artifice, crafting the multidimensional and downright complicated nature of relationships into a package that is readily digestible. Tropes are a means of translation. 

In many ways Henry, as a writer, is akin to Sally Rooney, as their books are never bound and thus thematically limited by romantic plotlines. Instead, the grand feats of chemistry and romance come together to form the catalysis by which these writers crack open their characters from the inside out. And in doing so, they accomplish one of the most significant literary achievements: creating sympathetic characters whom readers may accept wholeheartedly at their most vulnerable and throughout their most unsympathetic of actions – a time when words transcend the page upon which they’re written.  

Starting strong with the “rivals to lovers” arc in Beach Read to the cult classic “friends to lovers” plot of People We Meet on Vacation, you can find a steady string of trope-reminiscent relationship dynamics throughout all five of Henry’s spectacularly successful romance releases since 2020. 

Emily Henry has constructed lover after lover who is just as compelling as the last, so compelling that the couples really do become imagined as sets of two. While she does have the lovers trek through the oftentimes strenuous landscape of romantic relationships, as all humans must do, she doesn’t play into problematic power dynamics we may sometimes encounter in romance novels. 

Her characters don’t sit across from each other with a chessboard in between them and a scoreboard on the wall. There are no sinister moves and countermoves. Rather, there are two people who converge closer and closer towards each other, until they learn which sparks to fuel and which flames to put out. Even the enemies are never quite so.

With stunning yet raw characters dancing through lines of poignant prose, Henry has mastered the kind of literary decadence that many believed to be illegible to romance readers.

With Emily Henry, you’re getting what you came for — a picture-perfect happy ending — but leaving with a little something else: the gentle personification of what can hold us back, and propel us forward, in the name of love. It’s relatable, and within that it’s reflective. Our own sentiments and mistakes come through in her characters, who beg us for moments of quiet introspection before putting the book down and jumping back into our own world of modern romance. 

Far more than just a brilliant and beloved writer, Emily Henry has erected a renaissance of the trope and a renaissance of romance, compelling her readers to dust off the tales of love tucked away in the crevices of their closets, and place them on their bookshelves, for all to see.

Ellie is a second-year Global Studies major at UCLA, from Charlotte, NC. Her favorite author is Sally Rooney, and she loves re-reading books, playing field hockey, cooking for friends, and photographing them on her camera. In the summer, you can find her in downtown Manhattan peeking into a vintage store or writing in a coffee shop.