People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry chronicles the unlikely friendship of Poppy and Alex. As the inside cover states, Poppy is a wild child with no desire to land in one location. Alex is the kind of guy that brings a book to a bar. He also wears khakis. They meet during their freshman year at the University of Chicago. Poppy needs a ride to her hometown of Linfield, Ohio and it just so happens that Alex is also from the same town. During their ride home, they develop a friendship that lasts until a mysterious trip to Croatia. After Croatia, Poppy and Alex suffer a falling out.
Two years later, Poppy discovers that she’s not happy with her dream life anymore. She decides to contact Alex to see if he’d be willing to take another summer vacation together. He agrees which gives Poppy one week to make amends and to fix their friendship.
The inspiration behind the novel was the romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally (1989), directed by Rob Reiner and written by Nora Ephron. If you’ve never seen the film then I highly recommend it. Basically, Harry and Sally are friends that have known each other for years but never escalated things because they feared that having sex would ruin their friendship.
One of the major differences between the film and Henry’s novel is that both Poppy and Alex are enjoyable as characters. Even though Alex is uptight, particular, and very set in his ways he is still a very likeable character because of his devotion to his family and the self-sacrifice he shows toward Poppy. Poppy is equally likeable due to her innocent and quirky nature.
The flow of the novel bounces from the present to the past. In the present, Poppy does her best to try and reconcile things with Alex during the first summer vacation since the trip in Croatia two years ago when everything fell apart. The chapters that take place in the past begin at “Twelve Summers Ago” and will eventually lead up to the event in Croatia.
People We Meet on Vacation is a fun, romantic comedy that showcases exactly what the title states. It showcases the people found on vacation. Having said that, don’t assume that there will always be a cast of new characters in each summer vacation. Instead, the characters of Poppy and Alex while on vacation are compared to the characters of Poppy and Alex while not on vacation. It’s an interesting idea that will have you analyzing yourself and those around you the next time you go on vacation.
It’s a quick read, but one that’ll make you long for the days when you could easily travel from country to country and interact with complete strangers. While this isn’t a book where you’ll root for the protagonist overcoming an antagonist, there is still a lot at stake for the two main characters. For those that are used to the rom-com genre, People We Meet on Vacation won’t break from genre cliches and expectations…but that’s okay. Emily Henry wrote two characters that are so interesting and loveable that you don’t care about the predictable ending.
You just care about how Poppy and Alex get there.
If you’re looking for a great, light-hearted summer read to occupy you when you’re sunbathing, sitting in a crowded bar, or just sitting on your porch, then People We Meet on Vacation is your pick.