People We Meet on Vacation
Execution matters. A book can have a great concept, but if the writing is poor, the book is no good. Well, what happens when it’s the other way around — when the writing is great but the concept flawed?
This was what I felt about Emily Henry‘s latest romance, People We Meet on Vacation. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a fun read. It’s witty and clever and dotted with truisms. It is also repetitively frustrating for a reader like me. For a reader like me, the two major plot elements on which the story hinges just don’t hold.
We have Poppy and Alex, who are best friends but not lovers, and who travel together for one week every summer. The story goes back and forth between earlier summers and the present one, detailing ad infinitum the off-beat people they meet and the hilarious adventures they have when inevitably things go wrong. And still, they’re best friends.
Only, they haven’t talked now in two years. Because something happened on their last trip together, the one to Croatia. We don’t know what. But Poppy is desperate to revive their friendship and, so, contrives to make this one last trip happen.
There is some character development in the book. Though I never quite understood why Poppy was a misfit, I did get Alex’s background. But why, oh why, was he so blind about his relationship to her? Seriously. What vague, distant middle ground were these two looking at that they didn’t see what was right in front of their eyes? And then his anger at the end when he realizes she lied to him to carry out this one last do-or-die trip? It prolonged the book in the way of the worst romance trope.
There it goes again, my frustration.
Mind you, People We Meet on Vacation has touching moments. And sexy moments. And, of course, lots of funny moments. But even after I finished reading the entire book, the same two questions remained.
First, how could these two be such good friends without becoming more – I mean, if they’re so wrong for each other, why did they suffer through a week together each summer, over and over again, not for three years or five but a decade, and keep coming back for more?
Second, what was so awful about what happened in Croatia to drive them apart? The Croatia mystery was the hook that kept the plot moving, and yet for two people who are street smart and modern, the answer, when it finally and at long last came, was meh. If all felt, yes, contrived.
Some might say that this book is about the journey, the slapstick humor, the laugh-out-loud times, and clever observations. And maybe it is. If you like these things and want a light beach read, People We Meet on Vacation may be for you.
I like my books to be more balanced between high spirit and good sense.