Some things are just too sweet to ignore. This novel is one of them. If you were to ask what is so new about the novel that makes it so special and refreshing, the answer would be “nothing”. It is the same old pattern of romantic comedy- friends to lovers followed by a phase of denial, and the final realization that love has been there all along. However, Henry’s writing makes a huge difference. If you are a digger for the romance genre, this would be a choice especially suited for you. However, this romance has many other layers than a simple boy-meets-girl love story. There is friendship and there is the encounter with the self. This is a review that comes straight from the heart and tells you all that the novel is (and also the few things that it is not), starting right from what the plot of the novel is and a well-detailed review that follows it.
Poppy and Alex met in college in one awkward car ride home. Little did they know at that time that that car ride was to make their lives get tangled with each other forever. One car ride was all that took to make a friendship happen and those friends turned into best friends, and then to lovers, or at least that was the plan.
Poppy and Alex are stark opposites. They would make the perfect definition of opposites. Poppy loves to travel and experience all that life could hurl at her while Alex is an introverted book lover. As Poppy goes to New York and tests out her life there, Alex stays back in their hometown Ohio. NYC gifts Poppy the life of hustle-bustle that she has always dreamt of. She is a travel writer and enjoys a posh life in NYC. Alex, on the other hand, is perfectly happy with his simple life in Ohio.
The distance did not affect their bond though. The distance that grew between Poppy and Alex after college was purely geographical. They had decided no matter how busy they were, they would make at least a week and go on a summer vacation together, exchange life-happenings, and spend some time together, just like the old times. Everything seems fine unless Poppy and Alex face a massive fallout. Their fight turns serious and they stop talking altogether. However, Poppy soon realizes that the last time she was truly happy was during her last vacation with Alex, and carrying on with life without Alex by her side seemed absurd. She wanted to give them a chance.
As she reaches out to Alex and they decide to reconcile, Poppy must be true to Alex and more importantly to herself. Even though she does not want things to change for the worse between her and Alex, she needs to give love the chance it asks for.
Poppy and Alex are opposites. She is vivid, vibrant, and is an overall free spirit. He is the swoon-worthy silent type about whose life everyone can but just wonder. His perfect day off is curling up with a good book, while she might want to go hiking. So, when their friendship begins to bloom, a romance is much anticipated.
It was an awkward car ride that had brought Poppy and Alex together, but a few years thence, it was a serious fight that made the two drift apart. They eventually resolve their issues and end up together, something they should have done way sooner, had Poppy been more honest with herself.
The best part about the novel is the style in which it is presented to the readers. The characters are so vividly described and painted on the pages that the reader is bound to feel acquainted with them. After a point, it becomes difficult to keep the characters segregated from your real life. The systematic manner in which the characters are developed his mom to make the reader feel as if they have been a part of the life of the reader all along.
The novel shifts between the past and the present of the relationship between Poppy and Alex. The story shows their journey from strangers to friends to best friends and eventually to lovers. This little touch gives massive momentum to the development of the story. The reader is made to feel like a part of the journey. It is as if the reader can see the characters grow through the pages of the novel.
In some ways, “People We Meet on Vacation” is one of those cliché romances. It has all the criteria that a traditional romance novel should have. It could have easily become a typical boy meets girl cheesy novel, but it easily dodged that bullet because of certain other themes incorporated within it. Poppy is unsure of her feelings. She is troubled by the dilemma we often face ourselves- whether to keep things as they are and live a compromised but happy life, or move a little further ahead and give a potentially happier life a chance.
As the novel progresses, the characters face each other and themselves as well. They mature and realize what they want and decide to give love a chance.
All the classical tropes of traditional novels are fully exploited by Henry, and yet the newer concepts and themes that run side by side the main plot of the love story give a new dimension that would make the book much more enjoyable and engaging for the contemporary audience.
It has been an enjoyable read. It’s a fresh love story where the protagonists have their own lives, do not necessarily require each other as crutches but enjoy each other’s company as they would enjoy their once-a-year summer vacations as a break from everyday routines. They are each other’s safe place, where they can be themselves without having to worry about being judged. All in all, “People We Meet on Vacation” could easily be a potential inclusion to your reading list this year. Worth a try!.