Rebecca Richard reveals why the TikTok recommended “page-turner” isn’t the When Harry Met Sally-esque novel she was promised.
The bright pink cover of Emily Henry’s You and Me on Vacation (also known as The People We Meet on Vacation in the US for some reason) had been appearing on my TikTok “For You” page for weeks before I caved and finally purchased it, keen to see what all the fuss was about. I love a trend, and I’m not usually one to hate on what’s popular. It’s popular for a reason, right? But this friends-to-lovers missed the mark for me.
A few chapters before the end of the novel, I logged onto Goodreads to gauge the consensus of avid readers on the matter. I was shocked to see pretty much everyone gushing over how incredible this book is. Let me preface this review by saying this is just my opinion. If you loved this book, my apologies.
We’ll start with the reviews on the cover that initially filled me with so much hope that this book would be a firm favourite. Sophie Cousens from This Time Next Year deemed it “a witty, warm page-turner”. It’s only a page-turner because the writing style is easy to read. I was not gripped at all by the story of our two protagonists, Poppy and Alex. The story follows these two friends who met at uni and travelled together every summer for years until an undisclosed event caused them to lose touch for two years. But this summer, Poppy texted Alex to reconnect and suddenly they’re jetting off to Palm Springs together for Alex’s brother’s wedding. The book jumps between the present holiday together and those from the past.
“It’s only a page-turner because the writing style is easy to read…”
Henry spends pages upon pages describing how shy and reserved Alex is. She reiterates his nerdiness, how he goes running at 5am and is very prim and proper. Yet, halfway through the book, he becomes a sex fiend, with such fanfiction-esque vulgarities coming from his mouth, I was cringing, hard. Perhaps this is a spoiler (but I don’t encourage you to read this book anyway), in one chapter, having expressed feelings for one another, Alex reveals to Poppy that while he was caring for her while she was ill with pneumonia several years before, he was fantasizing about her sexually. This was revealed as if it should have me swooning, yet I had literally just read that the poor girl was so unwell, she had wet herself. Maybe at my ripe age of 21 I am just not quite fitting the horny young adult target audience, but that sentiment was not in the least bit romantic for me; I was repulsed in all honesty. Whatever gets Alex going, I suppose.
“Maybe at my ripe age of 21 I am just not quite fitting the horny young adult target audience…”
There is also so much unnecessary description, adding to the slow pace of the story. This included a very lengthy description of how Alex’s parents alphabetised their son’s names, all for his brothers to appear in maybe five pages of the book in total.
Moving to the “plot twist”. Throughout the book, we are repeatedly told, “we don’t talk about what happened two summers ago!”, the event which caused Poppy and Alex to lose touch for two years. The awkwardness when the two meet again is hammered in. While reading, I kept wondering what on earth could have happened to cause this lack of communication yet be “okay” enough for them to reunite. They kissed. That’s it, that’s the twist. This can’t even be considered a spoiler; with 300 odd pages before it is finally revealed, I just assumed that was what happened. Surely as two adults, meant to be aged 28 at the time, you can discuss a kiss and either embrace it or move past it? Not these two, unfortunately.
Not wanting to sound overly negative, I think I enjoyed the descriptions of the various trips they went on and what they got up to. It’s light-hearted, I’ll give it that.
I’ve seen a couple of very brave comparisons online of this book to When Harry Met Sally. You’ll probably be a little disappointed in You and Me on Vacation if you go in with that expectation. To wrap up my scathing rant, this book was incredibly drawn out for a very anticlimactic twist and scenes we are meant to find romantic or sexy are actually just a bit gross. All in all, I certainly don’t understand the hype around this one.