Book Review: You and Me on Vacation, by Emily Henry
Updated: Feb 7
Wrap yourself in a blanket, make a cuppa and light a candle. This one is an escapist's dream.
I'm not usually one for a lighthearted romance. A book usually has to have a little grit to keep me invested and get me thinking. That is, of course, a completely personal response: romantic arcs can be beautifully written and thoughtfully crafted, which means they can have just as much 'literariness' as Tolstoy or Woolf (a whole extra argument for another time)!
Poppy and Alex absolutely clicked. Their relationship – every facet of it – was the perfect form of escapism and I loved word of it.
Poppy is an energetic, excitable travel blogger who is running from her childhood and refuses to stay still. Alex is a quiet reader, fierce protector and passionate teacher. They are different and acknowledge that they're heading in different directions, but there's something there that links them together.
Poppy and Alex decide to travel together every summer of every year. As each trip passes, they learn more about each other (and themselves) and secretly hope for more.
I've used this word already, but I'll say it again: my Kindle was basically whispering 'escapism' to me with each page. Every vacation that Poppy and Alex took managed to transport me too (which is not a bad thing during a pandemic lockdown). I was brought along to experience each cute moment, photo, missed opportunity and awkward disaster.
Maddy holds You and Me On Vacation in front of a bunch of flowers in a vase. Image: Madeleine Corbel, 2021.
The romantic plot really worked for You and Me on Vacation, which was a relief: so much of the story was driven by the chemistry between Poppy and Alex, and the motivation for the plot was their unfolding relationship.
The romance was also sparked by a sense of mystery. Something happened between the two characters on their last summer holiday, but what was it? Did they make out? Fight? Kill someone and hide the body? We aren't told for a heckin' long time and this unknown factor kept me reading even though most of the content was light, sweet and fluffy.
My only concern would be with the structure of the story: the timelines jumped around from chapter to chapter. I constantly put the book down in the middle of a passage (classic restless reader right here) and went to make a cuppa before settling down again. But when I picked up from where I left off, I couldn't work out when the action was set.
This wouldn't normally have bothered me, but the romantic events impacted the social cues in the dialogue, changing how the reader was supposed to interpret the scene.
The other book
You and Me on Vacation was a quintessential romantic comedy, with all of the lighthearted elements you need for a good time. As a result, it felt a little different from Beach Read, Emily Henry's previous book.
Beach Read blew me away with its depth and reflexivity. It included so many different storytelling elements and made us feel so many different things as readers: darker subplots introduced us to cult groups and tragedy, and intense themes suggested that the characters were dealing with death and trauma. The characters' growth was super tangible throughout the narrative and the romantic conflicts seemed believable and emotional.
You and Me on Vacation had similar elements of depth on occasion, especially when you consider Alex's difficult past and Poppy's path towards self-discovery and contentedness. The narrative here was ultimately driven by their love for each other, which was perfect for the genre.
This book made me think further about romantic plots in books. Personally, my favourites also communicate something reflective within the story (either as the main plot or a subplot), but is this a true romance? Do you think that romances are strengthened by these heavy elements, or would they ruin the intensity of the love trope?
You and Me on Vacation is the perfect read for when you're looking to escape from tough things for a bit.
Thanks a bunch for reading with me.