The People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry revolves around two main characters, Alex and Poppy, who are also friends. Alex and Poppy are fundamentally different in thought and character despite their strong friendship. While Poppy is quite rambunctious, Alex seems to be the exact opposite as he has a calm individual and can be described as the voice of reason between the duo.
Alex and Poppy’s friendship and their experiences play a critical role in shaping the plot, which opens with their unexpected meeting in college. The duo’s friendship begins in college, where despite their differences, they still enjoy many experiences together. However, the main action in the play begins when Poppy becomes a prominent travel writer at the age of thirty.
The plot progresses as a dual timeline, where one strand examines the duo’s past vacations experiences. In contrast, the other strand relates to the current happenings between Alex and Poppy, following Poppy’s realizations and the ensuing trip that they make to Palm Springs. Despite their differences, the two friends realize that they perfectly understand each other, an aspect that is the backbone of their friendship.
Finally, on their trip to Croatia, the author reveals that Alex and Poppy had made a drunken kiss and that the overwhelming feelings that ensued after the kiss were the cause of their estrangement. After the kiss, both had fallen under the false impression that the other did not want the kiss and probably regretted the kiss. Due to this belief they harbored, both Alex and Poppy felt rejected and hurt—hence they did not speak about it.
During the Palm Springs trip, the tension reaches a breaking point where they confront each other; Alex urges Poppy to accept that the situation between them has changed. In the end, Alex and Poppy decide to embrace love and uncertainty, and they start living life together.
People We Meet on Vacation has several themes embedded in it. The first theme is friendship. This theme features quite prominently in the text, as the story follows the friendship of Poppy and Alex and the experiences that ensue. Poppy and Alex kindle a friendship after meeting in college. As unexpected as the friendship is, other aspects of the friendship, such as the immense compatibility between the two, are also unexpected given Alex and Poppy’s stark differences.
The friendship between Alex and Poppy becomes intermittent, but they end up being lifetime friends after they resolve to embrace love and live together as spouses. Their friendship experiences definite turbulence, and sometimes the two friends do not meet or talk for long periods—extending up to two years. However, the friendship unexpectedly braves all the turmoil and upheaval to stand the test of time.
A second theme that is also evident in the book is the theme of love. This theme evolves from the theme of friendship and also helps in driving the book’s plot. During the trip to Palm Springs, it is evident that Alex and Poppy had been in love with each other, albeit secretly. Their love for each other had sustained their friendship for years. Poppy had other boyfriends who could satisfy her whim for adventure and travel. She also had almost everything that she wanted.
However, she still felt that she was not fully happy, after two years of not meeting with Alex, saying that “I know right away when I was last truly happy. Two years ago, in Croatia, with Alex Nilsen” (Henry 33). Poppy’s dissatisfaction could be attributed to her love for Alex which made it difficult for her to get comfortable around other people and situations. On top of that, Poppy and Alex confess their love for each other during the trip to Palm Springs and even end up in bed together.
In addition, the theme of second chances is also featured prominently in the story. Alex and Poppy only manage to end up together courtesy of the second chances they accord each other after their occasional fallouts. One would expect that Poppy and Alex’s interest in each other would fade after their life together in college ended, and they settled in different geographical areas. However, they give each other a second chance to meet each summer for a trip, which had evolved into a habit that they looked forward to every summer.
In conclusion, Poppy and Alex, as the main characters in People We Meet on vacation, take up a central role in the book’s plot. The actions of the two create an enthralling plot, as it takes a dual timeline to explain the past and current lives of Poppy and Alex. The story presents several themes, such as friendship, love, and second chances, which collectively shape Alex and Poppy’s experiences in the book.
Henry, Emily. People We Meet on Vacation. Berkley. 2021.