Happy Place by Emily Henry: Is it worth the hype?

by Theja Pk
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hardcover of happy place by Emily Henry laying on top of brown wooden tray

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Last updated on May 14th, 2024

In this Happy Place review, I am going to give you my opinion on whether Emily Henry’s latest release is worth the hype. Sadly, for me, it wasn’t.

Happy Place details the story of a group of friends who go on vacation each year to escape the stresses of their daily lives. As the years go by, they face the challenge of dealing with real-life issues and growing apart. It’s an emotional tale about making choices that align with your desires rather than the expectations of others. 

It’s been a while since I’ve read an Emily Henry book. I was not too fond of her other books – People We Meet on Vacation and Beach Read – but I read those early in my reading journey, and my tastes have changed. So I decided to give her another chance with her new book. Unfortunately, it did not go as expected.

Happy Place – Emily Henry

3 out of 5
illustrated book cover of Happy Place by Emily Henry showing group of friends jumping into the ocean

GENRE: Contemporary romance
PUB DATE: April 25, 2023
TROPE: second chance, fake dating
TWs: depression, anxiety, parent with chronic illness

A group of friends go on vacation each year to escape the stresses of their daily lives. As the years go by, they face the challenge of dealing with real-life issues and growing apart. It’s an emotional tale about making choices that align with your desires rather than the expectations of others. 

Characters
2 out of 5
Plot
3 out of 5
Writing
3 out of 5
Overall Enjoyment
4 out of 5

Pros

witty banter

dynamics in the friends group

mental health rep

dual timelines

Cons

characters were very immature for their age

alot of miscommunication

underwhelming intimate scenes that didn't live up to the slow burn

tonal difference in the writing

poor character development

Table of contents

Synopsis

Harriet and Wyn have been the perfect couple since they met in college—they go together like salt and pepper, honey and tea, lobster and rolls. Except, now—for reasons they’re still not discussing—they don’t.

They broke up five months ago. And still haven’t told their best friends.

Which is how they find themselves sharing a bedroom at the Maine cottage that has been their friend group’s yearly getaway for the last decade.

Their annual respite from the world, where for one vibrant, blissful week they leave behind their daily lives; have copious amounts of cheese, wine, and seafood; and soak up the salty coastal air with the people who understand them most.

Only this year, Harriet and Wyn are lying through their teeth while trying not to notice how desperately they still want each other. Because the cottage is for sale and this is the last week they’ll all have together in this place. They can’t stand to break their friends’ hearts, and so they’ll play their parts.

Harriet will be the driven surgical resident who never starts a fight, and Wyn will be the laid-back charmer who never lets the cracks show. It’s a flawless plan (if you look at it from a great distance and through a pair of sunscreen-smeared sunglasses). After years of being in love, how hard can it be to fake it for one week…in front of those who know you best?

Characters

Even though the characters deal with mature issues like depression, grief, and anxiety, they acted quite immaturely. It did remind me a bit of YA books, which I don’t usually read because of this very reason.

Overall, it didn’t feel like I was reading about characters in their 30s with full-blown careers and lives. But I enjoyed the dynamic between the different friends in the group and how each person’s personality complemented the others.

Wyn

I liked the way he was able to match Harriet’s quick wit and charm. The discussion around mental health issues in a relationship and grief after losing a parent was also well-done.

“In every universe, it’s you for me. Even if it’s not me for you.”

However, I felt he was a bit one-dimensional and not as memorable as I would have wanted him to be. Also, his constant self-deprecation got tiresome.

Harriet

I find it difficult to enjoy a book when the protagonist, whose point of view the book is told from, is unlikable.

My main concern is that her people-pleasing tendency was taken to an extreme that made it frustrating to read about. I can relate to the character’s desire to please her parents by pursuing a prestigious career that they loved and trying to prevent her friends from fighting due to her childhood trauma.

It’s not selfish to want to be happy.

However, the excessive people-pleasing and the lack of communication (more on that below) were tiresome, and I felt like shaking some sense into her. Although she redeems herself in the last 5-10% of the book, by then it was too late for me to warm up to her.

Plot

Happy Place is fueled by miscommunication between the main characters and their friends. While the realism of it was on point, it was a struggle to get through and almost made me want to give up on the book.

The first 60-70% of the story was slow and uneventful. But the emotional impact of the later parts of the book made up for it a little bit. The conflict between the friends was so genuine and realistic that I had to rewind and listen to it again. It really hit home for me, especially regarding how friendships can drift apart over time and the nostalgia for the good old days.

Regarding the intimate scenes, they were delayed and interrupted so many times that by the time they finally happened, I was no longer interested. The sexual tension had fizzled out, and the scene itself was pretty underwhelming.

The reason for their break up was not convincing to me. Despite being told (not shown) that they had a “great love” multiple times, the way they broke up without any fight or struggle did not fit the storyline, even with the use of the mental health trope.

However, this book’s strengths lie in the lessons towards the end. These include being brave enough to pursue one’s own happiness, the importance of seeking help for mental health issues, and the value of communication and having difficult conversations with loved ones.

As a result, the book reads more like women’s fiction than a second-chance romance, as the romance seems more like a subplot to the weightier issues.

Writing

I loved the witty banter between both MCs, and it had me laughing out loud many times. And I liked the way Emily Henry named her chapter titles when switching between the past and present timelines. 

I appreciate the use of dual timelines to enhance the gravity of the characters’ break up. However, many details were missing in the development of their relationship over the years, which made it difficult for me to believe they belonged together.

Furthermore, the tonal differences between the timelines were jarring. The story begins with Harriet feeling everything in the present after the breakup and then jumps to a chapter on their meet-cute in the past. The sudden shift in emotional intensity left me feeling disoriented.

It is challenging to fully grasp the gravity of Harriet and Wyn’s emotions when I know so little about them. I have read many other books that use this technique, such as “Every Summer After” by Carly Fortune, which I absolutely loved. Unfortunately, the shifts in Happy Place just didn’t work well for me.

Best Quotes

  • It’s not selfish to want to be happy.
  • There doesn’t need to be a winner and a loser. You just have to care how the other person feels. You have to care more about them than you do about being right.
  • Like even when something beautiful breaks, the making of it still matters.
  • “I mean that you have the weirdest laugh of anyone I’ve ever met, Harriet,” he says softly. “And it feels like taking a shot of tequila every time I hear it. Like I could get drunk on the sound of you. Or hungover when I go too long without you.”
  • In every universe, it’s you for me. Even if it’s not me for you.

Conclusion

In Happy Place, Emily Henry captures the essence of the simpler and more enjoyable moments of our youth. Though the premise and witty banter are delightful, the book didn’t live up to the hype for me and leaves much room for improvement. 

If you’ve read other books by Emily Henry, did you spot all her sneaky easter eggs? Check out this friendly guide to find out more about the author’s books, reading order and so much more.

Enjoyed this review? Then, add ‘Happy Place’ to your TBR and try it out. And if you have already read this book and have some thoughts to share, drop them in the comments below. I would love to hear them!

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