Four colorful titles by Emily Henry are on the shelves of bookstores nationwide, but fans are looking forward to adding another book to their shelf in 2024. Photo and graphic by Elle Rotter.
ELLE ROTTER | STAFF REPORTER | firstname.lastname@example.org
“Dawg-Eared” is a book review column that covers books that Bulldogs have requested including popular series, books that have been adapted for the screen and niche books that keep Dawgs turning the pages.
Content warnings: Most of these books include sexual content, topics of mental illnesses, panic disorders, death, grief, abuse, harassment, pregnancy, and mention alcohol and drug use throughout the books. Full content warnings for each book can be found on Story Graph.
For the last four years, Emily Henry, a contemporary romance author, has published a book in April or May. Henry is well known for weaving deeper topics like mental illness, death and addiction into her light-hearted romance novels. Now avid fans await her new release toward the end of spring every year.
“Beach Read” by Emily Henry (2020)
Henry’s fans started accumulating at the beginning of the pandemic when she released her book “Beach Read” in May of 2020. Since then, the book was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Romance in 2020 and received second place.
This forced proximity romance novel follows two writers who are both suffering from writer’s block. They decide to challenge each other to improve their writing skills; however, they could not be more opposite.
January Andrews, a romance writer, struggles to write romance after she loses hope in her own love life. Augustus — Gus — Everett, a literary fiction writer, is in a writing slump after publishing his most recent novel.
January used to write about all of the good in the world while Gus explored darker realities in his literature. January struggles with family problems and the grief of recently losing her father. Meanwhile, Gus deals with the unresolved emotional trauma from his father’s abuse towards him as a child.
After rereading this book at least three times, junior finance major Millie Foley said this is one of her comfort books. Even though she knows the plot of the book, she still finds herself crying along with the characters at times.
“You can tell January is a sunshine person but then when her dad dies … she turns into a shell of a person, but you still root for her because you want that sunshine back,” Foley said. “We all get down about the world. There are times when we don’t know what we are doing with our lives, but you can keep going and find things you thought you lost.”
Although they are different, January and Gus’ work brings out the best in each other over the course of the summer. Going on adventures together to develop their writing, January’s goal is to write a literary fiction book and for Gus to write the most cheesy rom-com to ever exist. Together they need to find a way to pull themselves out of their slumps and finish their deadlines in time.
“People We Meet on Vacation” by Emily Henry (2021)
Less than a year after the release of “Beach Read”, Henry released the friends-to-lovers romance novel “People We Meet on Vacation”.
Poppy and Alex have nothing in common, but after they met in college many years ago they became best friends. Living 500 miles apart, Poppy in New York and Alex in Ohio, they have only seen each other once a year on a week-long vacation for the last decade.
After a fight, Poppy and Alex refuse to talk to each other. Two years go by until one day Poppy realizes she’s unhappy with her life, and the last time she can remember being happy is with Alex. Poppy decides to drop everything and asks Alex to go on one final trip with her. Now she has one week to fix everything or lose him forever.
This book is most commonly the least favorite from Henry’s collection and is ranked the lowest of the four books on Goodreads. However, the book won the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Romance in 2021. It is still a highly recommended book amongst critics and fans, including the Washington Post.
“You see Poppy grow throughout the book,” Foley said. “Alex stayed constant throughout the book which gave the characters some contrast, but they still end up happy together. … I would [recommend it] because I think it is a good starter book. It’s what got me back into reading.”
“Book Lovers” by Emily Henry (2022)
The enemies to lovers romance “Book Lovers” is a fan favorite with 4.16 stars on Goodreads and over 350,000 five-star reviews. “Book Lovers” is also Henry’s second book to win a Goodreads Choice Award for Best Romance. Henry’s book also made it into Amazon’s Top 20 for the year 2022.
Nora Stephens has read lots of books, but she is not living the fairy-tale life. She has her dream job as a publisher, but she is a workaholic. The only people she serves are her clients. She has no friends, no romantic life and her only family member is her sister Libby.
Junior theater major Samie New talked about how this book is unique. Readers get to view the world from a publisher’s perspective which is something uncommon to see in books.
“Emily Henry writes about authors or other people who are in the book world,” New said. “People who write about things they know tend to have more passion, and you can see that in the book. That’s why ‘Book Lovers’ and ‘Beach Read’ are my favorite ones because they are about authors and publishers.”
So when Libby asks to go on a month-long vacation to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina, Nora reluctantly agrees. Libby is convinced all that Nora needs is some small-town love to thaw her cold, cutthroat heart. Secretly, Libby is hoping Nora falls in love with the town — or maybe even someone else.
Enter Charlie, a book editor from New York, whom Nora strongly dislikes. Sunshine Falls is his hometown, and he is home for the summer to help his parents run their bookstore. Nora is more than annoyed at this work reunion during her vacation, but in this small town, they can’t help but run into each other again and again and again.
“The first lines of the book talk about [how] she’s the villain in her own story,” New said. “It was such an amazing hook. I love books that talk about characters that are people that aren’t necessarily talked about all the time. Nora is a perfect example of that. She is a publisher bada**. I wish she would love herself a little more because I enjoy the person that she is. And yes I know she is fictional … I just liked the character development and getting into the background of why Nora is the way that Nora is.”
“Happy Place” by Emily Henry (2023)
Henry’s most recent book titled “Happy Place”, focuses more on the dynamic between a group of friends and how one specific relationship affects the group in total.
Harriet and Wyn have been the power couple in their friend group since they met in college. They feel like they have been together forever, but now they aren’t. Wyn broke up with Harriet six months ago through a four-minute phone conversation, and Harriet doesn’t understand why — but they haven’t told anyone.
Now, it’s time for their friend group’s annual trip to Knott’s Harbor, Maine. Wyn and Harriet have been reunited and they decide instead of telling their friends — because they feel like they would ruin the trip — they will pretend that they are still engaged and planning their dream wedding.
But this year’s vacation is different from the others; it is their last hurrah. The cottage, owned by Sabrina’s parents, is up for sale and this is the last trip they will be taking in their so-called ‘Happy Place’.
The story bounces back and forth between the current vacation and some of Harriet’s memories with the group.
Katie Kult, a junior entrepreneurship and innovation, French and applied business technology triple major, praised the author on her ability to tie these timelines together at the end and make the story come full circle, but she also said that it caused some problems with the flow of the book.
“I feel like the beginning was a little slow,” Kult said. “The way it started I wasn’t interested; I couldn’t fully get into it. But then once I read more I thought it was good. It just took me longer to get into.”
But, not only are Harriet and Wyn trying to hide the fact that things have changed, but the friend group in total. Kult acknowledges how this is an overall theme for all of the characters in the book.
“One of the main character battles was that some of [the friends] were growing apart, but they didn’t know how to grow apart peacefully,” Kult said. “It showed how change is not a bad thing and people do drift apart and that’s normal, but just because you are drifting apart doesn’t mean you are losing those people. I feel like that is a good life lesson to have as people re-transition into college or out of college. You’re leaving your friends from home behind, and it was good to see that closure and to see that it is happening to other people too.”
“I read People We Meet on Vacation, and I loved it so much [that] I decided to read all of her books,” junior finance major Millie Foley said. Graphic by Elle Rotter. Photo from Emily Henry’s website.
“Funny Story” by Emily Henry (2024)
New York Times bestselling author Henry recently announced that her next book will be published on April 23, 2024. This will be another heartbreaking contemporary romance about Daphne, a character who is struggling to get by.
Daphne had it all. Daphne was engaged to the love of her life Peter, she had her dream job, and they had just moved into a beautiful lake house. They were excited to start their lives together until Peter realized that he was actually in love with someone else.
Now Daphne is forced to start over with no friends or family. All she has is her job as a children’s librarian and a potential roommate: Miles Nowak. Miles is Peter’s new fiancé’s ex. Daphne and Miles form a bond over recently being dumped in such a strange scenario.
They devise a plan to start fake-dating and post misleading pictures of each other together on the internet. But it is all just a ruse, they could never actually fall in love. Right?