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Column: ‘Happy Place’ for ‘Book Lovers’

This photo displays the front cover of Emily Henry’s “Happy Place.” Henry’s dependable annual release takes readers through a bubbly summer romance. With its adorable Maine summer house location and playful friend group dynamic, the couples were so fun to get to know. Photo Source: Image from Official Emily Henry Site.

With the exception of school-assigned summer reading books, summer is a time when it’s acceptable to primarily read “trashy” romances. I indulged in my own fair share this summer; to save face, I’ll pretend that my fixation on these books was purely for “research,” considering I flew through 23 of them in seven weeks. 

As a now well-qualified “trashy” book reader, it’s safe to say some of them fairly deserve their “trashy” characterization. However, grouping all summer-y novels under the label would be unjust. Bestselling author Emily Henry deserves exemption from this category. 

A pillar in the romance section of bookstores, Henry’s novels are a consistent favorite in the beach read category; this is fitting, since her first bestseller, released in 2020, was Beach Read.” Other favorites include “People We Meet on Vacation” (2021), “Book Lovers” (2022) and her most recent publication — the focus of this column — “Happy Place.” The novel earned an impressive 14 weeks on the New York Times Bestsellers list as of Aug. 13 and was credited in their top 15 reads of 2023.

Henry’s yearly summer book release is a consistent “add to cart” before a vacation. The relatability of the characters in their respective summer atmospheres makes it easy to drown in the worlds of her novels. I raced through “Happy Place” in a mere 10 hours. My friends consistently used the phrases “page-turner” and “couldn’t put it down” when describing Henry’s latest novel. 

“Happy Place” centers around three college roommates reuniting on a final trip to their former summer home or “happy place” located at one of the girls’ cottages in Maine. As someone who spends her summers in Maine, this book hit especially close to home. The main plot of the novel follows ex-fiancés Harriet and Wyn as they attempt to hide the fact they have been long broken up.

The story alternates between the two timelines of their initial attraction all the way up to their breakup and their current ups and downs as they attempt to fool their friends that they remain the “golden couple” they once were. I found myself dreading the end of the chapters, as I was so invested in the current timeline, then doing the exact same thing when the next timeline switched back. 

Now, I’d say spoiler warning, but this is still a romance novel, which typically makes it quite easy to predict the book’s outcome. So obviously, the former couple endures a series of comical yet bittersweet events that eventually lead to the revelation of their remaining feelings. However, they are not the only ones in the group hiding a secret from the rest. This group aspect and the other characters’ personal difficulties added new layers to the story.

If I wasn’t invested before, this subplot changed that. The fun-loving yet realistic dynamic of their friend group was so admirable and exciting to read. One of my favorite parts of reading occurs after a plot twist when you mentally try and rewire the story with the new information. Piecing together the puzzle of this story was a wonderful addition to this book. 

Henry took a different direction with “Happy Place” than her previous works. The couple’s internal battles — balancing a longing for one another and their distrust from their past — play out alongside the group’s overall dread in facing the harsh reality that the comfort of their happy place had become a fleeting warmth: in their inevitable future comes the house’s repurchase. 

While these problems are arguably still surface-level angst, Henry explores the theme of happiness and urges readers to criticize the limitations placed upon joy. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Henry said, “It’s kind of a weird thing that we don’t feel like we are allowed to be happy. We have to stick out whatever we start, and I just hope that people who are ready for a change feel a little lighter and more empowered to choose whatever makes them happy.”  

It was a pleasure to follow Wyn and Harriet through their trepidation and ultimately gratifying reunion. All these elements make “Happy Place” a perfect addition to Henry’s summer style, a must-read for fellow, proud “trashy” book fans. 

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Madeleine Beaubaire, Columnist

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As part of Archer’s active and engaged community, the Editorial Board welcomes reader comments and debate and encourages community members to take ownership of their opinions by using their names when commenting. However, in order to ensure a diverse range of opinions, the editorial board does allow anonymous comments on articles as long as the perspective cannot be obtained elsewhere, and they are respectful and relevant. We do require a valid, verified email address, which will not be displayed, but will be used to confirm your comments. Because we are a 6-12 school, the Editorial Board reserves the right to omit profanity and content that we deem inappropriate for our audience. We do not publish comments that serve primarily as an advertisement or to promote a specific product. Comments are moderated and may be edited in accordance with the Oracle’s profanity policy, but the Editorial Board will not change the intent or message of comments. They will appear once approved.
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    Ella SchwartzOct 17, 2023 at 8:56 pm

    Love it!