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Book Review: Funny Story by Emily Henry

Book Review: Funny Story by Emily Henry

There’s one thought that always goes through my mind when I pick up a new book by contemporary rom-com queen Emily Henry and that’s: ‘there’s no way I’ll love the characters of this book as much as I did the last book’. And every time, without fail, Henry proves me wrong. Within the opening chapters of Funny Story, I was still foolishly clinging onto the idea that Daphne and Miles – the novel’s unlucky in love central characters – wouldn’t live up to how much I adored Happy Place’s Harriet and Wyn. A few chapters more and I wasn’t just falling in love with these characters, I was already head-over-heels gone.

As a librarian, Daphne has always loved stories. She particularly loved the story of her and Peter – how they met, fell in love and moved back to his hometown to live the Hallmark-movie happily-ever-after. That is until Daphne’s love story turned into a prequel, in which Peter called off their wedding and left her for his childhood best friend, Petra. Suddenly alone and stranded in a too-small town, Daphne comes up with a temporary solution until she can find a new job, preferably as far away from Peter and Petra as possible. That’s how she finds herself moving in with Petra’s equally heartbroken ex, Miles, who happens to be Daphne’s opposite in every way.

What begins as an awkward roommate of convenience situation, soon blossoms into an unlikely friendship as Daphne and Miles bond over their shared break-ups. Daphne is certain she wants to leave town, but Miles is just as certain he can convince her that there are plenty of reasons to stay. He has one summer to convince Daphne there’s more to their idyllic town than sad memories of what she’s lost and wasted hopes for what could have been. And if they happen to post intentionally misleading photos that accidentally make it seem like Daphne and Miles are dating, then so be it. And if Daphne begins to actually fall for her ex-fiancé’s new fiancée’s ex-boyfriend, then it wouldn’t be the happy ending she expected, but it could just be the one she needs.

In the best of times, it’s inadvisable to start lusting after your roommate, and we are nowhere near the best of times.

Each of the romantic pairings in Henry’s books are endearing in their own way but what makes Daphne and Miles so inherently loveable is just how different they are, and how much it works for them. Daphne is an over-thinker whose daddy issues have made her define herself by other people. She made her whole life about Peter and without him, she hasn’t just lost their shared friends, she’s lost her own identity. Miles, on the other hand, is laid-back to the point that it seems as if the darker parts of life don’t touch him. But his broken relationship with his mum has made him think he’s never enough for anyone just as he is. Daphne’s and Miles’ personalities might be very different but the traumas of their childhoods, the way they’ve been made to feel worthless by a parent, gives them something in common. For the first time in their lives, someone sees them for who they really are, and they both find strength and acceptance in that.

Daphne’s relationship with Miles begins with the solid foundations of friendship and though there are some simmering sparks, which catch them both off guard, Henry forces her characters to hold out as friends for as long as possible. Which makes the building chemistry sizzle all the more. As their physical attraction towards each other grows, so does the depth of their emotional connection, and what keeps them from taking that ultimate step into something more is the fear that they’ll ruin the one thing that held them together when they thought they’d fall apart: their friendship. In that, this story is as much about having the courage to hold on to the things and people in life that make you feel whole, as it is about letting go of the things and people that make you feel empty.

The reluctant roommate plot is exactly the kind of situation that was made for the fake-dating trope. Two heart-broken people, living in a small town with their exes who keep popping up when they least expect it – who wouldn’t want to pretend they’d already moved on, and they’d moved on with the person most likely to cause the most amount of jealousy. Peter and Petra’s respective dumbfounded and suspiciously delighted reactions are almost as enjoyable to read as Daphne and Mile’s evolving relationship. Fake dating is a beloved trope in romantic fiction but Henry writes it in such a way that it’s never predictable and every make-them-green-with-envy moment is immensely satisfying.

Yet the fake dating element comes second to the essential friends-to-lovers storyline, which hits all the emotional, swoon-worthy beats with the beautiful pacing and heart-warming authenticity we’ve come to expect from Henry’s books. Even the peripheral characters, like Miles’ sister Julia and Daphne’s work-colleague-turned-friend Ashleigh, feel real and well-rounded, providing a world outside of the unexpected bubble that forms around Daphne and Miles. Henry has such a gift for transporting readers to picturesque locations and wrapping them up in a place that you wish they could visit, with people you wish you could meet.

There genuinely aren’t enough words in a dictionary to describe how much I love this story, these characters and the way they put a smile on my face whenever I think back on them. So I’ll wrap this up with a full five stars, because when it comes to Emily Henry, it was never going to be any less.


Funny Story is published by Viking on 25 April 2024

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