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Cure that Vacay FOMO with These 9 Books about Disastrous Getaways

by  | August 12
Big Summer with tote and swimsuit

Let’s be real here—vacations rarely go as planned. Sometimes, you luck out, and it’s better than you dreamed. But, more often than not, there are unexpected road bumps and challenges that pop up and get in the way, such as canceled flights or a major blowup between travel partners. And while most of us aren’t traveling now because of Covid-19 restrictions, we can still enjoy some vacation drama with these excellent reads about holidays gone wrong. So, if you’re looking to laugh, cry, or spend all night reading on the edge of your seat, here are some vacation fiction tales for you.

The Unhoneymooners

The Unhoneymooners

by Christina Lauren

An all-expenses-paid tropical vacation sounds great, right? Warm sand, delicious drinks, nothing but rest and relaxation. Well, what if you had to take that break with someone you can’t stand? Olive finds herself in that situation and takes it as just more proof of how unlucky she is. Sure, she’s fortunate in that she narrowly avoided the food poisoning that took down nearly everyone in her sister’s wedding and thus gets to go on the honeymoon. But, unfortunately, she has to go with her nemesis, Ethan, her new brother-in-law’s best man. Though they vow to stay out of each other’s way, circumstances keep bringing them back together, and romance blooms. Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings—the writing duo with the pen name Christina Lauren—are masters of witty banter and nail-biting drama, and it doesn’t get much better than The Unhoneymooners. If you’re looking for a rom-com to sweep you away into an unlikely vacation going so wrong it’s right, this is the one for you.

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Big Summer

Big Summer

by Jennifer Weiner

High school is just the worst. You are still finding yourself and even your friends want to tear you down. Daphne Berg suffered humiliation and cruel comments about her weight from Drue, a queen bee who was supposed to be her friend. But Daphne takes the moment in stride and spends the next six years becoming a body-positive social media influencer. At first, she’s surprised and hesitant when Drue reaches out and asks her to be in her wedding party as maid-of-honor, but the temptation of cute guys and scenic views tips the scales. And while Drue is her same faux-charming self, Daphne is still somehow having a great time until…well, no spoilers, but something very unexpected happens. While Big Summer delves into some dark territory, the story is also empowering, sweet, and fun, with a sharp eye toward social media and female friendships, as well as a splash of summer romance.

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What You Don't Know About Charlie Outlaw

What You Don't Know About Charlie Outlaw

by Leah Stewart

Rising star actor Charlie Outlaw could have easily avoided disaster by thinking through his response to a reporter’s question about his longtime girlfriend, Josie, and fellow actor, being the love of his life. But one moment of foot in mouth leads to an epic breakup that sends Charlie to a tropical island, far from the eyes of the paparazzi. Charlie’s secluded vacation quickly turns dangerous, as he ends up kidnapped. Josie, with her star power dwindling, is looking for a boyfriend to replace Charlie…until she becomes worried that he’s not returning her texts. It’s up to Josie to save Charlie from himself, and his incompetent kidnappers, and find her own inner strength along the way. A comedy of errors and hurt feelings, What You Don't Know About Charlie Outlaw is as much heart and insight into acting as it is a funny romp on a tropical island.

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The Vacationers

The Vacationers

by Emma Straub

Sunny, beautiful Mallorca, the perfect summer getaway. Or it would be, if there weren’t family and love drama to deal with along the way. The Post family’s island vacation is not as cheerful and relaxing as they’d hoped. Franny has just discovered that her husband, Jim, was having an affair with an intern, and was fired from his magazine job because of it; their daughter, Sylvia, was just cheated on by her boyfriend and is soon set to go off to college; and their son, Bobby, is cavorting with a trainer ten years his senior and not the type of woman his mother approves of. Meanwhile, family friends Charles and Lawrence are in the middle of their own argument about adopting a child. Filled with emotional insight and nuanced character studies, The Vacationers is the kind of vacation we’ve probably all had at one point or another: awkward, claustrophobic, and filled with unexpected drama that makes us wish we had stayed home.

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Tomorrow There Will Be Sun

Tomorrow There Will Be Sun

by Dana Reinhardt

Family vacations can make the people we know and love feel like strangers. Whether it’s the new setting, the stress of being away from home, or just the sense of freedom inciting us to finally air our dirty laundry, family vacations often seem to contain some drama. In Tomorrow There Will Be Sun, Jenna plans a group vacation to Puerto Vallarta to celebrate her husband Peter’s 50th birthday, but things start falling apart right when they get there. Her husband is taking a lot of strange phone calls, her daughter, Clementine, has been keeping secrets, and Peter’s business partner, Solly, brought his family along, including his second wife, Ingrid, who Jenna can’t stand. As the story progresses, Jenna gets more and more wrapped up in the goings-on of everyone else, and stalls working on her novel. Tomorrow There Will Be Sun is seated firmly in the everyday dramas that drive us, and derail us, with an ending that will let you come to your own conclusions.

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Lake Life

Lake Life

by David James Poissant

As much as we wish vacations could be full reprieves from all the bad things in the world, tragedy sometimes strikes when we’re on holiday. In Lake Life, that tragedy is the drowning of a child at the North Carolina lake where the Starlings usually vacation. With the added stress of this being the last summer in the family’s vacation home, one of the sons who failed to save the child begins to open up about some painful topics. On this emotionally vulnerable, surprisingly dark trip, all gets drudged up, including infidelity, marriages on the rocks, alcoholism, rampant drug use, family secrets, suicide attempts, and more. David James Poissant’s characters aren’t exactly likable, but they feel real, and the drama of their lives is as enthralling as it is depressing. If you’re looking for a book that creates the kind of human spectacle that is raw and all-consuming, this novel will more than satisfy.

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The Woman in Cabin 10

The Woman in Cabin 10

by Ruth Ware

Journalist Lo Blacklock is already having a pretty bad year. Her apartment was broken into, leaving her feeling, understandably, anxious and frightened. An assignment on a luxurious cruise ship sounds like exactly what she needs—the sun, the sea, delicious meals, and all miles away from where the home invasion happened. But then she hears the woman in the cabin next door go overboard…or so she thinks. See, there was supposedly no one in Cabin 10 and none of the passengers are missing, so Lo’s concerns are dismissed. But she isn’t convinced, and her snooping will take her down a dark rabbit hole of intrigue, murder, and greed. Ruth Ware is a master of suspense and The Woman in Cabin 10 shows why. Lo is sympathetic, whip-smart, and courageous, making the book hard to put down. Even if you’re not prone to seasickness, you might still feel a little queasy getting on a boat after reading this thriller.

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The River at Night

The River at Night

by Erica Ferencik

There’s nothing quite like a girls’ trip! Hanging out with your friends, swapping stories, and rekindling the fires of friendship. Wini desperately needs one. Dealing with the death of her brother, the end of her marriage, and her insufferably terrible job, she jumps at the chance to hike and raft with her three closest friends in Maine’s remote Allagash Wilderness, which offers up the perfect opportunity for her to become reinvigorated. Unfortunately, that’s not how it pans out. First, they get stranded before finding another group out in the wilderness, a group whose intentions are less than helpful. Now Wini and her friends have to run for their lives, navigating the forest, outsmarting their pursuers, and battling the elements. The River at Night is a slow burn, and once the thriller action starts, it’s hard to look away. You’ll root for the friends to escape, and be surprised by the dark twists. You might never look at camping the same way again!

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Gerald's Game

Gerald's Game

by Stephen King

Jessie’s romantic getaway to a remote cabin in Maine very quickly turns into a trip to hell. When her husband ignores her clearly stated desire to stop their bedtime antics after he handcuffs her to the bed, she kicks him in the chest, causing him to have a fatal heart attack. This leaves her trapped, unable to call for help or escape, and she soon begins hallucinating figures. At least, they would be hallucinations, if one of them didn’t post a very real threat. In this nail-biting thriller full of desperation, Stephen King has crafted a nightmarish story so intense, you’ll feel cagey for days after. I had to put it down several times to catch my breath as Jessie continued to devolve into insanity, before immediately picking it back up to see what happened next. Few vacations are as terrible or as terrifying as Gerald’s Game—and hopefully yours never even get close.

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A reporter by trade, Sara Roncero-Menendez is a lover of horror, sci-fi, and all things pop culture. From indies to classics to even the strangest genre pieces, all movies, TV shows, and books are fair game for a binge-fest. Follow her on Twitter @sararomenen or at her website, www.sara-roncero-menendez.com