Sunday, November 3, 2013

Novel Review: This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

Rating (Out of 5): ~4
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Publisher: (UK) Headline; (US) Poppy
Publish Date: January/April, 2013
Spoilers?: No.

Goodreads Synopsis:

If fate sent you an email, would you answer?

In This is What Happy Looks Like, Jennifer E. Smith's new YA novel, perfect strangers Graham Larkin and Ellie O'Neill meet—albeit virtually—when Graham accidentally sends Ellie an email about his pet pig, Wilbur. In the tradition of romantic movies like "You've Got Mail" and "Sleepless in Seattle," the two 17-year-olds strike up an email relationship, even though they live on opposite sides of the country and don't even know each other's first names.

Through a series of funny and poignant messages, Graham and Ellie make a true connection, sharing intimate details about their lives, hopes and fears. But they don't tell each other everything; Graham doesn't know the major secret hidden in Ellie's family tree, and Ellie is innocently unaware that Graham is actually a world-famous teen actor living in Los Angeles.

When the location for the shoot of Graham's new film falls through, he sees an opportunity to take their relationship from online to in-person, managing to get the production relocated to picturesque Henley, Maine, where Ellie lives. But can a star as famous as Graham have a real relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? And why does Ellie's mom want her to avoid the media's spotlight at all costs?

Just as they did in The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, the hands of fate intervene in wondrous ways in this YA novel that delivers on high concept romance in lush and thoughtful prose.

Something Specific:
  • "'Wait, is that your way of saying good-bye without really saying good-bye?’ ‘No. Actually, I’m not sure I’m quite finished saying hello yet.’” (UK paperback, pg. 12)
  • "There was no way that little girl would remember this. Childhood memories were like airplane luggage; no matter how far you were traveling or how long you needed them to last, you were only ever allowed two bags. And while those bags might hold a few hazy recollections—a diner with a jukebox at the table, being pushed on a swing set, the way it felt to be picked up and spun around—it didn’t seem enough to last a whole lifetime.” (Pg. 116-117)
  • "'Doesn’t something have to be valuable first?’ he joked. ‘Before it can be ruined?’ ‘Anything can be ruined,’ she said with a little shrug as she rose to her feet.” (Pg. 139)
  • "It was exactly as he’d thought it would be, like the first time and the millionth time all at once, like being wide awake, like losing his balance. Only this time, it wasn’t just him; this time, they were losing their balance together.” (Pg. 176)
  • "'There are different kinds of happy,’ she said. ‘Some don’t need any proof.’” (Pg. 258)
  • "Maybe growing up was nothing more than growing away: from your old life, from your old self, from all those things that kept you tethered to your past.” (Pg. 344)

The Cover:

I like this cover, as I do with most of Smith's new books. It's cute, really shows that you're reading a cute, lighthearted, romantic book. And it really helps that them being in a canoe was in the book, in a somewhat significant moment, and that yellow is a perfect color for 'happy'.


I was actually a little afraid to read this. I liked Smith’s previous book, rather enjoyed it, and had planned to pick up her earlier books when I stumbled upon this one for a good price instead. I heard some not-very-promising things about this, and the first set of emails at the beginning of the book did not give me a very good feeling, so I was afraid of really not liking this book. Instead, though, I found it to be really good.
Ellie and Graham have been corresponding through email for a while now, without really knowing who the other person is. For instance, Ellie has no idea that Graham is the famous actor coming to her town to film a movie. But Graham knows who Ellie is, and he’s determined to form a real life relationship with her.
I rather liked both of these characters, and really liked that there were alternating points of view. Ellie was understandably hesitant (even though she supposedly gave way too much personal information to him online before meeting him), and had her personal reasons with pulling away, even if they really bothered me. Like because of her mother, even though her mother rather bothered me for a while. And with what happened with her father, I would maybe have liked to find out more on how it turned out in the end. Then there was some attention on her best friend and her developing love life, and I liked that, although again maybe some more attention to it would have been nice.
I liked Graham a lot. He’s sweet and honest, and maybe I would have liked a bit more anguished actor, but I liked him. He’s honest about what he wants up front, and is determined about getting it. He’s also got his personal, family matters to deal with, and it was nice how that turned out, although maybe a bit more focus or development on it would have been nice.
There was a lot of focus on Graham and Ellie’s relationship, and I liked that. There could have been more development on other parts of their lives, but I liked the romance. I liked their developing relationship. There was also some focus on Ellie’s town; she lives in a small town with little mom-and-pop shops (one of which her mother runs), where everyone knows everyone else. Those kinds of towns are always fun to me, though. 
This is a rather lengthy book, but I found it really easy to get through, and just really entertaining. It was cute, lighthearted, fun. And now I’m definitely planning to pick up Smith’s earlier books, and whatever comes after this one.

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