Is it just me or does Jennifer E. Smith have the longest book titles ever? This aside, This Is What Happy Looks Like was one of my most anticipated 2013 reads. While it isn’t quite as flawless as The Statistical Probability Of Love At First Sight, I still found Smith’s latest book to be a very swoon worthy read and especially loved the coastal Maine backdrop. If you’re a fan of stories where the characters fall for each other through anonymous correspondence (like You’ve Got Mail) you should probably pay attention to this review because chances are This Is What Happy Looks Like will be right up your alley.
Graham Larkin is a teenage celebrity — he plays a wizard in a series of very popular movies. Also. He owns a pet pig. One day he sends Ellie O’Neill an email about his pet pig, only it’s kind of an accident as he doesn’t know her at all and he meant to send it to his animal caretaker. What happens next is a series of emails between the two that go over almost every topic under the sun and of course, an intense connection forms. Only, Ellie is just a normal girl and has no idea Graham is a celebrity. As the two connect so well, Graham wants to take the relationship off screen and so somehow manages to maneuver the filming of his newest film to Ellie’s hometown in Maine. Will their feelings transfer to real life? Will Ellie and Graham get a happy ending? Honestly if you have two brain cells to rub together you can totally answer that question without reading the book — but the journey in This Is What Happy Looks Like is totally worth reading if you go for romantic contemporary young adult reads.
Ellie O’Neill is one of those girls who actually has a good head on her shoulders. She’s level headed and reasonable and doesn’t lose her shit over stupid things. ALSO! She has a secret that none of her friends know — and that secret has nothing to do with Graham. I totally won’t tell you what it is but just tantalize it and when you get to the secret you’ll be all OH MY GOSH THAT MAKES PERFECT SENSE. Because we all totally react to things using strictly caps lock, can I get an amen. Anyways, I loved that Ellie was a hard worker and doesn’t expect hand outs. She’s not one of those characters who drops $400 on a purse and then complains about being poor. She actually is broke. I love that, ha ha. Weird, but that’s one of my reading quirks. So anyways, Ellie writes poetry and is actually a good person, thus I rooted for her during most of Jennifer E. Smith’s book.
What I loved about This Is What Happy Looks Like is that it’s one of those dual point of view books – with email exchanges between the chapters. Not only do we get to see what Ellie is thinking but we also get a look at the contents of Graham Larkin’s head. Y’all, I thought Graham might be kind of a douche because he’s famous, but he actually reminded me of Jonah from Jenna And Jonah’s Fauxmance, another YA contemporary book with actors. Anyways, Graham is actually a super nice guy and I totally was AWWWing every time he did something adorable. And then, LOL I actually felt bad for him because of how lonely he is and it’s like you think money can buy you everything but unfortunately, sometimes it can be a bit alienating if you come from a middle class background (although tbh I’d rather be loaded like Graham then my current situation, ha ha). Regardless, Graham is awesome and while he might not be as swoon worthy as Oliver, he’s still a great love interest/lead. ALSO! He’s a nice guy and I just love that finally we get nice guys portrayed as worthy of affection in YA.
It’s weird but I really like the whole strangers who know nothing about each other but their words trope. I love that they fall for each other through emails, because I think that allows for the two to let their guard down and let their inner-selves out. I mean, okay that just came off as SUPER WEIRD, but stay with me here — if you didn’t have to worry about being beautiful or following social convention and just conversed through letters you might just be more open instead of ya know, closed off. At the same time though, I think that the form of letters/emails totally allows the writer to form their identity as the best possible form of themselves. And okay, I get that I am talking in circles here, but I just thought the emails were a great convention and added a nice level of intimacy to the story. Also, I could not wait to see what would happen when Graham and Ellie meet. There’s still room for real life swoons and physical affection and all of that glory. Trust.
I love how Jennifer E. Smith writes. Like, her words are really smooth and just go down easy, ya know? Like I don’t read her books and say what just happened, I don’t get it. Instead, I find myself highlighting large swaths of text and thinking oh yes, she gets it. I love that Smith can convey romance without being saccharine. I love that she writes characters who are good people without making them wet blankets. I love that I can guess the outcome of the book just by reading the synopsis, but I stick through it because what happens doesn’t matter to me so much as how it all goes down.
This Is What Happy Looks Like is a lovely read that definitely deserved a spot on my anticipated 2013 to-be-read list. It has so many things I like in books from a good setting to a well done dual point of view. At this juncture I know that I will probably be into most of what Jennifer E. Smith writes with varying results — I really, really liked this book, but I didn’t love it on the level of The Statistical Probability Of Love At First Sight. So, take that as you will and go forth and read this book because it’s one of those perfect spring/summer reads.
Disclosure: Received for review via Netgalley
Other reviews of This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith:
Anna Reads – “exactly the type of book I crave”
Quinn’s Book Nook – “it’s sweet, and real, and just so great”
Rather Be Reading – “I don’t mind calling myself a Jennifer E. Smith cheerleader.”
Books by Jennifer E. Smith:
The Statistical Probability Of Love At First Sight