Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Number of Pages: 416
Date Published: April 4, 2013
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.
From the very moment I read the synopsis of This Is What Happy Looks Like, I knew that I should have the book once it comes out. Who wouldn't want to read about a movie star exchanging e-mails with an ordinary girl? I fell in love with its plot in an instant and it went immediately to the upper part of my “To Be Read” list. Plus, I love the look of the bright sunny yellow cover with the silhouette of a couple in a small boat. And I also have a thing for long titles. Everything about this book screams “READ ME!” and luckily, I was able to snag a copy when it came out. So on to my thoughts…
Though I am not really disappointed with This Is What Happy Looks Like, I am not that thrilled and captivated by the book either. I guess the reviews I have scanned prepared me for what I was up for. But I like it, I really do. It was good in most of the aspects I have hoped for, like the cute e-mail conversation of Ellie and Graham at the beginning of the book (which, by the way, was the only long e-mail conversation they had that was detailed in the book.) It had a good start… the first few chapters always makes you think and anticipate the moment Ellie and Graham will meet; how they will react when they see each other; how they will talk now that they can see each other face to face. Very nice start! But it came a little short after that.
It seems to me that Ms. Smith has a thing for what others believe is impossible romance – first, love at first sight, and now relationship developed over internet/virtual communication. Not that I’m against it, but it doesn't help the romance part of the book. Truthfully, I didn't feel the sweetness or the warmth of Ellie and Graham’s relationship sinking within me. It wasn't bad, but I just didn't get to feel it through and through. Because of that, Ellie and Graham weren't so alive for me either. But I like how truthful they acted before and during those three weeks.
The other parts of the book are very interesting. Come to think of it, I really did like most of the book, with the relationship of E and G as an exception. Ellie’s family background, though a bit scandalous, is a great addition to the details of the story. And Graham coming to town to ruin all those years of simple life really is a disaster. I also love how family plays a big part in the story. Ms. Smith did a fine job of creating characters that give great importance to family. I like the simplicity of everything despite having a famous celebrity as the main character. I like how both of their characters voiced out how they actually feel and their struggles. It was realistic in some way, showing the difficult life of a movie star and a simple girl who just wants to go to a summer program.
I had a hard time deciding the number of stars I would give This Is What Happy Looks Like. But despite my lack of high energy while reading this, I must admit that I still enjoyed reading it. It was not funny but it wasn't that dramatic either, something that falls right in between. Though not really moving, it was heart-warming and light. I loved a lot of things (Sprinkles, e-mails, Wilbur, whoopie pies, framed poems, sunrise, lobsters, etc…) and disliked only a tiny (significant) part, sooooo 3.5 stars.
February 2016 Update: This 2013 review has been somewhat updated to suit the format and the layout of the blog. No major change has been made with my review. The thought, and most of the words I used back when I wrote this review is still the same. Only some minor editing, like deleting unnecessary words, phrases, expressions and emoticons.