Title: This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith
Published: April 2nd, 2013 by Poppy (Little, Brown and Company)
Group age: Young adult
Grade rate: B-
If fate sent you an email, would you answer? When teenage movie star Graham Larkin accidentally sends small town girl Ellie O'Neill an email about his pet pig, the two seventeen-year-olds strike up a witty and unforgettable correspondence, discussing everything under the sun, except for their names or backgrounds.
Then Graham finds out that Ellie's Maine hometown is the perfect location for his latest film, and he decides to take their relationship from online to in-person. But can a star as famous as Graham really start a relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? And why does Ellie want to avoid the media's spotlight at all costs?
I really enjoyed Smith’s The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight (see my review here) and I’ve been eagerly waiting for the opportunity of reading her latest book.
The story begins with a series of emails exchanged between Ellie and Graham, after Graham sends an email in error about his pet pig. Ellie replies and thus the couple communicate anonymously with each other the span of a few months. The advantage of not knowing the person at the other end of the country is that they both got to be themselves, and they genuinely liked each other.
For some reason I couldn’t identify that well with Ellie. It seems to me that her mother transferred her paranoia and negative experiences with the press to Ellie and in turn, made her feel the same way. I think she gave up too soon on a potential relationship because of that fact, even if it made her miserable. On the other hand, I love Graham! No because he is a handsome and famous actor, but because he is so sweet and considerate in spite of that fact. Although he loves acting, he had a very difficult time adjusting to the fame and what that means. In part, this is a great coming-off age story of self-discovery and on how to set new boundaries that feel comfortable with the person they were becoming.
The plot is simple and believable. Nowadays couples and friend meet all the time through the Internet. Graham did all he could to make sure he could meet Ellie in person because he felt a real connection to her and also because he was so lonely. I felt bummed by the fact that Ellie gave up so quickly (before getting her common sense back), and that Graham allowed it. It slowed the pace of the story considerably, in my opinion. The escapade on the boat was a little weird to me as well. The writing is good, and easy to read. The story is told on the third person and we get to ‘be’ in both of the main character’s minds.
Now we come to my biggest ‘issue’ about this book: what is going on with the ending? To me, it’s a non-ending! Way to open for my comfort. I’m sure other readers will make their own happy endings, but my imagination is not that good. Couldn’t we get an epilogue, a new string of emails after they met?
In the end This is What Happy Looks Like turned out to be an enjoyable light contemporary romance, but not as good as Statistical Probability.
Some quotes for you:
“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.”
“He could see her, and it was just like he’d thought. It was just like being punched in the stomach.”
:…How can you know if makes you happy if you never experienced it?”
“There are different kinds of happy,” she said. “Some kinds don’t need any proof.”
About the cover: It’s lovely and appropriate as the story takes place in a beach town in Maine.