Book: This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith, Hachette Audio, April 2013
Book Info: Purchased audiobook, Running time: 8 hrs, 37 mins. Read by: Andrew Sweeney and Marcie Millard. Also available in hardcover or e-book, 406 pages from Poppy
About the book:
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 17-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?
This is What Happy Looks Like is very sweet and has all the ingredients of a romantic comedy. The story is familiar- movie star falls for an everyday girl- but it’s still a charming read. The email correspondence “meet cute” had me rooting for this unlikely pairing from the beginning. There’s also family secrets, friendship drama, financial woes, a movie shoot in small town Maine, paparazzi, a beagle named Bagel, and Wilbur the pet pig. Sadly, I wasn’t totally swept off my feet by Happy the way I was with Smith’s The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight – maybe my expectations were too high? But I was entertained nonetheless.
I liked the dual POV in Happy, and Ellie and Graham both have interesting problems they’re dealing with. Ellie is hiding a big family secret, and working like a dog to pay for a summer college course. And Graham is coming to terms with his celebrity and where he wants to take his career. It’s cute that the girl who doesn’t want to be photographed falls for the guy who is always trailed by paparazzi. The two meet over email and there are many email exchanges in the book, and that was a bright spot for me.
The writing, plot and characters are pleasant and there are charming details in the Maine setting. I just was missing that oomph and wow factor in this one overall. I think that this book will appeal to fans of Sarah Dessen- the writing, setting and overall tone of the book reminded me a lot of Dessen’s books. The romance is innocent, and the story touches a lot on family, finances, and friendship.
I listened to the audiobook, performed by Andrew Sweeney (Proxy) and Marcie Millard. Once I found out that email exchanges were used so much in the plot, I worried that the audiobook would be a bad call. (Sometimes having email addresses and dates/times spelled out over and over can get repetitive.) But, happily that was not the case and I think the audio actually made the story more enjoyable. The pacing and tone worked well, and the voices were a match to the characters personalities.
This is What Happy Looks Like is a sweet comfort read that all ages can enjoy. It doesn’t break new ground in contemporary YA but it’s a nice breezy read, if a little forgettable. I’m looking forward to seeing what Smith comes up with next in 2014’s The Geography of You and Me.
This is What Happy Looks Like is a YA Fiction Cybils nominee.
- Kid Konnection: This Is What Happy Looks Like (bermudaonion.net)
- This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith (pagesunbound.wordpress.com)
- If you’re happy and you know it… (thegrownupya.wordpress.com)