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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Book Review: This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennfer E. Smith

Answer: Reading in bed.

Question: What does happy look like?

What do you think happy looks like?

Book Description (From Goodreads):
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?

My Review:
It starts out simple enough. One mistyped character in an email address and the email is delivered to the wrong person...or perhaps the right person. That one misdirected email starts a correspondence between two anonymous people. They haven't told each other their names, but they have told each other just about everything else. From opposite sides of the country they are a mystery to each other, but also everything to each other.

But what happens when the fantasy becomes real?

The tale unfolds in alternating chapters, the prelude of which is a chain of emails between the two. Each chapter starts off with an email, and that really drew me in. It starts with a film crew showing up in a little town called, Henley, Maine. The location of their shoot had too be changed after a natural disaster had struck and Graham convinced the studio to film in Henley, but he was really in search of Ellie. He knows she works at the only sweet shop in town, so as soon as he gets to town, he goes to the sweet shop. Due to a mishap at the shop and mistaken identity, Graham asks out the wrong girl to dinner, but learns the truth quickly enough. He leaves his date at the restaurant and goes in search of Ellie.

Ellie doesn't realize he is her email pen pal and seems less than thrilled to have Graham Larkin show up on her doorstep. She doesn't seem to be taken in by his celebrity. While other girls would kill to have his attention on them, Ellie panics at the thought. Graham is followed by paparazzi wherever he goes and Ellie has reasons enough to stay out of the public eye. Reasons she can't tell anyone. She has a hard time reconciling the two people Graham seems to be, the celebrity and the boy she's been corresponding with. She is reluctant to get involved because of the press, but also because he will only be in town for a few weeks and then he'll be gone. Why put herself through that?

When Ellie sees Graham for the first time across the square, she thinks that he has very sad eyes. Graham really enjoys his work, but there are so many things about his celebrity that he is unhappy about. For one, his parents treat him like a celebrity and not their son when he visits. He spends most of his time alone reading. His manager tells him where to go, what to do, who to date, everything for the sake of appearances and publicity. Graham can't be his own person, but he finds in writing to Ellie, he has been able to be himself.

Can these two seemingly disparate individuals find their way to each other and can they keep it private? Can Ellie find her way to see past Graham's celebrity status to the boy beneath and take hold of his hand? Does Ellie ever come clean about the real reason she is afraid of the publicity always surrounding Graham? And if she can, will it last? Or is it just a summer fling?

The story pulled me in and wouldn't let go. I really loved the pages of emails between the two and as an introduction to each chapter. I found I was really looking forward to the next chapter just to see what the next email would be. The alternating chapters really worked well, too, with this book. It wasn't a rehashing of the same incident from two sides. We were allowed a glimpse into the thoughts of the character, so we could understand their motivations, their feelings, wants and desires. While I couldn't put the book down and I wanted to keep reading to see what would come next, I couldn't help but feel an overwhelming sense of dread that things were not going to end well for Ellie and Graham. I was stealing myself to be saddened by the end of the book.

Now I am not going to tell you if I was sad at the end of the book. I leave that to your imagination or pick up the book and give it a read.  Enjoy!


  1. Loving the title. Great review, thanks for the recommendation.

  2. I really did enjoy it. Now I have to go back and read her other book. I think, though, I need to read some thing else. Perhaps a fantasy/paranormal story. Change it up a bit. I have a stack of about 10 books I am stuck on, trying to figure out what to read next.

  3. Love the idea of this story, as who hasn't dreamed of something like this happening to them? I hope they live happily ever after!

    1. I almost did it again, posting instead of replying.
      Anyway, I can't divulge that information. The use of the emails throughout the book was very clever. It was like a continuous conversation throughout the entire book which pulled it all together nicely.