Thursday, May 16, 2013

Review: This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

Review: This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith
Release date: April 2nd, 2013
Publisher: Poppy
Rating: Totally adorable and squee-worthy, with a few issues like flat characters and strange plot points. But I definitely recommend it if you need a cute summer romance with great prose.

 This Is What Happy Looks Like

 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?

The cover: I love this cover. That sunny, happy yellow,  the silhouettes on the boat, and the font style all appeal to me. I think I like it even better than the cover for The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight.

The story: Notting Hill is one of my favorite movies. I've seen it an incalculable number of times (mostly for Spike, the daft Welsh roommate, but also for the uber cute love story and the Hugh Grant factor). I'm a sucker for the famous-person-falls-in-love-with-a-regular-person trope, because it has the potential to be oh so cute and cliche and fairy tale-esque. That aspect is really well captured.

Graham, lonely teen Hollywood superstar, falls in love with Ellie, the everyday girl from Henley, Maine with scandalous parentage, through a lengthy email exchange. It all started when Graham mistyped an email and accidentally sent it to Ellie. Neither knows who the other is, yet they strike up an online relationship, divulging all sorts of details about their lives, except for who they actually are. Graham and Ellie are just plain cute together. In a way that would make the more cynical among us gag, probably, and those with their insta!love feelings acutely tuned will most certainly grumble, but for some reason I didn't. I say it's not insta!love, since they have been talking for months and months before they actually meet.

So they meet, and sparks fly, and all the things you want and expect begin to happen. There are paparazzi, and movie schedules, and Ellie's mom is totally terrified of the press, and Graham and Ellie go on super cute dates. The best part of the book is the Graham-Ellie connection, which has nothing to do with fame, but everything to do with the connection they forged through their emails. And the cute things they say to each other. Being all cute and falling in love.

This book is a quick, breezy, squee-worthy read, all of which are major pluses. After the emotional trauma that was Siege and Storm, I just wanted to go on a brain-cation in Maine and fall in love with a movie star. And I did. But I guess this book didn't capture my feels the way Smith's other book, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, did. Maybe it was because I didn't get a lot of depth out of the characters? I'm not sure why. Graham and Ellie were reasonably fleshed out, but the drama with her best friend, Quinn, never sank in for me. I wish we'd gotten a sense of their relationship before their fight. Also, I think Quinn was rather cruel to Ellie and greatly overreacted, so the drama between them just sort of made me grumpy.

But it was the plot point with Ellie's father that really bothered me. The reason Ellie's mother is so wary of photographers is because Ellie is the illegitimate daughter of a senator (it's not a spoiler). I wasn't really a fan of how this played out. It felt unresolved, and it also felt a bit... meh. I'm not sure. It just didn't seem like a big enough deal to me. I felt like more should have come out of it.

That being said, I love the way Smith writes. I think she uses really beautiful language and lovely metaphors. I love the way she creates Graham and Ellie's bond. Again, it's all just so CUTE. Together, they do find what happy looks like. Even though there's no violin-playing goat, which is weird.

I also found it strange that Smith never talked about any of the kids Ellie goes to high school with. It feels like only three teenagers exist in all of Henley: Ellie, her best friend, Quinn, and this boy Devon. It's summer, and there's a movie shooting in town. I feel like you'd see your classmates everywhere, right? And you'd talk to them? Because you know more than three people in your life? You have friends beside Quinn and your own mother, right?

Basically, I loved all the cute, romantical parts of this book but had issues with all the dramas. Not that I wanted the book to be drama free, or anything (even though a small part of me just wanted to read about Graham and Ellie going on happy dates in the sunshine forever and ever like really bad fanfiction because they're SO CUTE). But I didn't really like the way the drama was introduced. Like, when Graham and Ellie hit this rough patch. It kind of... comes out of nowhere. Ellie freaks out about the fame thing, which is understandable, but sudden and dramatic and weird. And then Graham was all sad, and I was all sad.

I get it. I live in LA. I've seen the paparazzi literally Apparate out of nowhere and crowd the sidewalk and flash all these scary blinding lights in a celebrity's face before. That is understandably a roadblock to true love. But still.

Though this one's a mixed bag, ultimately I think the book falls onto the positive side. I actually liked the insta!love aspects here, even though I really wish we could have seen more of their email exchange, and more of what life was like before the summer they met while they were emailing. But hey. I was in the mood for something saccharine. I was in the mood for cliches and total suspension of belief. I wanted a little less blandness, a little more real drama, and a little less niceness, but I got a very cute love story, I thought, so in the end, I was satisfied.
Just because.


  1. I think her writing sounds really awesome! I have her first book on my Kindle, but I haven't gotten around to it yet! Need to read them! This was a great review and you know what? I pretty much heart Notting Hill too!

    1. I'm not sure which book is her first book, but I preferred The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight to this one, though this was fun also. NOTTING HILL IS THE BEST.

  2. Why is there no violin-playing goat? LAME. BUT I do want to read this. If I'm ever in a mood where I'm like I NEED FLUFF LIKE A GOAT NEEDS A VIOLIN, I will try to grab this because sometimes you need the adorbs, right? Whhhhhhhuuuuuuuut.

    1. Right?? WITHER THE VIOLIN-PLAYING GOAT. This is definitely a book for when you need unapologetic fluff. I think there's better fluff out there, but when you're in the mood for this, your mind probably won't question the flaws. It's tooth-achingly sweet and cute, which is often a good thing.

    2. Also, Lydia Bennet reference. Yesssss


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