Release Date: April 2, 2013
Publisher: Hachette | Poppy
Pages: 416 pages
Source & Format: Library; Hardcover
Amazon | Goodreads
Summary (from Goodreads)
If fate sent you an email, would you answer?
When teenage movie star Graham Larkin accidentally send 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 find 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?
Thoughts on This Is What Happy Looks Like
After falling for The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, I was excited when I spotted This is What Happy Looks Like on the library's New Releases shelf. I'd seen some mixed reviews of this one, so I'd been hesitant to buy it. Finding it at the library was the perfect moment. From the yellow cover to the cheery title, I was hoping this would be the perfect summer read.
This is What Happy Looks Like tells the story of Graham and Ellie - two teenagers on opposites sides of the country with completely different lives who randomly "meet" one day over email. One tiny error - a simple mistyped email address - leads to shared confidences and the building blocks of a new friendship. But there is something they aren't sharing: their names.
Because of this, Ellie has no idea that she's talking to a movie star. Graham's not content with never meeting Ellie. He's intrigued by her emails, and he knows that he can use his influence to make sure that his next movie is shot in Ellie's hometown. So, he does. And then everything starts falling into place...
Interestingly enough, I thought this book read like a movie. It had the meet cute, the comedic missteps, and the somewhat unbelievable setup that still manages to feel charming. My favorite thing about This is What Happy Looks Like is the setting. I've never been to Maine, but I'm absolutely dying to pack my bag and spend a week up there after reading this book. I loved the small town vibe, and I felt like I could picture the place in my head while I was reading. The ocean breeze, the ice cream shop, the lobster... it felt so real to me! I definitely think this is a book where the setting just adds to the story.
Another thing I enjoyed about this book was something that I'd also noticed in The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight - that family plays a role and has a noticeable presence in the book. Graham's family isn't present in Maine, but the tension underlying his relationship with them and his insecurities about how his celebrity has changed their relationship is a recurring theme in the book. There are also questions about Ellie's family (she's been raised by a single mother), and Smith explores those issues as well. I did feel like Ellie's storyline of the secret she's keeping with her mom was somewhat unnecessary, but I CAN still appreciate that parents are certainly present in this book. Sometimes YA novels feel so unrealistic to me because there's not a single adult or parental figure that ever makes an appearance. Or, if they do, they're presented as one who is out of touch or holding the teen back. So, I really like that family issues have played a role in both of Smith's books that I've read thus far. I did wish there was a little more balance in this one, but I appreciated the presence of family regardless.
It's a strange thing to say, but what I liked about This is What Happy Looks Like is the way it made me think about how blogging has changed my life. It's not the same as Graham's email slip-up, but I did start thinking about all the people I've met online through this little blog. I loved that This is What Happy Looks Like celebrates how technology can allow you to meet people that, previously, would have probably never crossed your path before.
This is What Happy Looks Like is very different from The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, but it retains the charm and delight that sucked me into the latter story. It's a light, sweet tale that won't change your life but will probably make you smile. I thought parts of the story seemed a little imbalanced, and it did seem to run a little long, but I enjoyed it overall. The email exchanges between Ellie and Graham made me smile, but they did leave me wanting more "offline" interaction between the two and less family and friend drama. It made me feel less connected to these characters, and I certainly wanted a little more from the ending, but I thought it was a fun and cute read nonetheless!
"It seemed to Ellie that you could tell a lot about someone by the way they carried a secret - by how safe they kept it, how soon they told, the way they acted when they were trying to keep it from spilling out."