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This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

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!

So Quotable
"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."


  1. I recently picked up a copy of this novel on a whim the last time I was in the bookstore, so I was very excited when I saw you had reviewed it today! Like you, I've read a handful of mixed reviews with very different perspectives on this novel so I was a little wary to begin reading it, but your review today has made me all the more excited to begin it as soon as possible. I love epistolary novels so the inclusion of Ellie and Graham's emails is a creative, fun touch, and I love the fact that family plays a large role in Smith's work. That has always been an extremely important consideration to me in the young adult novels I read, so I'm happy to hear that the author devotes a significant amount of time to it. While it sounds as though your experience with This Is What Happy Looks Like was similar to my own experience with The Distance Between Us in that both were pleasant, if relatively innocuous stories, sometimes all you can ask for from a book is something with which to while away a few fun hours :)

    Thank you for the exceedingly lovely review, Hannah!

    1. Oh I'm so glad you like epistolary novels! You'll definitely appreciate the inclusion of the emails then. I'm also pleased that you appreciate when family plays a role. It's something I find too often missing in YA.

      Now that I've read your review of The Distance Between Us, I'd certainly agree with you that I probably felt about this one the way that you did about that one. I had fun reading it, but it wasn't very memorable overall.

  2. I read this back in May with for Cassie's read along and although it didn't wow me, I really thought it was cute and sweet and definitely an enjoyable read! Like you, I also loved the family presence; I really dislike when the families are absent (with no explanation) so often in YA, it makes me feel really disconnected with the book sometimes! Although I didn't think about blogging during the read, you make such an awesome point: Blogging really has made us cross paths with people we probably never would, and for that it's one of my favorite parts :) Great review Hannah!!!

    1. I remember y'all reading it for Cassie's read-along, and I think there were some mixed reviews on it after that (if I remember correctly). I think your assessment is spot on - it's cute, sweet and enjoyable. Yay for another person who appreciates a family being included in books! And I love blogging for the people it's brought into my life :) So special!

  3. I feel like I've read so many amazing reviews of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, that the reviews of this one seem so negative by comparison. Of course I haven't' read either, but after reading many reviews of this one, yours is the first that actually makes me want to read it.

    1. I'm so glad to hear that! I did enjoy Statistical more, but I thought this one was still very much in keeping with Smith's writing style. I hope you enjoy this one if you do end up reading it!


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