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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

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

Sometimes it just takes one e-mail sent to the wrong e-mail address to start a wonderful story. In Jennifer E. Smith's romantic follow up to Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, we get to see two different worlds colliding in the small town of Maine, which started because of a pet pig named Wilbur. The rest of this romantic story, as they say, is history.

Title: This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith
Release Date: April 4th 2013
Published by: Headline Book Publishing
Source: Publisher (Thanks, Sam!)
Buy: Book Depository


If fate sent you an email, would you answer?

In This is What Happy Looks Like, Jennifer E. Smith's new YA novel, perfect strangers Graham Larkin and Ellie O'Neill meet—albeit virtually—when Graham accidentally sends Ellie an email about his pet pig, Wilbur. In the tradition of romantic movies like "You've Got Mail" and "Sleepless in Seattle," the two 17-year-olds strike up an email relationship, even though they live on opposite sides of the country and don't even know each other's first names.

Through a series of funny and poignant messages, Graham and Ellie make a true connection, sharing intimate details about their lives, hopes and fears. But they don't tell each other everything; Graham doesn't know the major secret hidden in Ellie's family tree, and Ellie is innocently unaware that Graham is actually a world-famous teen actor living in Los Angeles.

When the location for the shoot of Graham's new film falls through, he sees an opportunity to take their relationship from online to in-person, managing to get the production relocated to picturesque Henley, Maine, where Ellie lives. But can a star as famous as Graham have a real relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? And why does Ellie's mom want her to avoid the media's spotlight at all costs?

It was the classic love story set up: he was the hottest movie star on the planet, and every teenage girl in America loves him. He's Graham Larkin. She's a girl from a small town, a gingerhead, tall, lanky and skinny. Her name is Ellie O'Neill and she has a secret. Their lives were as different as night and day, and yet with one e-mail, they connected to each other in ways they didn't know possible. The only problem is, they don't know who each other are. But fate works in mysterious ways, and before they knew it, Graham is in Ellie's small town in Maine, and Graham's searching for Ellie. When they met, sparks fly, but is that enough to keep a relationship that started between two faceless people amidst all the attention and secrets both of them have?

What amazes me in Jennifer E. Smith's writing is how she's able to give such complicated background stories to her characters. There's something in her words that makes her characters seem realistic, a representation of what it's really like to be them: a celebrity constantly thrust into the limelight, and an ordinary small town girl with dreams she wants to fulfill, if only she's more capable of realizing it. If you think Graham Larkin is your typical gorgeous seventeen year old heart throb then you're in for a surprise when Jennifer lets out his secrets one by one. Readers will get an entirely different picture of what he initially is. The same goes for Ellie, who has more to her story that what is initially presented to the readers. The little things that the author reveals for each character, Graham's loneliness and the feeling of isolation for being a superstar, Ellie's fervent wish to attend Harvard despite the lack of money and her real identity, gives them such depth and drives the story forward in a dizzying mix of complications and consequences that just makes you want to read the story more and more.

I have, however, encountered several issues while reading this. Ellie's tendency to lie and mask her feelings made her such an unbearable character sometimes. Her instinct to protect herself kicks off at the most random of times that caused her a lot of problems. Also, it didn't help that her only friend in the world, Quinn, left her when Ellie needed her the most. It didn't feel like they both had done enough to mend their relationship. And was it really that easy to make a scandal go away? Another thing is, I couldn't believe the fact that Ellie's mother insisted that Ellie's father loves her, and yet he didn't even recognize her when she set out to meet him? How can a father who claims to love a daughter just forget her face that easily? That part left me a little bit unconvinced. The reasoning behind why Ellie's father was not present in her life felt weak at best, and contradicting most of the time. These characters have faults, of course, but these small details kept me a bit on my toes while reading.

The upside of this story is that Jennifer E. Smith's writing never lost that trademark funny and romantic combination that makes her books so easy to read. The e-mail exchanges between G and E were such a delight to read. That constant stream of thoughts where you get to know the most random of facts about anything and everything about both characters endears both Graham and Ellie to the readers.

With a romance bordering on cheesy, yet still managing to be sweet on times that matter, This Is What Happy Looks Like is an endearing, entertaining read. Those moments where you feel that it's possible for a superstar to fall in love with an ordinary girl calls out to the hearts of the countless young hopeless romantics out there. Jennifer E. Smith makes it so easy to write a love story that will make the readers swoon and sigh at times, and get that little, satisfied smile when it ends.

What does Happy look like? Let Jennifer E. Smith's new novel tell you, and who knows, you might have your own definition of what it's like by the time you finish reading this book. For the hopeless romantics, for those who loved to feel love, and for those who are just looking for an adorable story, this book is for you.

Content (plot, story flow, character):
This would've gotten a 5 were it not for the issues I mentioned in my review above. I'm not a big fan of Ellie's parents, but I loved Graham for being so down to earth and simple, especially considering he's a popular celebrity. That boy made me laugh and swoon so much!
Shining: Worthy of a Goddess' Love!

Book Cover:
I am in love with that cover. So significant to the story!


  1. I completely agree with you! There WAS a deeper story to each of her characters. Graham isn't just a famous celebrity or Ellie isn't just some small town girl. Jennifer E. Smith really took her time to create a backstory for her characters. I really didn't like Quinn, I thought that she was both irrational and not that great of a friend. But maybe that's just me. I loved how everything else worked out though and it really is a cute nove. Thanks for the review, Kai! :)

    1. True, which is actually the saving grace of the book for me. :) Are there really Graham Larkins in the world right now? And yes, Quinn! She's such a lousy friend. I didn't really like how they both had to deal with their differences. I mean can you really forget a fight just like that? And Ellie's mom's reasoning just... irked me.

      I had to re-read this one! But I have to agree, it is cute and awfully romantic!

  2. Wow…this post tingled my toes. I’m so full of admiration and respect for firefighters in general and now you in particular Stewart. Thank you for sharing.
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  3. I really enjoyed this preview, enough so that I bought the whole book! It's a fun story that I couldn't put down. Highly recommend!


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