Publication Date: 4/2/13
Source: Received from publisher for review
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. Just as they did in The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, the hands of fate intervene in wondrous ways in this YA novel that delivers on high concept romance in lush and thoughtful prose.
This is What Happy Looks Like was surprising, to me. I read a review yesterday by Jen YA Romantics, that described it as a mix of You've Got Mail, Notting Hill, and What a Girl Wants. That's about as accurate of a description as I could ever hope to come up with.
What was surprising for me about This is What Happy Looks Like is that it was, hmm... underwhelming. Don't get me wrong, it was sweet, and charming. I liked the characters, but there was not a lot to keep me hooked. In fact, I put this down for three days because I got swept away in another series that was full of fun and passion and angst, highs and lows. And in comparison, this was just nice.
Smith is obviously an extremely talented author. I absolutely adored The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. I raved about it to all my friends for months, and credit it with making me love a boy named Oliver. Maybe that has caused me to judge this book a little too much. And though I liked Ellie and Graham, their portrayals were just sort of flat. I understood were they were coming from with their feelings and questions about their lives, but they didn't feel fully developed. I almost felt a true attachment to them and their story at certain points, the epic was just within reach, but then the story would move along and the feeling went away. Also, I would have like a least a smidge more resolution in the ending.
This Is What Happy Looks Like was a good, if underwhelming, story. I did like it, but will also say that I never fell in love with it. And I wouldn't discourage anyone from reading it, but I would also say to maybe be prepared to not be swept away.
"I'm sorry--" she began, but that was as far as she got, because Graham couldn't wait any longer. He leaned in, his lips meeting hers, which tasted fairly of peanut butter, and he closed his eyes, and he held her by the shoulders, and he kissed her.
It was exactly as he'd thought it would be, like the first time and the millionth time all at once, like being wide awake, like losing his balance. Only this time, it wasn't just him; this time they were losing their balance together. ~ eARC, 44%
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