THIS IS WHAT HAPPY LOOKS LIKE – Jennifer E. Smith

The story begins with a mis-typed email address that leads two strangers into an online correspondence that lasts for months before they ever have a chance to meet.

The girl, Ellie, lives in a small town in Maine whose only claim to fame is an over-abundance of lobster. She lives with her mom and works at an ice cream shop with her childhood best friend. A remarkably responsible teen, Ellie is working two jobs over the summer to save up money to attend a three-week poetry course at Harvard – her dream school.

Graham Larkin is about as far from small-town as you can get. Not only does he live in a mansion in LA, but, unbeknownst to Ellie, he’s a movie star/teen heartthrob. But he’s also lonely. At 17, Graham’s fame and success has driven a wedge between him and his parents (both teachers) and he lives alone with only his pet pig, Wilbur, for company. When he accidentally emails Ellie and they begin corresponding, his newfound anonymity is not only a welcome relief, but give him a chance to feel like himself again for the first time since becoming famous.

When Graham’s newest film is location scouting for a small town, Graham insists they pick Ellie’s hometown in Maine so he can see what her life is like and, possibly, meet her face-to-face. But when the two finally do meet, things are far from simple – Ellie’s past holds a secret that she will give up anything, even Graham, to protect.

——

I discovered this book one day when I was browsing the YA section at my local bookstore and completely fell in love with the cover. I honesty don’t even remember if I read the blurb or not before picking up the book. But I am a sucker for a good cover – a tendency which has paid off with books I absolutely love over and over again. Unfortunately, this was not one of them.

When I first started reading, I was immediately struck by how obvious the plot seemed to be. A lot of it felt so familiar, from the celeb-falls-for-normal-person plot to the pressure to date another big star to the mixed-up identity when Graham first starts looking for Ellie (though thank goodness that wasn’t drawn out or there would have been a lot of eye rolling) to the issues with the paparazzi… it all felt like pretty well-trodden territory.

The writing wasn’t bad, particularly considering it’s a YA book, but it also didn’t draw me in immediately nor did it leave me feeling any type of intense attachment to the characters. I cared enough to finish the book, and I didn’t dislike the characters, but I also didn’t fall in love with them.

Overall I think part of the problem is that while a lot of YA books are written in such a way that they’re appealing to both teens and adults (The Fault In Our Stars, Eleanor & Park), there are other YA books that are clearly just for teens. This is one of them. So I don’t want to sell it short – I think that readers in their early teens will probably enjoy this story much more than I did. I can see how the now-predictable storyline would be more exciting if you haven’t spend the last 20 years watching and reading romantic comedies. But since I am an adult reader, I have to say that this isn’t making my top ten list this year, unfortunately. (Unless you’re just talking about covers, in which case this one is totally cool.)

Final verdict? If you want a really light, easy-to-read book (particularly if you’re looking for a book to give to a young teen), you will probably enjoy this quick read. But if you’re looking for a book with a bit more edge or depth, this will leave you feeling a bit disappointed. //<![CDATA[ var sc_project=10144299; var sc_invisible=1; var sc_security="82f610c9"; var scJsHost = (("https:" == document.location.protocol) ? "https://secure." : "http://www."); document.write("”); //]]>

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4 thoughts on “THIS IS WHAT HAPPY LOOKS LIKE – Jennifer E. Smith

  1. M.

    I can totally see that. I actually wish I'd been able to read this when I was younger, because I can imagine feeling differently about it if I had!

    This was the first of her books that I've read, and yeah, I guess it kinda put me off. I have The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, but haven't picked it up yet. Should I? I'd definitely be willing to give her another shot if you say I should!

    Reply
  2. M.

    I can totally see that. I actually wish I'd been able to read this when I was younger, because I can imagine feeling differently about it if I had!

    This was the first of her books that I've read, and yeah, I guess it kinda put me off. I have The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, but haven't picked it up yet. Should I? I'd definitely be willing to give her another shot if you say I should!

    Reply
  3. StacieSnape

    I honestly, hand on hear, loved this book. I can understand what you are saying though, and agree, but for me this book was just beautiful. Maybe its because I'm closer to being a teenager than you and I've spent the last 5 years reading YA, also its the first book with that sort of storyline that I've read so it wasn't over done for me haha of course I've seen it in films like Notting Hill , not sure if you've seen it, but yeah.. I loved it 🙂

    Have you read anything else by Jennifer E. Smith or has this book just put off?

    Reply
  4. StacieSnape

    I honestly, hand on hear, loved this book. I can understand what you are saying though, and agree, but for me this book was just beautiful. Maybe its because I'm closer to being a teenager than you and I've spent the last 5 years reading YA, also its the first book with that sort of storyline that I've read so it wasn't over done for me haha of course I've seen it in films like Notting Hill , not sure if you've seen it, but yeah.. I loved it 🙂

    Have you read anything else by Jennifer E. Smith or has this book just put off?

    Reply

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