Title: This Is What Happy Looks Like
Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Release date: April 2nd 2013
Genre: Young Adult contemporary romance
Source: Bought a signed copy at Books of Wonder!
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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.My rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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?
The cover of this book is so cute! I love the font that just screams happy, and the picture is right between cute and cheesy. And that's what the actual novel is like too - it's a really cute love story, even if it's not all that realistic. It's more of a teenage-girl-fantasy than a meaningful love story, but it's a cute, charming, entertaining story nonetheless.
Really, cute is the only way to describe this novel. Yes, there are times when it gets a little too unrealistic and melodramatic (especially the drama between Ellie and Graham in the middle seemed unnecessary to me), but the story is so cute that I didn't really care. It's not even really supposed to be realistic - the premise itself is too good to be true, so you come in expecting exactly what you get: a crazy-dream type of set-up and a cute love story.
This Is What Happy Looks Like isn't just a love story, though - I enjoyed the smaller storylines just as much as the main one. Her family background is equally as out there and fun to imagine, and her friendship with Quinn has its fair share of drama, too. I really liked these storylines, and I wish we would've gotten to know even more about these parts of the novel. Especially at the end, I would have liked some more development in the family storyline.
One of the things I liked best about the novel were the first few pages, consisting entirely of Ellie's and Graham's emails. I wish we would have gotten to see more of those, even. I don't think we got to see enough of how the relationship between Ellie and Graham started - we see how they started talking, but I still don't know how it went from a couple of casual emails to a relationship involving emotions strong enough to make Graham convince the producers to shoot his latest movie in Ellie's hometown. I think getting to see more of their emails would have helped make their relationship more relatable.
The pacing is one aspect that I think could use some work. Jennifer E Smith's writing is absorbing, for the most part, but the pacing is what kept pulling me out of the story. The narrative switches a lot, from present to flashbacks, and it wasn't always clear what situation we were in. I think it has something to do with the point-of-view - since we have alternating chapters, the narrator would often go back to tell something that happened earlier from the other one's perspective, and that confused me in parts. The transitions didn't always make it clear whether we were in the present or the past.
Still, This Is What Happy Looks Like is a novel I couldn't help but enjoy. Not every part of it is perfect, but it's charming, cute, and brings a smile to your face. It's a great summer read that will definitely entertain you!