This Is What Happy Looks Like
When teenage movie star Graham Larkin accidentally sends 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 finds 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?
Jennifer E. Smith's book, This Is What Happy Looks Like, is a contemporary young adult novel set in a fictional small town of Henley, Maine (yes, I've done my research and found out that Henley, Maine is, in fact, purely fictional).
The book follows the story of Graham Larkin and Ellie O'Neill, both at the age of seventeen, but are from the opposite sides of the country, California and Maine, respectively. Due to Graham's mistake in typing the email address of the guy who is supposed to watch his pet pig, Wilbur, as he flies off to Maine to shoot his upcoming movie, his e-mail accidentally ends up in Ellie's inbox. And thus, beginning their online relationship—talking about their lives, hopes, dreams, fears, as well as how happiness looks like for the both of them. However, what Graham doesn't know about Ellie, is that her family holds a scandalous history with the media. In fairness, Ellie doesn't have any clue about Graham's life in the spotlight. When Graham sees an opportunity to relocate his movie set, he suggests that his crew shall take their entire production to Henley, Maine—the small town where Ellie lives—in hopes that he can finally meet her in person. But real life doesn't flow well like the movies, and it doesn't take long before Graham and Ellie are put under the troubles of staying under the radar in an attempt to protect one's identity and past.
If there is anything that I like about this book more than anything, is that the action started right off the bat. Usually, some of the books I've come across with before had to have some type of introduction—brief or not—before introducing the main love interest, or anyone or anything, even, and that sometimes can be a drawback for a reader like me, who is always on the hunt for action or conflict right away. I like how Smith already captured my full interest by igniting a light mix up upon the first few chapters, causing for the gears of my brain to turn in an attempt to foretell how the rest of the novel will play out.
Smith also showcased a lack of clichés, which I absolutely enjoyed. Yes, there is the commonplace female teen star attitude embodied by Olivia Brooks, who doesn't like to have bread on her sandwich. ("Not much of a sandwich," as Meg, the owner of the deli shop in Henley, Maine, commented about Olivia's lunch order.) Yes, there is the typical cliché of two best friends arguing because the other is keeping secrets—but it truly surprised me how there aren't a lot of clichés, especially when This Is What Happy Looks Like is a modern young adult contemporary book, which is the genre that is expected to have a lot of them.
Another thing that I like about Smith's novel is how supportive the characters are of one another. Throughout the entire story, it is very patent how Ellie's mother truly cares for her, and vice versa; how Ellie cares for Graham, and it shows through her occasional queries about his upcoming movie; how Graham cares for Ellie, of how supportive of her he is, and how he remembers the smallest details about her life. He is always present in times of her need. I just think that this book completely embraces the true meaning of what it is like to love and to be loved, of what it is like to care for someone and having the same care reciprocated, of what it is like to know that someone has got your back, especially when in times of desperate need.
Frankly speaking, there isn't really much that I don't like about the book. The only thing that really bothers me about it is the main guy's name, Graham. Stereotypically, I associate that sort of name to someone English; therefore, I had a hard time envisioning Graham Larkin as an American who resides in sunny California. Or not, as a walking and talking Graham cracker. But, the main guy's name is a minor thing. I can go pass that—hey, I managed to read the entire book, and I'm really proud to say that halfway through it, I finally warmed up to Graham's name!
If someone ever asks me if there is a book that I would recommend for them to read, this one will undoubtedly be included in my list. This book will indisputably win the hearts of readers who are really into contemporary and likes reading about young love. This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith is a lighthearted book, a nice and cozy summer read, that will truly warm our hearts for all the love it radiates.
With this being my first book by Jennifer Smith, I fully expected it to be great. Everyone speaks very highly of her other novels, so I was hoping I wouldn't be let down. And believe you me, I wasn't.
This whole book to me was very ironic. One of the main characters, Graham, is a famous movie star who falls in love with a girl from a very small town named Ellie, the other main character. That in itself sounds like a movie doesn't it?! And that had to be my favorite part of the book. Although it was about the filming of a movie, Smith's writing style let it play out like a movie in my head.
One thing I loved about this was the main plot pint, or the romance. There are so many cute times that I found myself smiling ear to ear and it didn't even happen to me. But then were times where I was so excited and I felt really bummed when things didn't go their way. (*ahem* the kitchen scene*) But, because of those scenes, it made the ones where they were actually together so much more special.
The only thing I didn't like about the novel was some of the characters. Like Ellie. I understood that she had something that she had something going on in her life, but she shut Graham out without really giving him a chance. I felt like he was so misunderstood. Like as much as she wanted to get away from the cameras and all the fame, I felt like he did too but she never saw that in him. Then there was Quinn. Like really, what the hell was her deal? There was no way she was that mad over finding out about some emails from someone that Ellie never thought she would meet. I just think she was jealous. She annoyed me for the most part of the story. As for Graham, I loved him from the beginning. He is now a new "Book Boyfriend" I've added to my team lol He's smart, cute, a good actor, he's funny, he's not afraid to defend her, and he's definitely not afraid to let his emotions show. Plus, guys he has a pig named Wilbur lol
When I started this book, I wasn't in the best mood. I remember I was fighting with family, my boyfriend, and I was stressed out at work, and I just had so much going on. But as I got deeper and deeper into the story and saw all that Graham and Ellie went through, I saw that they belonged together. In the end, their relationship and the book reminded me all that makes me happy and because of that I found myself smiling from the beginning to the very end.
First of all, for a romance that started through email, there was a significant lack of them (emails). There was some at the beginning and then one before the start of each chapter, but I'd hoped there'd be much more. I wanted to see more of the cute back-and-forth between them and I feel it would've helped to have that background and how their relationship first started.
I wasn't really a fan of Ellie. Her immediate dislike for Graham just because of his celebrity was incredibly annoying. I can see the side of the issue where it'd be a problem for her mom and she doesn't like the spotlight, but she was pretty inflexible when it came to working around those issues. Here's this guy you've really been enjoying "talking" to and you just want to dismiss him because of his fame? Not really okay.
And then there's the whole money issue. Of course, he's rich and she really isn't. She needs money for something she really wants to do, but can't earn it all on her own. I completely understand her reasoning for not asking her mom. I wouldn't ask for money where there isn't any either. And I completely understand not wanting to ask Graham, but he offers multiple times. And she points out enough times how that money is nothing to him while it's everything to her. I suppose I'll just never understand that kind of pride.
I don't have any issues with Graham, but he did feel a little generic to me.
And what is up with that ending? It felt too abrupt and I was hoping for a better indication as to their future relationship status.
The Nutshell: This is What Happy Looks Like was a quick, fairly cute read, but not without its flaws. I didn't really feel the chemistry between Graham and Ellie, though it probably doesn't help that I didn't like Ellie much to begin with. I was hoping for something more, but in the end I just got a run of the mill, mostly-fluff romance.
I really love the cover, the synopsis, and Jennifer E. Smith. If you haven't checked out her other book, "The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight" then I strongly suggest you come out from under the rock you've been living under. I received this book today, and I finished it today. I know, my life is interesting (sad) and I'm kind of obsessed with reading (a complete nerd). I absolutely fell in love with this book. I hope Jennifer E. Smith continues to write more books with titles like this one, interesting story line like this one, and awesome (strange) characters like this one.
If Fate sent you an e-mail would you answer?
I really enjoyed the idea behind This Is What Happy Looks Like. The chance email meeting, the movie star/normal girl love interest, the problems and hilarity that is sure to come with that. I think Jennifer E. Smith did a really great job of portraying the characters and how this teen movie star would feel. His quick rise to fame, and it's effect on him, and how no one ever sees the "real" him. While I had to suspend belief on some things, it was a charming story.
I really liked Ellie's character. She is spunky and witty. The email correspondences between her and and Graham were full of fun and hilarious things. Graham is a win for me just for having a pig named Wilbur and a burning desire to find a Whoopie Pie. How is that not a winning guy???
While This Is What Happy Looks Like was a delightful read, I do think it is one that will fall off my radar rather quickly. At over 400 pages it was a little long for a quick beach or summer read, although it did seem to read quickly. There was nothing about it, or the characters, that seemed to really pop enough that I think This Is What Happy Looks Like is going to be making a lasting impression on me.
So, the premise is fairly basic. Misguided emails, one person in this email is secretly a celebrity, they meet and start a relationship. Except...not quite. This story is SO much more than that. Jennifer Smith, in the excellent way she does, gives both characters their own story lines beyond the romance. Ellie has this massive secret and some family issues. Graham has family issues of a different nature, as well as the natural issues that come with being a celebrity. And both have to deal with the complications these secrets and separate issues have on their relationship. Add to the fact that, you know, Ellie didn't KNOW he was famous. Things are complicated and intricate and beautiful and heartbreaking.
Jennifer's the kind of writer who pulls you in and never lets go. I read the beginning while sitting next to a friend because she wanted to see my reaction. Then I let myself to take a small break from homework and ended up reading the next 150 pages. I DEVOURED this book and all of it's perfections and Jennifer's wonderful writing. I was enthralled in this story and these characters and their lives. They weren't just characters. They were people. Graham and Ellie and their friends and family were so well crafted and they all had this fantastic chemistry with intricate relationships that only an excellent writer can build.
And can we talk about the setting? I've never been to Maine. The closest I've ever been is the suburbs of Boston. And you know, those mansions weren't exactly a small town on the coast of the Atlantic. But the setting was so well built, that I could picture everything. The beach and the town and the street Ellie would walk down and the set of Graham's movie. It was charming and really drew me in to this little Maine town, which can be kind of hard to do when I'm reading from my bed in the middle of a giant city.
Seriously, and then there's Graham and Ellie as people. They were far from cookie cutter characters. I mean, Graham. He has a pet pig. Do you know how epic that sounds? And usually you would think a celebrity would shy away from strangers on the internet, even if that internet doesn't know they're talking to a celebrity. But no, he wanted to reach out. Because even in the emails, there was so much personality on both ends and this fantastic chemistry made it easy for them to connect. Ellie and Graham have this wonderful dialogue, via email and in real life. It's realistic - sometimes it's awkward, sometimes it's hard to talk, sometimes everything is easy and light and fun.
Guys, Jennifer E. Smith is just a master. She's utterly brilliant. I'm going to declare her one of the Princesses of Contemporary with Stephanie Perkins, Gayle Forman, and Elizabeth Eulberg. I will read anything she puts out in the world for us to read and I definitely have to get my hands on You Are Here and The Comeback Season because, hello, Jennifer writing a ROAD TRIP and BASEBALL? Hell yes. I am ALL OVER THAT SHIZ.
So, um. You should go buy This is What Happy Looks Like and rejoice in the wonder that is a Jennifer E. Smith book and then join me in reading ALL OF HER BOOKS EVER.