Book Thoughts: This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

(**I read this title on Netgalley through the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

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?

I knew that This is What Happy Looks Like would be a hit from the start. Not only am I fan of Jennifer E. Smith’s other novel, The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight, This is What Happy Looks Like has a plot that I would fan girl over. And guess what? I did.

This story starts off like any other cliché idea: small town girl meets hot-shot celeb and they hit it off. But then the paparazzi make it complicated and it’s only a summer fling, blah, blah, blah. But there’s a plot twist; the girl has a secret too. Now reading that, you might roll your eyes, but I promise that it is better than it sounds.

Now Ellie and Graham, they’re pretty relatable people. Ellie is self-conscious and witty and Graham is a total sweetheart.  I empathized with Ellie and her reason to work hard and save money for her passion of writing and  her future. I understood why Graham acts the way he does toward the paparazzi when he tries to keep Ellie out of the spotlight. I’m glad to say that all of the characters have flaws. They mess up, hold grudges, and explode milkshakes like the rest of us.  Because of this, I felt like I was standing on the beach in Maine with them, instead of watching the story from the outside.

For me, the major highlight of this novel is the plot. A celebrity accidently e-mails a girl and things ignite, even though it was just an accident. As a teenager today, I’ve been that girl wishing to have just one chance with so-and-so from insertfamousbandhere. I know what it feels like to day dream about a relationship like Ellie’s and Graham’s. Reading about a story like that – even though it is fictional – made me smile. A lot.

The one thing I didn’t really like, though, was how the characters really only seemed to communicate through e-mail. Yes, they talked in person and used a phone, but it seemed that e-mail was the number one choice. Let’s be realistic here. E-mail is not the number one choice for teens; its texting or Facebook and even Twitter. When Ellie tries to apologize to her best friend for something, she uses e-mail. I mean really? You don’t go and try and personally talk to your best friend? On the other hand, I did enjoy reading the e-mails between Ellie and Graham. Although those pages softened my feelings about the e-mail thing, I still think that e-mail was a poor choice.

This is What Happy Looks Like is a cute novel. It’s one of those exciting-falling-in-love-for-the-first-time stories where you anticipate every moment between those two characters. Ellie and Graham’s story really is what happiness looks like. Check it out!


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