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This is What Happy Looks Like

This is What Happy Looks Like is a contemporary YA novel by Jennifer E. Smith.

When Ellie O’Neill responded to the email, she only did it because it was an obvious mistake. One letter or number missing or added to the email address and it ended up in her inbox.

A simple reply letting him know he got the wrong person and that unfortunately she would not be able to walk his dog – that’s what started it all. Then she finds out he was talking about his pet pig, not dog.

That small string of emails, laced with humor, interest and a harmless sense of enjoying the conversation became a three-month long correspondence. Anonymous. Secret. Ellie looked forward to his emails.

Graham Larkin, on the other side of the internet, was refreshed by the emails because it was the first time in a long time that he was being talked to like any other seventeen-year-old guy – instead of the movie star hunk known around the world.

Seizing an opportunity to visit Ellie’s hometown, Graham moves his newest movie to her area and hopes against hope that maybe he can meet her in person.

But Ellie has secrets of her own, and the spotlight is something that she and her mom have been avoiding for years…

I can’t help but like Jennifer E. Smith’s long titles – last I read The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. Now here we have This is What Happy Looks Like. Crazy, but kinda cool.

Just as in the former novel, Smith is great at creating that romantic-dramedy feel. There’s a very Hollywood, cinema-esque tone, yet it’s filled with a bit more substance – even if at its core it’s still a fairytale premise.

A quick, fast-paced, truly enjoyable read that has an essence of summer and love – This is What Happy Looks Like is infused with a coming-of-age vibe.

Plus, we get a peek at the life of a reluctant teen movie star in Graham. He’s likable, and I like how Smith didn’t judge the world of Hollywood at all – or make him self-pitying. After all, we know that especially in this economy being a “poor little rich boy” isn’t attractive. Instead, it’s the inner life that he struggles with – loneliness. Done well, I thought.

The secrets in Ellie’s life came as a surprise for me. I liked the roadblocks, they didn’t feel as cliché or old hat as other novels I’ve read. I never got terribly frustrated, either.

All in all, I felt that This is What Happy Looks Like was an excellent, bittersweet, summer read winner!


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