Today, we're reviewing Jennifer E. Smith's This is What Happy Looks Like. This is a delightful book, which you'll want to get immediately.
YA contemporary/contemporary Thursday is where we review the latest and greatest contemporary titles!
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published April 2nd 2013 by Poppy
Format read: Hardcover (owned)
I absolutely loved Jennifer E. Smith's novel The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, and when I heard about This Is What Happy Looks Like, I knew this was something I would have to read immediately.
Synopsis via Goodreads:
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?
Things that worked:
I read a lot of YA, and a significant number of books start the same way - e.g. boy-meets-girl in class. I loved the fact that Smith had her two main characters meet in such a unique set of circumstances. It really made me think about fate, destiny and the possibility of finding that sense of magic, in ordinary events.
The plotline really did invoke the same feelings as Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail, and I absolutely loved it.
* The characterizations.
Smith definitely has a gift for writing characters who are smart, likable, real, but still flawed. Ellie and Graham were sweet, clever and had a lot going for them, but they also had their own challenges and issues.
* The complications.
I loved the fact that even after finally meeting in person. both Ellie and Graham came with a lot of unexpected baggage. It was realistic, and I could definitely relate to what both characters were feeling at different points.
I also felt that Smith did an excellent job of realistically conveying how a seventeen-year-old may choose to deal with problems like Ellie and Graham's. E.g. Graham realizing that all he really wants to do is to have a better relationship with his family.
There was a certain universality to both Ellie and Graham's approaches to making their mutual situations better, which I think that readers of any age - but especially the younger ones - can relate to.
* The support systems
Even though Ellie and Graham both seemed to keep to themselves to a certain degree, I liked the fact that they both had people in their lives who they could talk to and depend on, when the going got tough. Their respective support systems definitely didn't always tell the two of them what they wanted to hear, but definitely gave them the most sound advice.
I think the idea that there are always people in one's life that one can depend on, is a lesson that teenagers especially need to hear.
* The setting
I love books that have quirky and unusual settings, and Smith's Maine did not disappoint.
Things that didn't work/Things to consider:
Even though I can appreciate that Jennifer E. Smith totally has the right to execute her own artistic/writing decisions, I kind of felt like the lack of that firm ending ultimately made the book felt like it was incomplete.
(I kind of view this the same way that I view romantic comedies - I've been in it for the journey. I now want to see the hero and the heroine be together, and not have to worry about them!)
I highly recommend this book for everyone, including fans of The Last Little Blue Envelope and Katie Sise.