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

This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. SmithThis is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: April 2, 2013
Publisher: Poppy (Hachette Books)
Pages: 416
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: Summer, fate, celebrities, secrets
Format read: ARC paperback from Publisher. (Thank you!)

Summary: A wrongly addressed email leads to an unlikely friendship between Graham and Ellie, who share a ton of details with each other but never their names. While Ellie lives in a small town in Maine with her mom, Graham is actually a huge Hollywood heartthrob. When his next filming location falls through, Graham decides to test fate and gets the production to move to Ellie’s hometown, where they will hopefully meet once and for all.

It’s kind of surreal to think one tiny blunder could have the power to totally change your life, isn’t it?

This is exactly what happens when Graham’s email about his pet pig accidentally pops up in Ellie’s inbox. A funny whoops leads to an unexpected friendship, where Graham and Ellie eagerly swap emails about small details of their lives, intimately getting to know each other without exchanging names.

Because if they did exchange names, Ellie would immediately recognize Graham as the Graham Larkin and really, what’s the point of names anyway? It’s not like they will ever meet, or these emails will amount to any more than a total highlight to their days. Right? But Graham uses his status to his advantage and when the opportunity comes up to spend a summer shooting a film in Ellie’s hometown, he makes it happen. It’s almost farcical when we find out Ellie’s frustrated that a film crew is disrupting her beloved town’s summer, and Graham is wondering what is going to happen when he finally introduces himself to the girl, the only girl, he feels really knows him.

(Oh, the pressure and zany missteps that lead to their meeting!)

In Jennifer E. Smith’s fourth YA novel, she takes a once in a lifetime occurrence and writes it as if it is the most natural thing in the world. Lyrical prose transported me to that small (“where everyone knows your name”) sea town and had me salivating for all the sight and sounds and feels of summer: the unbearable heat, the relief of a swim, the ice cream, the stars, and the bubbling possibilities. There’s a delicate yet smooth rhythm to this book that reminded me much of her second, You Are Here. Graham and Ellie are two characters who are both going through an internal exploration: the aftermath of his fame and what he really wants for himself while she is haunted by a secret that her and her mom have buried and her need to stay in control, even when she needs to ask for help. (This secret? Not a fan of this sub-story line, and kept me wondering, right through the end, how necessary it really was. Didn’t Graham and Ellie have enough hurdles without this?)

One common thread between Smith’s work, one I believe sets her apart in the young adult genre, is the way she crafts relationships between her characters. They are not solely based on chemistry and attraction, and much of the time, are built upon something so much more: shared interests and bonding over silly yet important details; there is a certain amount of maturity given to these characters and friendship becomes the root of any romance. The possibility of Graham and Ellie working out feels that much truer because of it.

It’s true that This is What Happy Looks Like is not The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. It took some time for me to adjust my own expectations accordingly because timing wise, that 24-hour window we had in Stat doesn’t exist here, making the feel of these books so unbelievably different. The urgency, the intensity softens in Happy to more of a lull, to gorgeous, quiet moments that encompass a lot of introspection from both sides, as well as off-camera communication through emails (an added layer I loved).

I have the utmost respect for Smith’s writing and I don’t mind calling myself a Jennifer E. Smith cheerleader. Last year, I read every single one of her books and I found them each to be so refreshing and more delightful than the last (Great settings, personal challenges, romance, and dimensional family dynamics!). I appreciate that she took some risk in Happy, especially after coming off the (well-deserved) success of Stat. I love how she builds on such serendipitous instances, while steadily writing about relatable themes without underestimating her reader.

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July 9, 2013 - 9:01 am

Jennifer E. Smith Writes about Setting the Scene - […] Jennifer has easily become one of my go-to authors. This year, she released a sweet story called THIS IS WHAT HAPPY LOOKS LIKE about every girl’s dream: falling for and meeting a celebrity. (Even though the main […]

May 15, 2013 - 10:24 am

This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith - […] I did very much enjoy it. I loved Graham and I loved Ellie.  But must like Estelle said in her review, the father plotline got to me.  If iit had EXISTED, fine.  But it consumes a big portion of the […]

April 3, 2013 - 9:01 am

Fiction Review: Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham - […] I found out after I finished that Jennifer E. Smith (This is What Happy Looks Like) was the editor of this book. Really. Can this book get any […]

March 30, 2013 - 1:06 pm

Rather Be Reading: April 2013 Young Adult Book Releases - […] Goodreads | Amazon | Estelle’s Review […]

March 19, 2013 - 9:01 am

What Happy Looks Like: Dream Boyfriends, Estelle - […] I’m celebrating the two-week mark before Jennifer E. Smith’s new book This is What Happy Looks Like comes out! (If you didn’t catch my review from last week, here ya go.) In the book, Ellie and […]

March 17, 2013 - 5:40 pm

Estelle's Shelve It >> March 17, 2013, Estelle - […] A review of The Ruby Oliver Series by E. Lockhart A PMS Survival Kit from Magan A review of This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. […]

March 14, 2013 - 10:42 pm

Tabitha S. - OH. I’ve only read one book by Jennifer E. Smith (statistical probability of love at first sight), and I wasn’t too impressed. I mean, I definitely enjoyed it – it just wasn’t what I expected it to be. This one sounds more… my style? And I’m really hoping to enjoy it!

Great review!

March 13, 2013 - 2:10 pm

Liz (Along for the Read) - I was already excited to read this, but now I seriously cannot wait. I loved Statistical Probability and really need to get a hold of her others. Awesome review (as usual), Estelle!

March 13, 2013 - 9:41 am

Renae @ Respiring Thoughts - I really love how the relationships on happenstance and circumstance. It really leaves room for a cute, quirky romance. I haven’t read anything by Smith before (I’m awful, yes), but I do love how, like you said, her romances aren’t just chemistry and sex. There almost always seems to be something more between the love interests, which is wonderful.

March 12, 2013 - 10:23 pm

Lisa the Nerd - I mean really, this is what I hope for in each and every book I read ever: “Great settings, personal challenges, romance, and dimensional family dynamics!”

SCORE.

March 12, 2013 - 8:09 pm

lily - OMG i’m looking forward so much too this one! I love this offer and the one random meeting thing is serouisly cute!

March 12, 2013 - 3:39 pm

Christina (A Reader of Fictions) - “One common thread between Smith’s work, one I believe sets her apart in the young adult genre, is the way she crafts relationships between her characters. They are not solely based on chemistry and attraction, and much of the time, are built upon something so much more: shared interests and bonding over silly yet important details; there is a certain amount of maturity given to these characters and friendship becomes the root of any romance.”

That right there is perfection. This is how I want my YA romances to be. The only one of Smith’s books I’ve read thus far is The Statistical Probability, which did have a great bond between the characters, though I would have appreciated a longer timeline. Sounds like I REALLY need to read some of her other books!

March 12, 2013 - 7:01 am

Lori - You have definitely made me more excited to read this one. It sounds so great!

March 11, 2013 - 11:54 pm

Anna - <3 <3 <3

She really is one of my favorite writers out there.

March 11, 2013 - 10:32 pm

Rachel - Estelle. I love. your. review. I have this on my nook and I’m hoping to get to it soon (I think I say that about everything, though). I actually like that there isn’t the urgency that there is in Statistical because while I absolutely adored it and it was really magical, I like more of the slow burn kind of thing.

March 11, 2013 - 9:48 pm

Amy @ Tripping Over Books - YAY!! I’m so glad you liked this one so much, Estelle. It sounds so stinking adorable, and I can’t wait to read it. I love the fact that there’s a beach town in Maine. I don’t know why I love beach towns in Maine SPECIFICALLY slightly more than I love beach towns in other places, but I do. File that one under “Amy’s million oddities.” But I like the idea of these two people not really knowing each other and yet KNOWING each other at the same time. And ever since I read Stat last year, I’m confident in Jennifer E. Smith’s abilities to make me feel all the feels. Great review!!! 🙂

March 11, 2013 - 9:34 pm

VeganYANerds - Yay, I have been looking forward to this and I’m actually really glad that it’s different to TSPoLaFS because while I thought it was an ok read, I didn’t love it.

Beach side/summer reads are some of my faves and this sounds adorable!

March 11, 2013 - 9:04 pm

Kelly - Why do they always need to complicate things even further with an unnecessary secret? Other than that, this one sounds great! I really love how you compared it to Stat, even though I haven’t read it yet. I think between the two, I’d prefer the “gorgeous, quiet moments that encompass a lot of introspection from both sides” of Happy anyways 🙂

March 11, 2013 - 7:04 pm

Quinn @ Quinn's Book Nook - I just finished this one last week. I really liked it. I’ve only read Smith’s Statistical, and of course loved that one, too.

The secret you were talking about. Yeah, I wasn’t a total fan of that secret. I couldn’t help draw comparisons to Ellie dealing with her secret, and Hadley (I think that was her name from Statistical) dealing with what he father did. Neither, in my opinion, had great fathers. Well, Hadley’s was better I guess, but to be completely honest if my father every did any thing like I don’t know if I could have forgiven him. Cheating is NOT OKAY in my opinion.

Anyway, great review. I definitely did like Happy. I loved the Maine setting. It made me want to go back there.

March 11, 2013 - 6:51 pm

Vivian - I loved Stat and really wanna this book too. It’s great that its diff than Stat, yet Jen’s writing shines thru and her characters stand out with their romance and personalities. Great review!

March 11, 2013 - 6:14 pm

Tara - I am so beyond pumped to read this one! I like how you mention it’s NOT TSPOLAFS–I think it’s important to remember that going into TIWHLL.

(how about those massive abbreviations, eh? haha)

March 11, 2013 - 3:04 pm

Lena @ Addicted 2 Novels - If I wasn’t dying to read this book before, I sure am now! I agree that the author does an outstanding job creating relationships that aren’t just based on physical attraction. I’ve only read THE STATISTICAL PROBABILITY OF LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT but it’s enough to have been coming back and checking out her other books.

So glad you loved it! That must mean it’s amazeballs.

March 11, 2013 - 3:00 pm

Alexa Y. - I’m eagerly anticipating snapping this book up when it comes out! It sounds like a book I’m going to love, and I am excited that it features a small seaside town and a (very unlikely) relationship 🙂

March 11, 2013 - 2:12 pm

Ginger @ GReads! - I have this one waiting to be read on my nook. I love that it’s set in a small seaside town during the summer (Hello! Ginger book!) and I am also curious about the email interaction in the story. I think that can be such a fun aspect for the reader. Yours has been the most detailed review I’ve seen, which makes me want to bump this further up my reading list!

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