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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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Magan’s Shelve It for March 10, 2013

weekly feature to share the books magan and estelle are adding to their bookshelves each week

Oh, hello there. It’s been a while since I did a vlog for Shelve It. My weekends have been disgustingly busy since January, but here I am — enjoying a nice, quiet, rainy Saturday at home. (Hooray!!!) I just finished up one of the books I bought this week (Sean Griswold’s Head) last night so I need to figure out what to start next! For all of you on Spring Break, I hope your week is filled with awesome books, lots of rest, and NO homework! (What will you do with your week off?!)

Shelve It Vlog:

For those of you who maybe don’t want to watch me talk about the books, here’s what I got this week:

requiem, things i can

Books I Purchased (on the left):

+ Requiem by Lauren Oliver
+ Things I Can’t Forget by Miranda Kenneally (Estelle’s Review)
+ Sean Griswold’s Head by Lindsey Leavitt (Recommended to me by Lori of Pure Imagination)

Received for Review via Netgalley (on the right):

+ The Academy: Game on by Monica Seles and James LaRosa (Bloomsbury, 6/4/2013)

What Happened on the Blog:

+ Big Kids’ Table — Authors Who’ve Written Adult and YA Books
+ A Review of Trinkets by Kirsten Smith
+ A Review of Being Henry David by Cal Armistead
+ Estelle’s Anniversary Post about Marriage, Magic + Books
+ A Review of Holier Than Thou by Laura Buzo

Thanks for check out this week’s Shelve It! What books did you guys get?
Hope you have an awesome week!

March 11, 2013 - 3:07 pm

Lena @ Addicted 2 Novels - I have REQUIEM, too! TWINSIES!!!

Amazon needs to deliver my copy of THINGS I CAN’T FORGET already before I completely lose it. AHHHH! AHHHH!!!!

Anywho, let me know what you think of them!

March 11, 2013 - 12:35 pm

Alexa Y. - M! I love your lipstick, and you look so pretty :) Nice to see you back on video.

Sounds like you’ve gotten a great selection of books this week. I’m especially curious about The Academy, as it sounds like something I’d enjoy. I’m loving these sports-centered books (which also reminds me that I need to read Miranda’s books!).

March 10, 2013 - 11:35 pm

Lisa the Nerd - Hello, beautiful! Yay for the vlog! I do need to read Sean Griswold’s Head too. I like your cover MUCH better than the hardcover…that helps it bump up my TBR too! :)

March 10, 2013 - 6:01 pm

Magan - Aneeqah — you’re so sweet! Thanks, lady! It is so windy at our house too! CRAZY windy. We tried to go for a run this afternoon and I felt like I was having to work twice as hard. Needless to say, it was more of a run/walk! ;) You definitely do need to read a Miranda Kenneally book. They’re all fantastic. Read them in order because the characters make appearances and they all take place in the same town. I’m so glad you’re nervous about Requiem too. Thanks for your comment! Have a great spring break!

March 10, 2013 - 5:58 pm

Magan - Margie — you don’t know how much your comment made me excited. I was wondering if there was even the slightest chance I’d feel excited. I almost feel like I knew that maybe the ending wouldn’t be super happy or perfect, but I almost expect that. Lauren is a brilliant author so I don’t want/expect her to take the easy way out by tying everything up perfectly. Does that even make sense? haha

March 10, 2013 - 5:57 pm

Magan - Oh, G. You’re so right. I should have included a song. I’m playing his CD right now if that counts? ;)

March 10, 2013 - 5:56 pm

Magan - Bookworm — I wish I had spring break too. Oh to be back in college again! :( I will be writing my review for SGH shortly. I loved it so much! So glad you did too!

March 10, 2013 - 5:56 pm

Magan - Jen — The Academy: Game On doesn’t have a cover on Netgalley so maybe it hasn’t stood out? I am so glad you’re going to request it! I’m glad you’re feeling the same way about Requiem. Seems so iffy. AHHH. And yes, SGH was so, so good. Glad you loved it too!

March 10, 2013 - 5:54 pm

Magan - Mandee, somehow I had never heard of Sean Griswold’s Head — I don’t see it around on the blogosphere very much. It’s a few years old so maybe that’s why, but wow — so good! Hope you had a lovely weekend!

March 10, 2013 - 3:04 pm

Aneeqah @ My Not So Real Life - Magan, your v-logs are always so great to watch!! It was nice and stormy here last night as well, and now it’s just plain windy! So it’s definitely a great time to cuddle up with a book. And thank GOODNESS that I’m finally on spring break, and you’re totally right, I don’t even know what I’m going to do with my life without homework, haha. ;)

But anyways, I really need to pick up a Miranda Kenneally book, especially because you’ve read all but this one! And I’m totally on the same boat as you for Requiem- I want to read it so badly, yet I don’t want to either. I’m scared that it’s going to disappoint such a great series for me.

Anyways, lovely haul, Magan! Enjoy your books and have a fantastic, relaxing weekend. <3

March 10, 2013 - 2:07 pm

Margie aka The Bumble Girl - Great books, Magan! I really loved REQUIEM! Not at first, but the more I read, the more I was liking it all! And the end, which seems to be everyone’s issues, lol, I loved and can live with it! In fact, I want to rip the last page out and frame it… might have to do that to a paperback (eeep!)
Enjoy your new reads! xo

March 10, 2013 - 1:22 pm

Ginger @ GReads! - The only thing missing from this vlog… PHILLIP PHILLIPS hahaha. Seriously. He would have been a great soundtrack ;)

March 10, 2013 - 10:21 am

Bookworm1858 - Oh how I wish I had a spring break-I would love to spend a lot more time reading! Alas the workweek calls to me :( Looking forward to your review of Sean Griswold’s Head-it’s one of my favorite books.

March 10, 2013 - 8:58 am

Jen - Oooooh! Game On looks adorable. Why haven’t I seen this on NetGalley? I will definitely go and request like, immediately. And YAY, Requiem, though I am petrified by everyone’s lukewarm reviews. I still have to read Pandemonium, so I think I’m going to be binging on this series some weekend in the near future! And YAY, Sean Griswold’s Head. FANTASTIC book.

March 10, 2013 - 3:24 am

VeganYANerds - Sean Griswold’s Head sounds so good, I’m sure I’ve heard of it before but I must have forgotten about it. Love that you stayed up reading it & I am a fan of heavy/sad books.

I’m looking forward to Requiem, but I’m not jumping up and down for it. I hope it doesn’t let you down!

Enjoy your weekend off xox

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The Big Kids’ Table: Double Dipping

big kids

Oh hello there! I’ve got something new for you this month… yet again. I hope you don’t mind all the experiments, but I am trying my damnedest to get some of you interested in some adult fiction. A majority of my reads lately have been for the “big kids” and it’s been a nice change of pace for me. (Although, truth be told, I can’t wait to get my hands on another YA!)

But before I get to that, here’s out latest Big Kids’ Table blogger recommendation from Asheley of Into the Hall of Books — a fellow beer lover, queen of comments and well-thought out reviews:

Big Kids Table Blogger Choice Into the Hall of Books

Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvany
Why she picked it up? I loved the cover with the bright red sweater against the beautiful blue sky. I wanted to know who was wearing that sweater, why she is looking away from us, and what is going through her thoughts. I just had to know.
What’s it about: Grace is thrilled to be newly engaged to Victor! She has never felt the urge to become a mother herself but is happy to see his children on weekends as he has shared custody with his ex-wife, Kelli. When Kelli dies unexpectedly and Grace becomes a full-time parent, her emotions begin to stir: Can she be a good parent? Does she even want to? Adding to the stress of the situation, unexpected details arise surrounding Kelli’s death. The story is told by Grace and 13-year-old daughter Ava with flashbacks by Kelli.
Three words to describe: Emotional, honest, and hopeful.
Last few awesome reads: Delirium by Lauren Oliver; Shadow and Bone & Seige and Storm by Leigh Bardugo; Sever by Lauren DeStefano.
With the recent release of YA queen Jennifer Echols’ first adult book (Star Crossed), I was thinking about other writers I’ve read who have also ventured into the adult world or vice versa. (You can check out two great artcles about it here and here.) So today I’m going to share with you a few picks from authors who jump genres. I hope you’ll find something to enjoy and even leave some suggestions in the comment section!
Ann Brashares - Sisterhood and The Last Summer
Notes: I’ve read all of Ann’s books, and enjoy them for their nostalgia factor. Plus, they get better as they go along. I read The Last Summer (of You and Me) a few years ago, and really enjoyed it. (Much more than My Name is Memory which confused me to no end, and also was poorly executed.) I was just thinking it’s been awhile since we heard some bookish news about Ann. Wonder what she will be working on next…
Nicholas Sparks
Nicholas Sparks - The Last Song and The Wedding
Notes: Most of you know (and hate) Nicholas Sparks because of his tendency to write tragic romances. (I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I’m right there with you. But they are just so addicting.) I honestly think The Last Song is his best work. Ignore the Miley Cyrus movie because that was just NOT written well, but the book really sucked me into the environment and was about mending the relationship between a daughter and her father. Strong stuff. As far as adult, I think The Wedding is an underdog that needs more attention. (It’s not as tragic a story, I swear.)
Judy Blume
YA: Forever | Adult: Summer Sisters
Judy Blume - Forever and Summer Sisters
Notes: Judy is the queen of all things, and while I love her YA, Summer Sisters has been one of my favorite books for over a decade now. Last Christmas, I gifted it to Magan and she reviewed it and liked it too. (See? Proof!) Summer Sisters spans many years in a friendship (including high school and college) and the feelings are so real (and, at times, so dramatic) — it’s certainly a must read.
Matthew Quick
Matthew Quick - Sorta Like a Rock Star and The Silver Linings Playbook
Notes: Okay, so I haven’t read any of Matthew’s books BUT I did see and love Silver Linings Playbook and heard great things about the book it was based on. Matthew’s YA has high ratings on Goodreads (plus it was nominated for a ton of awards), and he’s also releasing another one in August  of 2013. This option is more about taking a chance, and I plan on finding both of these titles during my next trip to the library.
And that’s it for March! Anyone reading anything grown up and great?
April 9, 2014 - 9:00 am

Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick (Attention Attention) - […] a book I discovered by chance last  spring when I was researching authors and whether they “double dipped” in the YA and adult worlds for our Big Kids’ Table […]

March 9, 2013 - 6:43 pm

Leah @ The Pretty Good Gatsby - OKAY. So. Drop whatever you’re reading and buy yourself a copy of A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING by Ruth Ozeki on March 12. I LOVED it and have since recommended it to so. many. people. (& have even gone so far as to flail dramatically and shove it in my mother’s face for her to read). IT’S GOOD, ESTELLE.

Matthew Quick has become pretty big with my coworkers lately and I’ve heard such wonderful things about SLP. I definitely want to read – and watch! – it.

I’m loooving your crossover picks! Such a fun idea & Star Crossed has gone straight to the top of my TBR pile. I’ve heard great things about it!

March 9, 2013 - 4:26 pm

VeganYANerds - You sold me on The Last Song as soon as you mentioned father/daughter! I haven’t read any of Nicolas’ books, but I am willing to give that one a go ;)

And I really like Summer Sisters, too!

March 9, 2013 - 5:02 am

Lauren - Thanks for these recommendations! I think I’m going to love Summer Sisters and Silver Linings Playbook sounds great too. I loved the movie, so I’m sure I’ll enjoy the book. Thanks for sharing!

March 8, 2013 - 9:51 pm

Asheley Tart (@BookwormAsheley) - HEY ESTELLE!! I totally drank my margarita out of my Coney Island Brewing Co. glass tonight (with the crazy clown face on it) and thought about you. Is that weird? If is it, it’s too late to take it back now. Yay beer!? Thank you for featuring my pick today! You are awesome and so is your co-blogger. That is all (that I have to say about that).

I am hiding my face in SHAME that I haven’t read any Ann Brashares, particularly since I have the first 3? or 4? of the Pants books on my shelf!! THE HORROR of this admission, but I’m just putting it right out there for the world. Also, Judy Blume! I’ve read the childrens’ stuff (even recently) but I haven’t read any of the YA/adult stuff. I am ashamed.

I didn’t realize Silver Linings Playbook was a book. Also red-faced at this. I am literally shaking my head at myself right now.

BUT I do love Nicholas Sparks despite his formulaic stories and the sobs they ALWAYS force out of me. He is a local celebrity around here, so his books are some that are sort of near to my heart. They are all about Eastern NC places – either real or fictional-based-on-real-places – so I kind of soak them up because you know I love supporting NC authors. But then cry buckets for hours. :)

These posts are so wonderful so don’t stop doing them. I NEED MORE adult fiction reading friends in my life.

March 8, 2013 - 8:32 pm

Sophia - I also like taking a break from YA, especially lately. I think I’ll have to take a look at some of these recommendations. Especially the Ann Brashares one, since I love her YA books. Thanks so much for sharing, Estelle! Can’t wait to take a look at these books in the store.

March 8, 2013 - 2:40 pm

Melissa @ Writer Grrl Reads - Love this list! I really enjoyed Ann Brashares’ book when the Travelling Pants girls were all grown up (the title is escaping me at the moment). Another one that I liked was the book that was released last year, when all of the Sweet Valley crew is 30, kind of a what happened when they all grew up kind of book. Perhaps it was just the fact that I turned 30 the same year, and Sweet Valley was my all-time favourite childhood series, but I adored diving back into an adult book with familiar characters that reminded me of summers curled up with a stack of SVH books, and nothing to do but read ALL DAY LONG. Ah childhood.

March 8, 2013 - 1:17 pm

Alexa Y. - Very cleverly done E! I like the spin you put on this post, and I can definitely see it appealing to more people in general because of the fact that these are crossover authors.

I’m an Ann Brashares fan, but have only read her YA stuff. This post reminds me that I perhaps should make an effort to check out her adult fiction.

As for Nicholas Sparks, even though his stories are always tragic romances, I still read his books. What can I say – they’re addictive! And I agree with both these choices and endorse them 100%. They’re my two favorite Nicholas Sparks novels!

Judy Blume was one of my favorite YA authors. I’ve been meaning to read Summer Sisters, but haven’t yet. Will definitely remedy that!

I also want to read Silver Linings Playbook ;)

March 8, 2013 - 10:59 am

Lisa [is busy nerding] - I love this feature! The recommendation from Ash, the YA to Adult recommendations. ALL OF IT.

March 8, 2013 - 10:20 am

Tara - After seeing The Silver Linings Playbook movie, I really want to read the book. I’m almost embarrassed I didn’t read the book first because I ALWAYS read the book first. And more confessions: I’ve never read Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants or anything by Nicholas Sparks. I just can’t handle the sob :(

I’m really intrigued by Ashley’s choice–that red sweater just pops and I wondered the same things about the girl. Thanks for recommending big kid books :)

March 8, 2013 - 9:16 am

Ginger @ GReads! - “Read anything grown up and great” – haha love that! I probably would have picked up that book for the same reasons as Asheley. I love the contrast in colors and am curious about why she’s turned away from us. Very interesting and eye catching!

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Magan: Trinkets by Kirsten Smith

Book Cover for Trinkets by Kirsten SmithTrinkets by Kirsten Smith <website twitter>
Publication Date: March 12, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 288
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: shoplifting, unlikely friendships, cheating parent, alcoholic mother
Format read: ARC received via NetGalley (Thank you!)

Summary: Moe, Tabitha and Elodie are three girls very unlikely to ever form a friendship — that is, until they meet in a Shopaholics Anonymous meeting and bond over their one similarity: they’re all thieves.

 

Elodie, Moe, and Tabitha have one thing in common.

They’re shoplifters.

Aside from this (ginormous) fact, their lives couldn’t be more different. Elodie lives with her father and step-mother (whom she can’t stand) in Portland, where they’ve just relocated after her father’s remarriage and her mother’s death. She’s the new girl no one knows with one friend she doesn’t have much in common with. Moe and her older brother, Marc, live with their aunt who gained custody of them after their parents died when she was seven. Moe dyes her hair cherry-red and hangs out with a bunch of druggies. And then there’s Tabitha — the legendary popular girl who dates the boy everyone fawns over. But underneath her perfect exterior, she’s going crazy that her dad has endless affairs and how everyone (her mother, her friends, everyone) is always faking their way through life.

How do these three very different girls connect with one another? Through Shopaholics Anonymous.

Because they’re in such vulnerable positions and have to open up about their lives in SA, they let down their guards and speak truthfully and openly with one another about their home lives. (This is a big deal since none of their “BFFs” know any of this personal information.) While SA is supposed to lead them to understand why they want to steal and how to stop doing it, they band together and try to make the best steal after each meeting. Most weeks, after they’ve compared their loot, they spend time hanging out (in inconspicuous places where classmates won’t notice them together).

Tabitha, Elodie, and Moe’s stories are knitted together from each of their points of view. Elodie writes in verse, while Moe jots her entries down in a journal-like format, and Tabitha’s are more structured and formal. The different POVs move the story forward at a quick, enjoyable pace that makes the timing and new friendships seem plausible and realistic. One of the highlights is seeing three very outwardly different girls bond together, especially since many of their interior struggles are so much the same, each having faced abandonment or loss in some way.

The struggle is finding a way out of the cycle of their routine bad behavior. How do you stop doing something that fills the gap in your life? That makes you feel better? That gives you a high like nothing else? And what happens to this unlikely trio’s friendship when the twelve week program has come to an end?

Trinkets handles some pretty serious subject matter (death of a parent, a demanding boyfriend, remarriage, and scandalous affairs) in a manner that didn’t feel overwhelming, heavy, or overly dramatic. Smith maintained a light-hearted feel by placing the emphasis on friendship and letting the heavier issues play more of a secondary role. A huge takeaway for me was realizing that we all have “bad stuff” going on in our lives, but we can choose how we move forward and deal with those situations.

So the question is: does their unlikely friendship help these girls move past the negative circumstances in their lives or do they continue to be lured into thievery to seek attention? Guess you’ll just have to read it for yourself to find out!

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June 17, 2013 - 8:02 am

Book Review: Trinkets by Kirsten Smith - [...] that, in my opinion, deserves heaps more attention. Trinkets wasn’t even on my radar until I read Magan’s review and realized that it was exactly the kind of book I love. Next time I was at the bookstore, I [...]

March 12, 2013 - 5:54 pm

Book Birthdays: March 10th - 16th | Alice Marvels - [...] Rather Be Reading “Trinkets handles some pretty serious subject matter (death of a parent, a demanding boyfrien… [...]

March 8, 2013 - 2:46 pm

Renae @ Respiring Thoughts - Whoa! I hadn’t heard of this one before but I definitely need to consider it. I love the idea of a three-way narrative and how one common trait can bring people with opposite personalities together in some way. It’s such an interesting concept!

March 7, 2013 - 7:52 pm

Magan - Bookworm! I promise I didn’t mean to be a tease. No, SCRATCH THAT. I totally did. GO read it! It’s a good quick read! And yes — totally loving Sean Griswold’s Head! So glad to hear you loved it! :)

March 7, 2013 - 7:51 pm

Magan - Tara, I’m not sure that I had read a book like this before either, but the different styles wasn’t distracting to me at all. I really, really enjoyed the poetry which surprised me. Sometimes I get a little frustrated with poetry because it’s not well done, but I liked Elodie’s voice a lot. I hope you can find it at the library! :)

March 7, 2013 - 7:50 pm

Magan - Alexa, it really was. The timing and pacing went so smoothly and quickly. It felt like such a quick read, but not because it was a short book – -I just breezed through it! I hope you enjoy!

March 7, 2013 - 7:47 pm

Magan - Mandee! It was such a quick, fast-paced read. I’m sure you’d breeze through Trinkets. Definitely pick it up! The different POVs was nice. I really, really liked the poetry. That part was so well done.

March 7, 2013 - 3:56 pm

VeganYANerds - I love your final line, of course now I am intrigued to know whether the girls continue in their ways or whether they improve.

I really like the sound of the different POVs, too!

March 7, 2013 - 12:40 pm

Alexa Y. - I’m going to need to read this now, simply to find out what happens to the girls! I want to know if their friendship changed anything for them or not, and how all these things they face get resolved. It sounds like a very compelling story to me!

March 7, 2013 - 11:28 am

Tara - I don’t think I’ve ever read a book from different POVs and with different styles. Did that get distracting at all, or did it flow well? I would definitely snag this book at the library because it’s different but sounds really interesting.

March 7, 2013 - 9:27 am

Bookworm1858 - What a tease! Do the girls end their life of crime-inquiring minds want to know. I see you’re reading Sean Griswold’s Head and I really hope you’re enjoying it-it’s one of my favorite contemporary YA novels.

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Estelle: Being Henry David by Cal Armistead

Being Henry David by Cal ArmisteadBeing Henry David by Cal Armistead ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: March 1, 2013
Publisher: Albert Whitman Teen
Pages: 312
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: Walden, amnesia, on the run
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley! (Thanks!)

Summary: “Hank” wakes up to find himself in New York City without any knowledge of who he is and where he has come from. His only possessions are the clothes on his back, 10 bucks, a head wound, and a copy of Walden. His time in NYC is short-lived when a midadventure forces him to run off yet again to the only place he can think of — Walden Pond. Will it hold the answers of who he is and what he’s been through?

Having spent many many grueling hours in Penn Station myself, I would not wish for anyone to wake up there. Much less, wake up there and not know who they are and where they are from.

In the case of a 17-year old kid with amnesia, debut young adult writer Armistead knows how to keep her readers guessing. I felt just as discombobulated and lost as Hank did for a majority of the book. Slowly, she would unveil some memories we would have to file away and save for another time. What if Hank never found out who he was?

For awhile, I thought that’s where Being Henry David was leading. Hank carried Henry David Thoreou’s Walden like a Bible, and used it to find his way… somewhere. He didn’t have much of a choice. And for whatever reason (fate? luck?) he lands in Concord and comes into contact with some genuine, wonderful people and starts to make a place of his own — despite the mystery that still continues to irk him. As someone who hasn’t read Thoreau, I thought the author did a wonderful job of capturing the essense of nature and the importance of living in the moment. Her language was truly beautiful and it was no wonder why Hank was able to find comfort in Thoreou’s words and philosophies.

As Hank’s old life comes into focus though, I couldn’t help but think the author gave him a bit too much of damage to deal with. I don’t want to spoil, but when/if you read it, there are two events that truly affect his family in horrific ways, and I wish she would have limited it to just one. It was a little overzealous and added too much weight to a story that already spanned many settings, various characters, and explored a ton of conflict.

That being said, I really did find myself rooting for Hank. He was resourceful, funny, loyal, and when he got the opportunity to act like his true teenaged self, I just wanted to hug him. At the same time, he was able to showcase such fortitude and independence, and give into his vulnerabilities. I so wanted for him to come to terms with his past and be able to move forward, even though I never knew what that would entail.

Being Henry David is a very unique title in the young adult genre, and for that I am grateful. Armistead weaves in the Thoreau influence in a sophisticated way without making the book feel pretentious. It’s almost like the power of literature brought Thoreau and Hank together: each searching for their own peace and meeting somewhere in the middle.

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March 7, 2013 - 8:20 pm

Sara (of the Page Sage) - This book sounds so intriguing! While it’s a bit disappointing that there’s one too many issues, I still want to read it. Hank seems like a great character and I love that it connects with Thoreau.

March 6, 2013 - 11:29 pm

VeganYANerds - You’ve made me so glad that I requested this via netgalley! I’m keen to read this and see what I think of Hank’s past, sometimes I do think some books add to much for the characters to deal with

March 6, 2013 - 7:24 pm

Renae @ Respiring Thoughts - Hmm, I think I agree that maybe Armistead gave Hank a bit too much to deal with. I felt like the latter half took on an almost ABC Family Special feel, which was a bit odd for me. I did really like the character of Thomas, though—of all the new people Hank met, he was my favorite.

March 6, 2013 - 12:20 pm

Tara - I have never read Thoreau either, but I really like the idea of giving him a bit of a fresh twist for YA today. I’m also intrigued by the amnesia factor and would be curious to read a book from that POV.

March 6, 2013 - 12:13 pm

Kim - I first saw this book when it was listed as a giveaway somewhere. Reading the synopsis I was thinking I could really get in to it.

March 6, 2013 - 11:24 am

Alexa Y. - I like the sound of this book quite a lot. It definitely has something to do with the fact that it takes inspiration from literature, and that I would want to find out what happens to Hank. He does sound like a very compelling character!

March 6, 2013 - 10:16 am

Lisa [is busy nerding] - I’m happy to hear that Thoreau is woven in tastefully and not in a snooty way. I sometimes wonder if YA authors feel like they HAVE to pack in as much drama (or tragic events) as possible for shock value, instead of letting a single event bear the weight for the character.

Regardless, this sounds like an interesting read that’s different from most of what’s out there right now!

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