This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: April 2, 2013
Publisher: Poppy (Hachette Books)
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.
Goodreads | Amazon
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:
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!
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:
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.
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
.) 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!
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…
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.)
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.
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?
Trinkets by Kirsten Smith <website • twitter>
Publication Date: March 12, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
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.
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!
Goodreads | Amazon
Being Henry David by Cal Armistead ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: March 1, 2013
Publisher: Albert Whitman Teen
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.
Goodreads | Buy on Amazon