This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith
Published: April 2, 2013
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
If fate sent you an email, would you answer? 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?
I haven’t written a review in weeks, so I don’t know if I even remember how to do this. Sorry if it turns into an awful mess.
To sum it up really quickly: I did not enjoy this novel. I thought it was overly cheesy, kinda boring, and way longer than it needed to be.
I actually really liked Smith’s first novel, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. Mostly because it was fast paced and short – the opposite of This is What Happy Looks Like. Sometimes I talk about “fluff” books – books you read just to fill time and take your mind off things, but basic enough that a trained monkey could understand them. Well this book was like the bible of all fluff books. I found the characters to be dull and much of the plot unnecessary.
Ellie, the main character of the story, was just “meh” for me. I couldn’t relate to her, and I didn’t really care about her. The fight she has with her BFF (I can’t even remember her name) seemed so predictable and pointless (again, I can’t even remember what the fight was about). Then you’ve got Graham – the tortured young actor, estranged from family and friends by his career. Everyone sees him as The Star: Graham Larkin, but wait – what’s that? He’s just a normal guy??? How creative. On top of that whole cliched mess, we then learn a little bit about Graham’s background. Like how he lives in his own private mansion and feels uncomfortable visiting his own home because his parents treat him like royalty and don’t know how to act around him. His mom used to yell at him for leaving dirty laundry on the ground, but now that he’s a movie star she just picks it up without a word and does his laundry for him. Any respect I had for his parents flew out the window at that point.
The romance between Ellie and Graham was cookie-cutter at best. They like long walks on the beach and watching the sunset while holding hands. The only time when I felt the actual emotion was the scene where Ellie has to throw a towel over her face to hide from the cameras (I’m trying not to give anything away, hence the weird description). Props to Graham for stepping up in that scene.
Lastly, I’d just like to focus on the side-plot of Ellie’s dad. In my opinion, this did not need to be involved in the story at all. It added length, sure, but no value. You spend all this time learning about her dad, hearing stories about him, and it seemed to me that it could actually make the book more interesting. Then when the time comes, the big crescendo of the Dad Plot, everything just falls flat. Why spend all this time building up to something only to make it the shortest, most unnecessary scene in the book? On top of that, Ellie just seems fine with the outcome. It was like she was so scared of stirring up the pot that she jumped at the chance to give up on her dad.
Overall, I was not a fan of this book. I guess I see the appeal if you want something super light-hearted and fun, but I just found it boring and overly cheesy. There were a few upsides, like the gorgeous setting and the couple of scenes that stood out to me, but all in all I was really disappointed with This is What Happy Looks Like.
Not my cup of tea. The birds can have it.