My rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Publisher: Poppy (2013)
Length: 407 pgs
Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction
Format: Paperback, purchased from Scholastic Book Warehouse Sale
Goodreads Synopsis: 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?
Author Jennifer E. Smith has a talent, a talent for taking the typical romantic clichés and reviving them in a way that reminds readers why we loved them once before they became over done. After reading The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight and being overwhelmingly drawn into the emotions of the characters (major feels from such a small book!) I was eager to read This Is What Happy Looks Like. The premise of the novel is based in the normal-teen-girl-dates-movie-star fantasy, with a cute twist that features email formatting sprinkled throughout the book. Though it doesn’t have the emotional intensity TSPOLAFS, this novel was the perfect feel-good, fluffy read.
What makes this novel charming is not just the picturesque setting in a tiny seaside town in Maine or the attractive, boyish movie star who’s disinterested in dating his fellow Hollywood, but rather the rotating perspectives between Ellie and Graham in the book. Seeing both of their sides of the stories is fun, especially when there are mix ups, as they often have different perceptions of how situations play out. Their email banter is really endearing, especially as they transition from anonymous email buddies to in-the-flesh people, an awkward situation that many readers will know if they’ve “met” someone online before in person. Ellie is a likeable character who is perhaps the only teenage girl in town who doesn’t want to date Graham (and she has her own interesting family history for wanting to stay out of the spotlight, which I found to add some interesting depth to the romance novel) and she’s the kind of girl you just can’t help rooting for. Graham, though sweet, was the side of the romance that I had a harder time liking, because he’s a tad bit, well…boring. He didn’t grow up an actor so his internal dialogue is often that of just a “normal guy,” but I found he was lacking that “star” quality that is what actually makes the normal girl/movie star pairing such an interesting fantasy.
Be warned, however, that this book doesn’t have the most clearly defined plot. There’s not really a conclusive ending, which some may find infuriating and some may find refreshing. The book itself is really just a story of events as Graham and Ellie get to know each other better in person, a compilation of sweet, clean moments and emotional reveals that draw them closer to each other little by little. It’s undeniably fluffy, and would translate well into a family-friendly romance movie. While it’s definitely tame and sweet for the typical romance genre, it was a really peaceful read that was comforting to a little bit at a time and watch these two teens navigate their feelings for each other.
“Looks like the wrong kind of bait can get you the right kind of fish.”
Overall: If you want a sweet, charming contemporary romance this book is a perfect fit. While it’s not as emotional of a read as The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, it still takes a cliché romance situation and makes it fun and endearing again. It’s fluffy in the best way possible.
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