I judge books by their covers. I know I’m not supposed to, but if I go into a bookstore and fall in love with a book cover, I don’t feel bad about it. That’s what happened with This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith. For Christmas, my dad got me a gift card to Barnes & Noble, and I went ham while browsing the aisles. I went to B&N almost daily for about two weeks before I spent most of the gift card (I actually still have a bit left).
As a lover of YA, I think I’m almost conditioned to be attracted to book covers. Most YA novels have beautiful covers, and this book was no exception. The cover is adorable, and with a title that has the word “happy” in it, I couldn’t just walk away.
This is What Happy Looks Like tells the unlikely love story of Ellie O’Neill, a girl from a small beach town in middle-of-nowhere Maine, and Graham Larkin, a young actor with a pet pig, Wilbur. The two meet virtually when Graham accidentally sends an email to Ellie’s inbox asking her to check in on his pig. The two end up continuing the conversation for months without really sharing any intimate details about themselves. Ellie is unaware that Graham is a famous teen actor, and Graham doesn’t know the secret behind Ellie’s family.
During an email exchange, Ellie mentions that she lives in Henley, Maine, and when the location scouts are looking for a place to film Graham’s newest movie, he jumps at the chance to suggest Henley so he can meet Ellie in person. Being from two different worlds, they kind of put themselves in their own way, and there are many trials and tribulations along the way of trying to form a relationship.
This is What Happy Looks Like had all the things in the formula for a perfect YA novel:
— A heartthrob guy that all the girls will fall in love with
— An awkward girl that all the girls can relate to
— A family secret
— A conflict with a best friend
— Many reasons for the couple to stay apart #drama
In spite of its slight predictability, I enjoyed this novel. It was absolutely adorable. Ellie was easy to fall in love with. She was a very relatable main character and someone that could easily exist in real life. I love the love she had for her mother and her best friend, Quinn (in spite of them not speaking for the majority of the novel).
Graham, of course, was also very lovable. He easily weasled his way on to my book boyfriend list. You already know he’s attractive because all the ladies are all over him, but he’s also humble because he hasn’t been in the biz for very long. I felt bad for him because of the relationship he had with his parents, but that’s a part of the book I think many people can relate to, including myself. It also touched on the lack of privacy when it comes to living life in the spotlight and the difficulty in forming genuine relationships with people because most have a hidden agenda.
One thing I thought was missing was the best friend dynamic. Yes, Ellie and Quinn are best friends, but as I mentioned before, they didn’t speak for the majority of the novel. Quinn almost disappears from the book because of the fight they had toward the beginning. Then I hate the way the conflict is resolved because nothing is really said.
Something I loved about this book was how developed all of the characters were. Every chapter flip-flopped between Ellie’s and Graham’s perspectives, so you got to see both sides of the story. I enjoyed the eclectic collection of characters Jennifer created within the town of Henley and also the crew that came along with Graham to film the movie. You can tell that each character was well thought out because they were all written so well. I felt like I really knew these people while reading the novel.
I give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars. It was a sweet, quick read, and it was exactly what I needed when I picked it up.
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