Book Review: This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith
Have you ever accidentally mistyped an email address only to realize it later? That’s what happens in Jennifer E. Smith’s book This Is What Happy Looks Like. Graham Larkin, Hollywood’s newest teen star, accidentally emails Ellie O’Neill, a high schooler in Henley, Maine. Though they don’t know who each other are, they start a correspondence. They don’t exchange names or numbers, but do mention tiny details about their lives. So when Graham’s next movie needs a new location to film, he suggests Henley, Maine, in an effort to meet E, since he doesn’t know Ellie’s name yet.
Once the movie comes to town, everyone in Henley is excited about seeing Graham Larkin and his costar, Olivia Brooks. But as soon as Ellie spots Graham trying to keep a low profile, she senses how sad and lonely his life really is. Graham then sees Ellie’s best friend and coworker at Sprinkles, Quinn, in Ellie’s shirt that says Ellie on it, so Graham thinks Quinn is E and asks her on a date. But once they get to the restaurant, Graham realizes Quinn isn’t Ellie, but she does tell him where he can find Ellie.
Once Graham actually meets Ellie and explains that he is the one she’s been writing to, she is obviously surprised, but decides to spend time with him away from the cameras and paparazzi. When Graham shows up at Ellie’s house, Ellie’s mom, Maggie, comes to the door and is very skeptical of him. We then learn that Ellie’s father is actually a US Senator; he and Maggie had an affair when he was a first-term Congressman and had Ellie, even though he was married. The press found out and made Maggie and Ellie’s lives miserable, so they moved to Henley, Maine, changed their last name, and started a new life. So naturally Maggie is apprehensive about Ellie and Graham’s relationship, and Ellie is very aware of the cameras every time she sees Graham in the town square.
Despite all this, she and Graham have a great couple of dates until she goes to visit him on set one afternoon. Graham goes to talk to her, and all the paparazzi turn to follow Graham’s gaze and before they could start taking her pictures, she flees. They don’t talk for the next few weeks, and each of them is distraught: Ellie because she misses Graham, and Graham because he does not know why Ellie stopped talking to him. But inevitably, they run into each other again, and this time cannot stay away from each other. With Graham being famous and Ellie being the illegitimate daughter of a prominent politician, their relationship is bound to hit a few snags, but can they overcome all of that?
Jennifer E. Smith writes another adorable YA novel. (I read Windfall this summer; it was one of my favorite books I've read this year.) I was rooting for Graham and Ellie to get and stay together. Smith writes first love so well; it makes you remember how it felt talking to your crush for the first time. This Is What Happy Looks Like is a fun book, and I really want someone to make it into a movie. I give it 5 stars!
Also, Jennifer E. Smith wrote a novella sequel to This Is What Happy Looks Like, called Happy Again. It was a quick read, looking at Graham and Ellie a little over a year later. Not as great as the first book, but still fun to revisit these precious characters. I give that one 4 stars.
Let me know what other YA novels you like. I’m always up for a good romantic comedy YA novel!