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Review: This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith


From Goodreads:  
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?

Do you want to know what my “happy” looks like?  No matter the location, my “happy” involves me reading a great contemporary YA book. 

Although I read all genres of YA, my favorite has always been contemporary.  Sadly for me, there are not many contemporary authors that I can count on.  I’ve found so many authors to be hit or miss, many books to be a disappointment, and over half of the contemporary books I read not worth my time.

Last year, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight ended up being the fifth best book I read (this is out of 134, and yes, I ranked them).  So This is What Happy Looks Like had a lot to live up to.  Happily, it met all of my expectations.  The book starts with a lively series of e-mails between a 17-year-old boy and girl on different sides of the country, but who are in an anonymous relationship.  It’s not until Graham, a movie star, wants to meet Ellie, that he makes sure his new movie films in her hometown. That’s where their relationship grows. Each chapter shifts the focus between Ellie and Graham as their feelings develop and they navigate through their person problems. 

What I loved about The Statistical Probability and This is What Happy Looks Like, is both books are so much more than a romance.  For that matter, the romance takes a back seat in both books in favor of exploring the characters’ problems and how they resolve their parental relationships.

For those looking for a light and fun romance book with a pretty little ending tied up in a bow, this is not the book for you.  If you are looking for an emotionally-impactful story, engaging plot, well-developed characters with real issues, and a perfectly-paced book that keeps you reading long into the night, this just may be the book for you.

The ARC that I read had almost 400 pages, but the real story is that I finished it so quickly, less than 2 days, considering that was at work for about 18 of those hours.  I really could not put this book down.  I needed to find out what happened next. I enjoyed so much of this book from the characters to the plot to the vivid imagery.  Maybe it’s because I have been to these coastal towns of Maine, and can see them when I close my eyes. I can picture Henley, Maine so clearly in my mind.

I don’t think I’ve made it any secret on this blog that my favorite author is Sarah Dessen.  As far as I’m concerned (when it comes to YA Fiction) she is the “Queen of the Contemporary”.  Inevitably, and probably unfairly, I compare all contemporary authors to her.  Jennifer E. Smith is the closest author to Sarah Dessen that I‘ve come across, from the quality writing to the multiple layers beyond the romance. Both authors have the ability to give so much hope at the end.  Hope that characters can resolve so many of their personal issues, hope that they can be find a way to be together, and hope for a happy future.

To me “happy” looks like this book.

5 out of 5 footballs


  1. Great review! Can't wait for this one to come out. My favorite thing from Love at First Sight was how it wasn't just a love story, there is real world issues. I am really glad to hear that this book is also like that :D.
    My favorite contemorary authors are Jennifer Echols (her first books are best) and Simone Elkeles.

  2. Ahh. I was so into this until you said the romance takes a back seat. I <3 romance!

    1. But it's still there. It is just so much more than a simple romance.

  3. I love Sarah Dessen too :)
    While I didn't love this as much as SPofLatFS, I also loved the Maine setting. And the pig!

    You can find me here: Jen @ YA Romantics

  4. This sounds like the kind of book that I am looking for. I loved your review and after reading it I really really really want to read this book. Thank you for your amazing review.