Sunday, April 7, 2013

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

Title: This Is What Happy Looks Like
Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Publisher: Headline
Publishing Date: April 4th 2013
Length: 416 pages
Keywords: YA, fiction, contemporary romance, happiness, small town, Hollywood
Source: Publisher

If fate sent you an email, would you answer?

In This is What Happy Looks Like, Jennifer E. Smith's new YA novel, perfect strangers Graham Larkin and Ellie O'Neill meet—albeit virtually—when Graham accidentally sends Ellie an email about his pet pig, Wilbur. In the tradition of romantic movies like "You've Got Mail" and "Sleepless in Seattle," the two 17-year-olds strike up an email relationship, even though they live on opposite sides of the country and don't even know each other's first names.

Through a series of funny and poignant messages, Graham and Ellie make a true connection, sharing intimate details about their lives, hopes and fears. But they don't tell each other everything; Graham doesn't know the major secret hidden in Ellie's family tree, and Ellie is innocently unaware that Graham is actually a world-famous teen actor living in Los Angeles.

When the location for the shoot of Graham's new film falls through, he sees an opportunity to take their relationship from online to in-person, managing to get the production relocated to picturesque Henley, Maine, where Ellie lives. But can a star as famous as Graham have a real relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? And why does Ellie's mom want her to avoid the media's spotlight at all costs?

Summary by Goodreads


First I have to say that I can't guarantee the absence of imaginary smiley faces in this review (sorry, Ellie)! 

Jennifer E. Smith's books are mostly about the things in life we cannot grasp. In THE STATISTICAL PROBABLITY OF LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT, she booked a flight for two teens to explore the ways of fate. And now with THIS IS WHAT HAPPY LOOKS LIKE, readers all around the world are invited to join the search for true happiness.

Finding answers to the question of happiness wasn't always easy for Ellie. She's living a quite and very guarded life with her mother in a coast small town until one day she gets an e-mail by a stranger.
That stranger would be Hollywood beau Graham Larkin. And Graham, too, doesn't feel like his life is on perfect course. Always on the move, making movies, pretending to be someone he will never be and missing his parents. When he comes to  Ellie's town to make a new movie, things start to look brighter than before. Both characters complement each other in the best ways possible. Thankfully Graham isn't, as some might assume, a spoiled or arrogant brat. He is very down-to-earth and receptive for other people's sentiments or problems. Just as Ellie is a very honest person who cares very much for the people she loves.

Jennifer E. Smith explores the chances of a relationship between an ordinary girl with a secret and a big actor, the differences between Hollywood versus small-town life and the difficulties in drawing a line between public and private interests.
And all along she gives Ellie and Graham a lot of time to get to know each other in a setting that felt very cozy and atmospheric.

The chapters alternate between Ellie and Graham and that was just perfect! I had feared they would  stay in e-mail contact for a long time wondering who the other person might be and was relieved and happy to see that they met very early in the story so that there was enough room to develop their non-online relationship. But I also loved that their actual conversations were still supplemented with their e-mail contact even after they had met. And the e-mails in general, receiving an e-mail by a stranger and falling for him? Totally loved that!

The story as a whole didn’t meet all of my expectations. It's hard to explain what was lacking, because I did like THIS IS WHAT HAPPY LOOKS LIKE very much. I might have imagined the romance to be more intense and conflict-laden and the pace to be a bit more explosive. The story wasn't as over the top as some YA contemporary novels feel the need to be today, which was totally okay with me, but some tiny spark was just missing.

So I only had to read the e-mail teaser on the back of my proof copy to know that this book would be a keeper! Ice cream, sunrises and flip flops, swimming, dogs and pyjama pants are things meaning happiness for me, too. After reading Jennifer's book I will hopefully learn to pay more attention to the things that make me happy every day. Happiness is keeping the best memories and most beloved people close to you. THIS IS WHAT HAPPY LOOKS LIKE is cuddly and sweet, but despite its high cuteness factor, it should still be taken as a seriously good and meaningful read.

1) of Wilbur, the match-maker
2) every quote deserves its very own frame
3) of its fuzzy feeling of happiness
4) of fun e-mail snippets
5) of a cute, down-to-earth and not over the top love story

4/5 **** THIS IS WHAT HAPPY LOOKS LIKE – Uplifting, heartfelt and charming! 

This book is like all sunrises, sunsets and puppies combined, really cute. Jennifer E. Smith is a safe bet should you ever be in need of YA books that raise your spirits, provide you with lovely romance and put you in a summery cheerful mood. 


* Read an excerpt of THIS IS WHAT HAPPY LOOKS LIKE
* Want to meet Jennifer E. Smith? Check out her event calendar!

* For further information about Jennifer E. Smith and her books, visit 

* Thanks to Sam Eades and Headline for sending me a copy for review!


  1. I am so looking forward to this book! TSPoLaFS was one of the cutest books I read last year, and I love the idea of getting to read Ellie and Grahams emails as well as seeing their IRL relationship. Great review! :)

  2. This one sounds so cute! I am glad you enjoyed it. Great review :)

  3. This sounds like a really good light and happy read! I've read mixed reviews about it but i'm so glad that you enjoyed it. Great review!

    - Ellie at The Selkie Reads Stories

  4. Although I've heard mixed things about this book I'm looking forward to reading it. I love a cute book every now and then. It's great just to read something that makes you smile. I also like the idea of the "fun email snippets".

    PS. I adore you review style!

  5. I've been hearing good and bad things about this. I finished it the other day and adored it. But I know what you mean about it missing that little something.

  6. I started at the top of your blog and didn't notice that you already reviewed it! How exciting! I loved THE STATISTICAL PROBABILITY OF LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT!

  7. Great review, sweetie :D I'm glad you mostly loved this book. <3 I'm sorry something felt lacking. But I'm still glad you enjoyed it :) I'm not sure if I will read it. Maybe after I have read her other book, which I own, and if I like it I will read this one too :) Thank you for sharing. <3

  8. I think you stated it well... there was just a certain spark missing from it that would have put it over the edge. I mean, it was cute enough, but it never really drew me in.

    Great review! =)

  9. I really enjoyed this preview, enough so that I bought the whole book! It's a fun story that I couldn't put down. Highly recommend!
    Best prompt maid service Goshen NY