Monday, April 1, 2013
Review: This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith
G emails E by accident and the two strike up a never-ending interaction that both feel is one-of-a-kind. There are only several problems that the two of them can’t work out. First, G is Graham Larkin, the hottest new Hollywood star with a bevy of teenaged female fans all around the world and an almost equally large crowd of paparazzi following him everywhere. And E is Ellie O’Neill, a dreamer-poet living in Middle-of-Nowhere, Maine, who has her own reasons for wanting to avoid the spotlight.
I was head over heels for the first 25% of the book, and then meh for the rest of it. Oh, there’s nothing wrong with THIS IS WHAT HAPPY LOOKS LIKE at all, but immediately after the two main characters finally met up, the romantic anticipation fizzled and there was a sense of “what next?” floating among readers and the narrative.
Don’t get me wrong: Graham and Ellie are adorable, separately and together. They are the kind of people you want dating your best friends: they’re nice and well-read and like sunsets and cute animals and hand-holding. Yes, things in this book’s world are a bit tame, especially Graham’s oh-so-cutesy humor, but hey, I’m not going to hold that against the book: it’s rare that we find a YA romance where at least one party is not either TSTL or a jerk.
For the most part, THIS IS WHAT HAPPY LOOKS LIKE is a dream come true for readers who, like me, wished their whole lives for a squee-worthy romance between a nice movie star and a nice ordinary girl. But then, as in most Jennifer Smith novels, there’s the extra dimension of family problems. Again, there’s nothing inherently wrong with including family issues into a contemporary romance, but it just wasn’t what I wanted to read about when I picked this book up. I wanted the never-gets-old sparkly tension of falling in love with someone new, of gradually getting to know them through cheeky emails, of the first time seeing them and thinking to yourself, “Oh. I have been waiting for this my whole life.” Only all of that happened in the first quarter of the book, and then the rest of it didn’t seem to add much more to Graham and Ellie’s relationship. It just didn’t do it for me.
Nevertheless, I would still recommend THIS IS WHAT HAPPY LOOKS LIKE to readers looking for a light romance. The characters and the picture-perfect setting of small-town Maine make this the YA romance that a lot of readers are looking for.
Cover discussion: I really like how Jennifer Smith's last two contemporary romances have gotten these related but still distinctive covers. They stand out from the stock-photo covers of other YA contemporary romances for their originality.
Poppy / April 2, 2013 / Hardcover / 416pp. / $17.99
e-galley received from publisher and NetGalley.