05 April 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: April 2, 2013 by Poppy

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? 

Jennifer E. Smith never fails me. I have adored her ever since I have read The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight and loved her even more after reading This Is What Happy Looks Like.

She has the most intriguing titles and not to mention always has nice book covers: depicts something sweet, light-read and something really good that as though it promises a reader that you will have a grand time reading this novel. And  it does not really stops at the cover - because once you start reading it, you will truly get hooked (like I did).

Sunrises over the harbor. Ice cream on a hot day. The sound of the waves down the street. The way my dog curls up next to me on the couch. Evening strolls. Great movies. Thunderstorms. A good cheeseburger. Fridays. Saturdays. Wednesdays, even. Sticking your toes in the water. Pajama pants. Flip-flops. Swimming. Poetry. The absence of smiley faces in an e-mail. 
What does it look like to you?
This book is what happy looks like because I smiled a lot reading it. And even though I had work today, I can't seem to put it down because I wanted to know what happened next to our young characters.

Meet Graham Larkin.
He's one of the rising stars of his generations, and just like some of them, he didn't really appreciate stardom especially when he can't do anything normal. He's hounded by reporters, always found himself on pages of the magazines. He's alone at home with his pet pig named Wilbur and to top it all up his parents acted strange around him, it was as if he was no longer their child but a stranger who visits them. But the nice thing is that - he's not your typical Hollywood bad boy who loves to party, drink booze and is attached to a lot of women. No - this guy is one of those rare specie in Hollywood where he prefers to stay at home and play his video games with ardor rather than going to parties.

Ellie has lived in a small town in Maine almost all her life. She was a simple girl who lives with her single mom and helps her run the shop, works in an ice cream parlor and loves poetry. She just got accepted in a summer poetry program in Harvard. Ellie may look like an ordinary town girl with a red hair, but she has her secrets to keep. Secrets that has been very important in maintaining their uncomplicated, quiet and simple life. But lo and behold, Graham Larkin comes to town with all those cameras in tow - and suddenly, everything that they had been keeping may resurface and can ruin the life her mother had tried to built for them.

It all started with an email to a wrong address...
The friendship started when Graham typed the wrong address. The exchange of emails has began, nothing vital, name has not been a topic of the conversation just mundane conversations about anything at all, but Graham has been hooked and curious who the girl is. Out of his character, he 'demanded' that they should film a part of his next film in Maine. Yes, he wanted to know who this girl.

After some misunderstanding, some surprise visits and secret dates - things were started to be great. But just as Graham thought they were having a great time, Ellie starts to back off.

Why I love this book:
It's almost realistic, although Graham, if walking among Hollywood teen stars nowadays, is really a rare commodity. I love how Ms Smith handled Ellie and her father, I held my breath, waiting for that moment. And when the moment came, although it was not what I expected - it felt just right. The ending was just right too - it held a lot of promises, not just you're usual HEA but an ending filled with possibilities. These two people know what they are getting into, I was glad that there was no pretenses, no unnecessary drama and no so-much expectations. They allowed themselves to fall, with both their eyes open. The risks was great, but the rewards were definitely worth.

It's not just the cover and the title that hooked me, but the whole package. It left my senses and appetite for a good book satiated. From the first page down to the last, it was all worth the read. It wasn't just a love story (sort-of-fairy-tale) of a young actor-falling-in-love-with-an-ordinary-girl-from-a-small-town, it's something more: the consequences of our choices, value of friendship and most especially family.

If you love The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, then I suggest you read this one as well. You will not be disappointed.

Now the question is: What does happy looks like to you?

"Exactly. How can you know it makes you happy if you’ve never experienced it?”
“There are different kinds of happy,” she said. “Some kinds don’t need any proof."

"It was exactly as he’d thought it would be, like the first time and the millionth time all at once, like being wide awake, like losing his balance. Only this time, it wasn’t just him; this time, they were losing their balance together."

"I never said I was good,” he told her, taking the pen. “Just that I liked doing it.”
“That’s the best kind of good."

“Childhood memories were like airplane luggage; no matter how far you were traveling or how long you needed them to last, you were only ever allowed two bags. And while those bags might hold a few hazy recollections—a diner with a jukebox at the table, being pushed on a swing set, the way it felt to be picked up and spun around—it didn’t seem enough to last a whole lifetime.” 

Jennifer E. Smith is the author of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, The Storm Makers, You Are Here, and The Comeback Season. She earned her master's degree in creative writing from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and currently works as an editor in New York City. Her writing has been translated into 28 languages.

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