this is what happy looks like

I’ve been in a self-proclaimed contemporary reading slump for what feels like AGES.  In fact, it has been 13 months (my last contemporary YA read was Marni Bates’ Decked with Holly, which I actively disliked).  BUT.  Jennifer E. Smith gets the most gorgeous book covers, and I pay attention to the Amazon Kindle deals each day.  Her famous-boy-meets-ordinary-girl romance This Is What Happy Looks Like was on sale earlier this month, so I bought a copy to read ‘someday.’  That day turned out to be last Thursday night.

this is what happy looks like by jennifer e. smith book cover
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?

When two strangers accidentally end up in an email conversation about a pet pig named Wilbur, it’s serendipity for both parties.  Graham Larkin is an increasingly lonely film star on the edge of the big time.  Ellie O’Neill is a small-town girl with family secrets and a bright, impossible future.  When their relationship goes from virtual to in-person in a day, they’ll both need to reach outside of their comfort zones to discover if something this impractical can work in real life.

It’s been bitterly cold here in DC over the past couple of weeks, and I felt the need for a summery read.  This Is What Happy Looks Like is just that – a beach read with a little bit of depth, a lot of cute, set on the coast during the summer months.  Ellie is the daughter of a single mother, she's working in an ice cream shop, and she’s into poetry. Graham is a well-adjusted young film star (the most far-fetched part of the plot?!) who doesn’t know where he’s going yet, but he’s miles away from the person his parents want him to be.  They’re both endearing characters, and they both need something.  Smith just never convinced me that what they needed was each other, especially on such short acquaintance.

A portion of the trouble may be laid at the door of insufficient flirting.  I wanted to like the characters together, and I expected to swoon at their chemistry.  Unfortunately, the book is so brief that flirting (both in email message and in person) is given short shrift.  Smith hasn’t written a dawning romance so much as a novel about a girl and her mother negotiating life.  In summer.  In Maine.  With a cute boy on the side.

What I’m trying to say is that although it tried, This Is What Happy Looks Like didn’t have the emotional depth of Unbreak My Heart, or the swoon of a great romance.  Instead, it had more than a bit of wish fulfillment, a silly setup, and a pet pig that only makes appearances in conversation, not in person.  I whiled away a couple of hours with the book, but I was not as charmed as I hoped I’d be.  Maybe next time.

Recommended for fans of Rachel Hawthorne's Snowed In, Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin's Jenna & Jonah’s Fauxmance and Claire LaZebnik’s Epic Fail, and those who like light contemporary romances.


Liviania said...

I've been curious about this one (partially because I did like Jenna & Jonah's Fauxmance). But I think I'll skip it . . . I wanted a lot of flirting and swoon.

Katherine said...

Sorry you didn't enjoy this. Have you read Smith's The Stat Prob of Love.... ? I liked that one and I wonder if this is similar in style.

I got this book on audio last year when I needed to cancel my Audible account and still haven't listened to it. When I found out it was written partly in e-mails I was concerned it wouldn't translate. I think I'll check it out one of these days.

Kate @ Ex Libris said...

I did hear mixed reviews on this one. I'll keep it in my maybe pile.

Kate @ Ex Libris

Cecelia said...

Katherine: I haven't read THE STATISTICAL PROBABILITY, but I *also* bought it when it was a Kindle Daily Deal, so I'm sure I'll read it someday. I have heard that it's better than this one, so that gives me hope!

Lu @ Regular Rumination said...

This was a perfect readathon for me. I agree it doesn't really have a ton of emotional depth, but I did have fun reading it! I was charmed!

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