Tuesday, 2 April 2013

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

This is What Happy looks Like
Jennifer E. Smith
Poppy
[April 2, 2013]

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?

Long time, no review, I know. But guys, this is the kind of book I need to gush about. I NEED to talk to you guys about this book. Because it is so, so, so utterly perfect I can't NOT talk about it. This is the kind of book that breaks a review-slump.

So, the premise is fairly basic. Misguided emails, one person in this email is secretly a celebrity, they meet and start a relationship. Except...not quite. This story is SO much more than that. Jennifer Smith, in the excellent way she does, gives both characters their own story lines beyond the romance. Ellie has this massive secret and some family issues. Graham has family issues of a different nature, as well as the natural issues that come with being a celebrity. And both have to deal with the complications these secrets and separate issues have on their relationship. Add to the fact that, you know, Ellie didn't KNOW he was famous. Things are complicated and intricate and beautiful and heartbreaking. 

Jennifer's the kind of writer who pulls you in and never lets go. I read the beginning while sitting next to a friend because she wanted to see my reaction. Then I let myself to take a small break from homework and ended up reading the next 150 pages. I DEVOURED this book and all of it's perfections and Jennifer's wonderful writing. I was enthralled in this story and these characters and their lives. They weren't just characters. They were people. Graham and Ellie and their friends and family were so well crafted and they all had this fantastic chemistry with intricate relationships that only an excellent writer can build.

And can we talk about the setting? I've never been to Maine. The closest I've ever been is the suburbs of Boston. And you know, those mansions weren't exactly a small town on the coast of the Atlantic. But the setting was so well built, that I could picture everything. The beach and the town and the street Ellie would walk down and the set of Graham's movie. It was charming and really drew me in to this little Maine town, which can be kind of hard to do when I'm reading from my bed in the middle of a giant city.

Seriously, and then there's Graham and Ellie as people. They were far from cookie cutter characters. I mean, Graham. He has a pet pig. Do you know how epic that sounds? And usually you would think a celebrity would shy away from strangers on the internet, even if that internet doesn't know they're talking to a celebrity. But no, he wanted to reach out. Because even in the emails, there was so much personality on both ends and this fantastic chemistry made it easy for them to connect. Ellie and Graham have this wonderful dialogue, via email and in real life. It's realistic - sometimes it's awkward, sometimes it's hard to talk, sometimes everything is easy and light and fun. 

Guys, Jennifer E. Smith is just a master. She's utterly brilliant. I'm going to declare her one of the Princesses of Contemporary with Stephanie Perkins, Gayle Forman, and Elizabeth Eulberg. I will read anything she puts out in the world for us to read and I definitely have to get my hands on You Are Here and The Comeback Season because, hello, Jennifer writing a ROAD TRIP and BASEBALL? Hell yes. I am ALL OVER THAT SHIZ.

So, um. You should go buy This is What Happy Looks Like and rejoice in the wonder that is a Jennifer E. Smith book and then join me in reading ALL OF HER BOOKS EVER.

--Julie

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