Google+ YA Romantics: Just Finished Reading … This is What Happy Looks Like

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Just Finished Reading … This is What Happy Looks Like

This Is What Happy Looks Like
by Jennifer E. Smith
To be published by Poppy
on April 2, 2013

Source: e-ARC via Netgalley. My full FTC disclosure is on the right sidebar.

Buzzwords: chick lit, summer romance, meeting cute, pigs as pets, whoopie pies

Connect with the author: Twitter : website.




Summary from Goodreads: 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? 

My take: This Is What Happy Looks Like is a book that reminded me…. hang on just a second. I have an idea.

Do you speak fluent Chick Flick?  Then I can explain this book to you in ten seconds.

This Is What Happy Looks Like is a YA mash-up of:

Notting Hill -- ordinary person who finds love with a famous actor
What A Girl Wants -- character who isn't close to his/her biological father
You've Got Mail -- two unlikely people meet cute through email, never exchanging their real names



pic name What a Girl Wants You've Got Mail

Like a chick flick, This Is What Happy Looks Like is a charming, feel-good story that requires a bit of suspension of disbelief. First, the statistical probability that two teenagers would email each other over an extended period of time without also Googling, Facebooking, Skyping or Instagramming the other is …. almost zero. The idea that a seventeen-year-old male movie star would be interested in a ordinary girl who loves poetry and scoops ice cream over the summer as more than just a fling is also somewhat unlikely.

If you can get past that (and I could!) This Is What Happy Looks Like is a fun, heart-warming story. I didn't love it quite as much as The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight, which I thought had more of a necessary dark side to contrast with all the cute. But This Is What Happy Looks Like did a lot that made me … happy. 

I liked the fact that This Is What Happy Looks Like used a dual POV, alternating chapters from Ellie and Graham's viewpoint. The setting -- a coastal Maine town in which tourist and locals uncomfortably co-exist over the summer -- felt so realistic that I could feel the sand between my toes and smell the sea air. I liked the relationship between Ellie and her friend Quinn, which strained over the fact that Ellie didn't ever tell her friend about the mysterious guy she was emailing. There are some minor subplots -- about a pig and whoopee pies -- that added a nice dose of quirk to the mix.

While Ellie -- with her ice cream store job and her love of poetry -- felt realistic to me, I can't say the same of Graham. I wasn't completely buying the fact that he was already weary of fame at seventeen, especially since he'd only been discovered two years earlier in a high school production of Guys and Dolls. If he'd been a child star or had crazy stage parents, I might have bought the fact that he was tired of being famous. Same goes for Ellie's Big Secret. I don't want to spoil it, but again, in the age of Google and the dirt-digging media, the whole thing didn't add up for me.

But such is the burden of the romantic. To enjoy chick flicks and books about true love at seventeen, you must suspend disbelief. Does a Jake ever really fall for a Samantha in high school? Can Bridget Jones really land a gorgeous and successful barrister using nothing but wacky mishaps and adorable squinting? In order to fend off existential despair, we must believe these things to be true.

I'd recommend This Is What Happy Looks Like to fans of romantic comedy and to readers of contemporary YA who like their books sweet and light, like a scoop of sherbet on a hot summer day.

38 comments:

  1. Am I the first commenter? WOW that has never happened! I always expect a level of "suspension of disbelief" with the light/fun contemporaries, though sometimes I'm able to manage it better than others. I definitely have my eye on this book, and am really hoping that I'll love it! I adore chick-flicks and have seen all of those above, so can't wait to relax with this book sometime soon. Also I love that it is a Maine setting in the summer! Great review, Jen!

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    1. If you're a fan of chick flicks, definitely check this out. It also made me realize that SPoLaFS also reminds me of a chick flick, but to say which one would be a spoiler….

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  2. I haven't read The Statistical Probability yet (I really need to!), but this definitely sounds like a sweet beach read. I love YA contemporary, but sometimes they just get so heavy, ya know? It's nice to mix in a light read now and then, and it seems like this just may fit the bill. Great review, Jen!

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    1. My favorite are the contemps that manage to balance the sweet with a little bit of edge -- like Just Listen by Sarah Dessen or the Stephanie Perkins books.

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  3. I thought this was cute but it didn't really grab me the way The SPoFiL did. I could suspend my disbelief but I never felt like there was any real conflict.

    I don't regret reading it though.

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    1. That's a good way to put it. There was no real suspense or conflict. But after reading several darker books, this book was a good fit for my mood!

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  4. I'm really looking forward to this one. I've got it pre-ordered. I loved TSPOLAFS, so this was a must buy for me. I do like a lighter read sometimes because I read a lot of "darker/more intense" books. I also loved the movies Notting Hill and You've Got Mail :-)

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    1. Then definitely pick this one up when you're in the mood for a lighter, more romantic read. And let me know what you think!

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  5. I AM SO UNBELIEVABLE JEALOUS.
    But haha I love those adorable contemps. Though if you look at my bookshelf, you'd find maybe two fluffs and a whole bunch of emotional YA or dark contemporaries.

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  6. I love sweet and light romantic comedies! Very excited for this one! I find most contemporaries to be rather unbelievable which is why I haven't always been a fan. With paranormal I can shoo away my nagging thoughts with that fact that it is paranormal and made up. But contemporaries are supposed to feel real. I'm glad at least Ellie felt read. I'm sure there might be some teenage stars out there that don't like their new fame! I agree that with google most secrets could probably be found out but maybe the characters just never truly went looking?!

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    1. Then this is perfect for you!
      Yes, I think most chick flicks and romantic comedy type books rely heavily on coincidence, etc. But I love them anyway!

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  7. So I skimmed you're review because I try not to read reviews of books I will be reviewing soon until after I've written mine. I just had to say that I'm so glad you liked it since I'm dying to read this one!

    Tressa @ Tressa's Wishful Endings

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  8. I love cute, fluffy books! I read The Statistical Probability, but was a little disappointed in it, which is why I'm hesitant about this one. It sounds super fun and adorable, though! Unrealistic contemporaries kind of irk me, so I don't know if I'll be able to get past things like you did. However, I think I might give this one a try. Lovely review, Jen!

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    1. Ha -- that's why I hesitate to switch to the term "realistic YA fiction" because, hello, that's an oxymoron. Fiction isn't reality. I mean, it has to be somewhat believable, but I do think some suspension of disbelief is usually necessary.

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  9. THIS is a great review:) Especially this part, which you know I am going to love because you allude to two of my all time fave films:

    "Does a Jake ever really fall for a Samantha in high school? Can Bridget Jones really land a gorgeous and successful barrister using nothing but wacky mishaps and adorable squinting? In order to fend off existential despair, we must believe these things to be true."

    But yes, I totally agree in the importance of suspending disbelief in reading. And I love that you also compare this book to chick flicks like Notting Hill and You've Got Mail (love 'em both!)

    But, alas, I only found The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight to be a so-so book. I mean I liked it well enough, but wasn't wowed like most everyone else. Not sure if I'll check this one out either, but I do like this review immensely:)

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    1. Hmmm. This book is different from SPoLaFS, and maybe you'll like it better. I didn't connect with the characters as much in this one. Overall, it just felt a little flatter to me.

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  10. I read the preview from Amazon and I had a hard time buying the storyline. I was unbelievable that none of them googled each other or even the email address, something would have come up. The part I read was sweet but it wasn't really memorable. I might pick this one up when it's out but I think I'd rather read TSPoLaFS ( <--That's a really long title)
    Great review :)

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    1. You have to be able to get past that -- part of the fun of the book is that at the beginning they don't know who the other is.

      Try TSPoLaFS!!

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  11. I'm glad this one made you happy! I can get over little things that don't totally add up if the story is really good, though sometimes I cannot get past it. I have this one pre-ordered so I'm looking forward to it arriving!

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  12. I really enjoyed this one as well. There were some things that were a bit out there, but there's usually something in books like this that is out there. I thought it was really cute and I liked the setting because Maine is as close as you can get to New Brunswick, so I'm able to invision the coastal town a bit easier than say something based in California.
    I haven't read Statistical Probability yet, but I'd like to.

    Great review!

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    1. Love Maine and I've always wanted to travel in Eastern Canada -- I've seen some of British Columbia, but that's it!

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  13. great review, and I found the whole coincidental encounter to be cute.. I mean it COULD happen.. I don't think it is that far fetched.. we've watched a ton of chick flicks with even more bizarre settings so I was ok with this one :P

    - Juhina @ Maji Bookshelf

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    1. True! I could write a whole post about improbability in chick flicks. Which is why I loved SPoLaFS -- it sort of winks at that, while this one doesn't as much.

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  14. I'm totally sold on this book. I loved You've Got Mail and I loved SPOLAFS. I also am totally ok with ridiculousness.

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  15. I have this on preorder and seriously can not wait to read this. Also, "do you speak chick flick?" I laughed out loud! You are always so creative!

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  16. I definitely have a hard time suspending my disbelief when it comes to chick lit and lighter books like romantic YA contemporaries. But I have no problem suspending my disbelief when it comes to Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Dystopian, etc. I guess it's because with those, you know it's not real, whereas with chick lit and contemporary, it's supposed to be more realistic. Either way, though, I absolutely LOVED Statistical Probability and I can't wait to read this book. I'm glad you liked it so much! Great review, Jen!

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  17. I loved this book! I thought it was just so cute and the perfect light read for a busy week. And it was my first Jennifer E. Smith read ... I really look forward to reading more by her!

    I do love romance in books ... this one was done perfectly!

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  18. Yay for dual narration! I also love the mention of chick flicks as I have seen (although not loved) the three you list-I find that type of book so comforting and it sounds like this is less sad than The Statistical Probability so that is good for my emotions.

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  19. I can't wait to read this book!! I loved her first book and this one sounds like it's just as good. Great review!

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  20. I just bought The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight the other day :D cause the little bit of a preview I read I enjoyed... but anywho, this book sounds very cute.. It is a little, disbelieving, but really so are many other books :) we read them to get away right?
    I found recently that I do really enjoy dual POV's myself.

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  21. Adorable review. I'm sure I'll like this one for the quirks alone. Love the comparison to a chick flick...I'm sure it's pretty apt, especially after having read TSPoLaFS. :)

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  22. I do speak fluent chick flick, so this review is perfect for me. :-) So cute! I started reading this out of curiosity out of order and couldn't put it down. I finally tore myself away for other obligations, but I can't wait to get back to it. I heartily agree with your chick flick analysis. Fabulous review!

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  23. I love chick flicks and I'm pretty sure I'll love this book! Fun review =)

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  24. I do love a good chick-flick, but I'm not sure if I could read a book which required me to believe all those things. Although, I will definitely be checking this out! Great review :)

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