The plot has been done many times over: small-town girl falls for gorgeous city boy. But Jennifer E. Smith has breathed new life into this familiar storyline with This is What Happy Looks Like. This is a YA romance novel that will tug on your heartstrings and make you long for your own sweet summer romance.
Ages: 12 & up
Published: 2013 by Hachette Book Group
Summary: 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?
Smith's constructs a story of summer love, one full of unexpected moments and unlikely odds. The plot is largely about being brave enough to live the moments as they come to you, and that sometimes happiness is worth the risks of a broken heart. Peppered with social issues such as insecurities, teenage drama, and family problems, This is What Happy Looks Like not only is a recognizable and relatable story, but it's a cathartic story of young love, and a bit of a fairy tale come true. Haven't we all dreamed of a sexy A-list celebrity somehow picking us out of all the girls in the world? Graham is exactly what we dream every celebrity heartthrob to be. As an adult reader, my inner teenage romantic side melted a little at my own desires to be swept away by Prince Charming.
The ending didn't take the route I was expecting it to and I'm a tad bitter about that. But I like the ending in the theme of life's unpredictability. It was fitting. Regardless, This is What Happy Looks Like is a well-written and thoroughly entertaining novel. Jennifer E. Smith has written a delicious YA love story that's perfect for a cottage read, or even for when you're feeling a little blue.
This one's going on my YA favourites shelf. An unexpectedly wonderful summertime story.