I adored The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight so the second I heard about Jennifer E Smith’s next YA book I was dying to read it. I was lucky enough to get a proof and decided to save it for my then upcoming holiday as it looked like the perfect feel good book I needed to relax with. My book arrived a whole week before the holiday and I’m highly impatient person so I was a little enthusiastic when I finally got to read the book. This Is What Happy Looks Like made waiting at an airport and a stressful night flight tolerable; it also ensured I didn’t sleep on the plane.
This Is What Happy Looks Like tells the story of Graham Larkin and Ellie O’Neill. When Graham accidentally sends Ellie an email about looking after his pet pig by mistake, the two start up an email rapport and friendship. However, Graham is the teen actor du jour and when he discovers Ellie’s small hometown is the perfect setting for his new film, he decides for them to have a relationship beyond email, but will this work out when she learns who she is?
The idea of the teenage star and ordinary romantic interest is something I can see having real appeal in YA, and it’s something I’ve often considered playing with myself, but personally avoided as I think I’d make it a bad fanfiction. Smith however weaves a heartfelt story about love, chances and family that is much more than a story about a ordinary girl snagging a celebrity.
I thought Ellie’s reluctance for the limelight and her family’s backstory was really interesting and I liked that Smith didn’t shy away from showing how unpleasant and invasive the press intrusion can be on a person. However, the real selling point for me of this book is the characters. Smith creates wonderful characters who feel real beyond the page and can make you smile at the right moments, or feel whatever they are. I adored Graham with his pet pig and he had a really strong voice, especially in the email exchanges between the two.
I also loved the inclusion of the emails and the way we got see their friendship develop through these. They framed chapters really well structurally at the beginning and central moments and I thought that they complemented the narrative without seeming out of place.
This Is What Happy Looks Like is both the perfect book for a gloomy day or for a holiday read; it will either cheer you up or reinforce that fun, sweet vibe you’re already in. I received a free proof copy for my honest review. This What Happy Looks Like is published by Headline and is available to buy now!