The first time I heard the synopsis of Jennifer E. Smith’s latest novel, This is What Happy Looks Like (April 2, 2013), I thought, how cute. Teenage movie star, Graham Larkin sends Ellie O’Neill, a small town girl who lives in Maine, an email about walking his pet pig, Wilbur, by accident and soon, they find that they cannot stop emailing each other. Ellie mentions by chance that there’s nothing to do in small-town Maine and Graham finds that her hometown is the perfect place for his latest movie.
Graham Larkin shows up in Ellie’s town, much to her surprise and he’s looking for Ellie. However, can she, a small town girl have a relationship with someone as famous as Graham Larkin, especially when she has secrets of her own to hide?
I read This is What Happy Looks Like with a smile on my face. It’s cute, filled with cute lines such as “I’m also terrible at saying goodbyes” and “Okay, then, I’ll just say hello again twice”. It’s a very happy cute book that made me look really strange. I was reading it in school, with a weird grin that seemed to be stuck on my face.
However, there lies the problem. No doubt, This is What Happy Looks Like is a good story about teenage love that’s rather adorable, but that’s it. It’s rather superficial and rather “happy”. Even when the main character was sad and depressed, I couldn’t get into her head. It wasn’t like the writing was particularly bad or anything like that but This is What Happy Looks Like is a very “feel-good” novel with nothing lasting. Sure, the story was rather cute and it’s a story that I’d probably read when I’m looking for a quick read.
In the end, This Is What Happy Looks Like is a quick read. It’s a satisfying quick read, but nothing more. It keeps in style with Smith’s previous novel, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, with its cuteness (I would argue that This Is What Happy Looks Like is cuter), but whereas The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight had a quite a huge chunk of internalization by the main character, Hadley, over her parent’s divorce and her father’s subsequent remarriage, This Is What Happy Looks Like has offers a tiny view into Ellie’s mind. It teases the reader with some, leaves off, letting the reader smile at the cuteness of Ellie and Graham and returns later at the end for another glimpse.
No doubt about it, Jennifer E. Smith knows what teenage girls want to read about. This Is What Happy Looks Like is a book I’d turn to for a satisfying two-hour read, something that would make me happy. It’s not something I’d read if I needed something thought-provoking but sometimes, that’s okay too.