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

Posted April 14, 2013 by Debby in Reviews / 12 Comments

Book Review: This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. SmithThis Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith
Published by Poppy on April 2nd, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased

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?

2 Stars

As a true hopeless romantic, the “normal girl meets and falls in love with a famous boy” story makes my heart flutter. No matter how cliché, I really enjoy reading stories like it. And yet… This Is What Happy Looks Like is just lackluster in everything. This review will contain spoilers. Beware. I just can’t review this book without pointing out the idiotic plot points.

So Ellie and Graham meet by accident when Graham misspells an e-mail address. They don’t know who the other is, but they seem to really easily strike up conversations about almost nothing. So Graham, a famous movie star, when in need of a location to shoot his next film, insists on traveling to Ellie’s home town to meet her. After a first cliché mishap of mistaken identity, they meet and instantly know this is true love.

Okay, they talked for three months via e-mails, so it’s not really instalove, but it felt like it. I just feel so cheated. Maybe it’s because I have experience with situations like this, but online contact is vastly different from offline contact. And even if you really like someone online, that’s not necessarily the case offline. But no. They knew it INSTANTLY. He wanted to kiss her INSTANTLY. And just… UGH. What is this??


And the rest of the book only makes it worse. Why? They were together for all of two days, before Ellie freaked out about the paparazzi shizzle and started avoiding him like the plague. For THREE WEEKS. And during that time, all they do is pine for each other. Then when they’re finally reunited, you once again see them together for only THREE DAYS. Guys, this isn’t a heart-throbbing romance. This is just odd. They’re pretty cute together, for sure, but I don’t buy it. Whereas I think the concept asked for a happy-go-lucky, totally feel-good kind of romance, I think Jennifer placed way too much emphasis on the underlying “drama” in both of their lives that just made the romance kind of stupid.

Like, Ellie is terrified of the paparazzi because she is the illegitimate daughter of a senator. Her mother ran away with her as a child to escape the press and it’s basically implied that all hell would break loose if their true identities were discovered. Well, spoiler alert: it gets out, right at the end. You feel that coming, but still have a certain curiosity about how it would get resolved. Well? “Yeah, they found out your name, and the connection to your father, but it’s really just a footnote, and nobody really cares because all they care about is that you’re Graham’s girlfriend.”


No no no no no. And don’t get me started again about how the press calls her his girlfriend, he refers to her as “his girl” and everyone else in town knows they’re in LOVE when they’ve known each other for FIVE DAYS in total. I don’t count those three weeks they weren’t speaking, and I don’t (really) count the three months of email conversations. Hell no. asdfjkl; Their romance consisted of like 3 kisses and a bit of hand holding. Some more development would have been amazing. I just didn’t see it as a serious relationship, unlike apparently everyone else in the book.

Also, in the end, out of nowhere, Graham suddenly regains contact with his parents, whom he’s been estranged from since he became famous. And it then turns out that, contrary to everything Graham has indicated about them in his narrations, they truly care about him and have been keeping tabs on his activities via magazines and stuff… instead of just talking to him… I’m sorry, WHAT? Talk about a plot element out of nowhere just for your convenience. This made no sense to me. You can’t establish one image of certain characters all throughout the book, and right at the end, over the phone prove that it was totally not like that. I get that this was supposed to just be a feel-good moment, but usually that still has some kind of cause… or build up. Or something.

Summing Up:

I started off writing this review wondering, “Hmm… how did I feel about it?” And within 10 minutes it became this full-fledged rant. I read the book, entirely, at a high speed, all things considered, but I just totally disagree with it. This is not the book I hoped it would be. The characters were all right, and the concept held some appeal to me, but it desperately failed in the execution and overall in the plot. So two oranges… because I did manage to finish and while reading didn’t notice how much I disagreed with it.

TL;DR: this is SO NOT what happy looks like. (Sorry, I had to.)

In Three Words:

Recommended To:

I honestly don’t think I would.

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12 responses to “Book Review: This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

  1. Oh I saw this on GR and a few blogs, but wasn’t sure it would be for me. You know I tend to be a bit picky while reading, and I just didn’t have any really reliable reviews to go off of. But since pretty much everything you mentioned in your review would have my eyes rolling at full speed, I’m pretty sure I’m going to skip this one.

    And ha, Zooey Deschanel. How can you not love her? Love the review and the gifs, as always!

    • Yeah, I’m the first actually in my circle that’s read it, I actually hadn’t seen any reviews so far. Just… sigh. I didn’t notice how stupid it was until I finished and started writing the review. So I think there’ll probably still be enough people who like it.

      I know right? Jessica Day is my spirit animal, and her gifs will be appearing in many more reviews ♥ Thank you!

  2. Whoa, only two oranges?!
    -stares at my borrowed copy suspiciously-
    I didn’t really enjoy Jennifer E. Smith’s first book and now, to see your rating of this one scares me. (I skimmed a couple of sentences in your review because I don’t want any spoilers since I still need to read it.) Hopefully I’ll enjoy reading it better than you did Debby. 😡

    • Yeah, I think I’ll be the rare exception to the rule on this one. There are apparently way more positive reviews on Goodreads. And I thought I was enjoying it while reading it. It’s just when I started to think critically about it… It all fell through. I’ll be curious to see your review!

  3. Gah. I didn’t read your entire review bc I was afraid of spoilers! BUT— you had me worried at 2 oranges! I am doing a read-along of this book in a few weeks. This makes me nervous.

    • Yeah, sorry about the spoilers, but I really couldn’t review this book any other way. I’m probably the exception on this one, plenty of people have thought it’s enjoyable and cute, so don’t worry too much. I’ll be curious to know what you think of it though, when you get around to it 🙂

  4. I didn’t really have any plans to read this, and after reading your review, I think that’s probably for the best! Everything you complained about are things I can see myself ranting about; and I can definitely relate to the “hmm, how did I feel about this?” only for my dislike to come seeping through with every word I type! Haha

    • I was so mad when I finished and noticed that no one else had read this yet. I really wanted to gripe about it with someone. I am wondering whether I’m the exception to the rule on this one, since it seems to get high ratings from people I don’t really know.

      Haha, this kind of review writing was a first for me xD but it was an interesting experience for sure.

  5. Hah so this book is waiting for me for pick up at the library. I read your whole review anyway because spoilers shmoilers -(I have been known to google for spoilers because I am too impatient to get to that point naturally) – and I don’t know what I will do now. I have this listed as one of the books for my contemporary challenge. I can probably just change the list but I feel like that’s cheating (is that weird?). Anyway, it does seem pretty flawed. I do think you’re a harsher critic of contemporary than I am but I still don’t know if I can overlook some of the things you pointed out. Bummer. It sounds like a quick read though so I’ll probably read it but it’s a good thing that I won’t be picking it up with high expectations. I’m glad you ranted, rants are fun. Ok this is turning into me rambling so I will end with .. I love New Girl 🙂

    • Yeah, I feel bad about the spoilers, but there was no way for me to really show my feelings about this book without them. Just so frustrating. I’m definitely a harsh critic when it comes to contemporary though, so I think I’ll be in the minority here. It was a quick read, so it might still be worth it to read it. If you do, I’ll be anxious to know your thoughts 🙂

      New Girl freaking rocks.

  6. Ooooooh boy. I didn’t read your entire review since I’ll be reading this and I don’t want to be spoiled but eh. This doesn’t sound good. And I’ve been hearing some pretty mixed things about it. I like light, cute contemps, HOWEVER, I can hate them when I can’t find myself in a story. And I’m afraid that that will happen somewhere in those 416 (!?!) pages. OH WELL. We’ll see, I guess. I’m sorry it disappointed you and I hope I’ll enjoy it more haha.

    Oh, and “this is SO NOT what happy looks like” hahahahaha. I like wordplay.

    • Yeeaaahhh, I still don’t know anyone else who has read this but I just… *sigh* disappointment for me. Please hurry up and read it, because I want to know if I’m alone in this or not. 416 pages isn’t really that much, it’s a pretty quick read.

      I hope you like it, for what it’s worth, haha.

      PUNS. I had to. *shrug*

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