Book Review, first published for Serendipity Reviews on 25th March 2013.
It was not all that different from the circus, and it came to town in much the same way. Only instead of elephants and giraffes, there were cameras and microphones. Instead of clowns and cages and tightropes, there were production assistants and trailers and yards upon yards of thick cables.
Published by Headline on April 2nd 2013
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?
What a sweet, charming, yet unslushy novel. I really enjoyed this one and found myself virtually transported to Henley, aka Middle-of-Nowhere Maine, and totally wrapped up in a touching soulmate-meets-soulmate story.
This is a modern day romance with its use of email as a means of finding love and keeping it. It’s not a dating website or anything dodgy, just a random, serendipitous email from Graham that goes astray from its intended recipient and ends up in Ellie’s inbox.
They immediately form a close connection, saying things to each other that they cannot say to anyone else. They email every day, several times a day, but neither of them reveals their deepest secret
to each other. Not until Graham orchestrates a visit to Henley and they develop their relationship in person.
Only then does Ellie find out that Graham is not just ordinary Graham. He is teen film star Graham Larkin, with his own management and fans and his every move snapped by the Paparazzi. And to make life more complicated, Ellie and her mum are in hiding from her father, a man famous for quite a different reason. They must keep their now very real romance under wraps.
This is Jennifer E. Smith’s fourth YA novel, one of the others being the critically acclaimed and highly popular The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. She writes in clean, sharp prose and isn’t afraid to delve deep into the character’s thoughts and backstory. She brings the small town American landscape to life with its quirky traditions, shops and restaurants and lots of lobsters.
Following in the tradition of You’ve Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle and Notting Hill, and with two vivid main characters and a strong supporting cast, this is a warm, equally-balanced romance. This is reflected in the narration as the story is told from dual perspectives, flipping from Ellie to Graham, chapter by chapter, reminiscent of David Nicholls One Day. The email sections add another layer and keep the pace flowing as there is quite a bit of introspection. It is this introspection that brings emotional depth to the characters and has the reader gunning for both of them.
This is what Happy Looks Like explores the intimate details of family life and relationships and the ups and downs of friendships made over many years and the connections that can be created out of nowhere.
One email, one summer, one tricky situation … who knows where it will end? Though we know that ‘happy’ can be as simple as an ice cream or the waves on the shore or a pet pig called Wilbur.
A touching read.