A couple sits in a boat on the water with a yellow painted lines of a sunset behind them.

About the Book

Title: This Is What Happy Looks Like (This Is What Happy Looks Like #1)
Published: 2013

Cover Story: If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It
BFF Charm: Yay!
Talky Talk: Dessen-ish
Bonus Factors: You’ve Got Mail, Notting Hill
Relationship Status: I’ll Buy You A Bouquet of Freshly Sharpened Pencils

Cover Story: If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

I loved the cover of Smith’s previous book, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, so I’m super glad they kept the same designer. The photo lets you know what you’re getting into (teen romance) while the charming typography assuages any fear that this is an overly sentimental, saccharin story.

The Deal:

At one time or another, you’ve probably received an email meant for someone else. If you’re lucky, like our Erin, you’ll get a series of emails addressed to someone with your same name, so you can keep up with the life of the Other You. You could even turn this kind of thing into a blog! But if you’re really, REALLY lucky, that email will be mistakenly sent by a super hot movie star.

That’s exactly what happens to Ellie O’Neill the day she receives an email from [email protected] asking her to walk his pet pig, Wilbur. When she writes back to correct him, she unknowingly sparks a pen pal friendship with Graham Larkin, teen movie star. Unaware of each other’s identities, Ellie and Graham begin to share everything, from snippets of their daily lives to their secret fears. But when Graham comes to Ellie’s small town to film his next movie (and to meet his anonymous pen pal), he takes their relationship offline and into real life, where it’s exposed to elements it may not withstand.

BFF Charm: Yay!

Yay BFF Charm

The fact that I don’t hate Ellie out of sheer jealousy shows just how damn likeable she is. This girl’s got a good head on her shoulders and a warm heart in her chest. She’s thoughtful and strong and smart, and even though she has a tragic past, she rarely trips over her emotional baggage. There were times when I felt that she was a little too mature, but then some self-doubt or impulsiveness would creep in and keep her realistically adolescent. You could say that Ellie’s lucky to meet Graham (which she is), but I think Graham is lucky to meet her.

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

The Regular-Girl-Meets-Movie-Star scenario alone gave this book some serious swoon points, but it’s Graham’s character that really sent this score past the 5 point marker. Graham’s got the movie star good looks, and in spite of that, he’s not a douchebag. He’s an earnest, honest dude, and his hunger for Ellie is both sweet and smokin’. Smith adds enough barriers to their relationship to maintain a tantalizing level of tension, while the contrast of Ellie’s ordinary life and Graham’s celebrity keeps things interesting. (Although I could’ve used more kissing. Hello, Graham is a gorgeous movie star! You gotta tap that, Ellie!)

Talky Talk: Dessen-ish

Smith writes in a straight up style, her words softly tinged with emotion. Her characters are complex enough to fight off a “chick lit” label, but the plot development goes down easy, like literary comfort food. This book carefully straddles the line between fluff and substance, which makes it a satisfying read both on and off the beach. Smith hasn’t reached the Sarah Dessen zenith yet, but her writing is making the ascent.

Bonus Factor: You’ve Got Mail

Poster of You've Got Mail

Here’s a pro-tip for all of you YA authors out there: The surest way to secure my interest in a book is to include some kind of You’ve Got Mail element. Because YGM is my all time favorite movie ever. It is 152 insights INTO MY SOUL. So when my eyes fell on the first string of emails between Ellie and Graham, I sighed with utter delight. Because they had no idea who the other person was! And they would never have had a relationship in real life! And their delightful, flirtatious words built a love as whimsical as a butterfly in the subway and as strong as the Fox Books empire and DON’T CRY SHOPGIRL AHHHH!!!

Bonus Factor: Notting Hill

Poster of movie Notting Hill

The idea of a famous hot person falling in love with you is pretty much a universal fantasy. (Except in my case with Tim Riggins, because that is not a fantasy. OUR LOVE IS REAL.) So when it actually happens to Ellie, it’s super tingly and crazy awesome. Sure, there’s lots of complications, but Graham is just a boy, standing in front of a girl, asking her to love him.

Relationship Status: I’ll Buy You A Bouquet of Freshly Sharpened Pencils

Book, you are just like Kathleen Kelly’s mother– enchanting. You charmed me with your fun premise and your sweet romance, and I’m so very glad that we met. My feelings aren’t intense enough to warrant a relationship IRL, but our online friendship certainly left a smile on my face. Which makes sense, because that’s what happy looks like.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Little, Brown. I received neither cocktails nor money for this review (damnit!). This Is What Happy Looks Like is available now.

Sarah lives in Austin, and believes there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, which is part of why she started FYA in 2009. Growing up, she thought she was a Mary Anne, but she's finally starting to accept the fact that she's actually a Kristy.