Summary: Fate seems to come in the form of an email for seventeen year olds Ellie O’Neill and Graham Larkin. After Graham accidentally emails Ellie about his pet pig, the two strike up a conversation that lasts for months. Ellie and Graham talk about everything—expect for Graham’s life in the spotlight and a secret hidden within Ellie’s family. When Graham creates an opportunity for the pair to spend time together in Ellie’s small beach town, their relationship is taken to the next level, as Ellie and Graham determine if two people from two different worlds can be together.
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
I started my Jennifer E. Smith book journey backwards. My first Jennifer E. Smith book was her latest release, Windfall, in 2017. It was after reading Windfall that I decided to pick up more of Jennifer’s books, who I’d say is most well-known for The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. Then I met Jennifer, who’s also one of the sweetest authors that I’ve met, at a signing at my local Barnes & Noble, where I learned that most people start with This is What Happy Looks Like when starting her work.
I’ve been craving and eating up fantasy books this winter, butI needed a quick break with a contemporary read. Little did I know that I was picking up a book that takes place in the complete opposite season: summer. I’m always on the lookout for summery contemporaries for the summertime, and while I’m a tad disappointed that I picked up This is What Happy Looks Like now, I was not disappointed by this light, fun read.
This is What Happy Looks Like flips between the perspectives of Ellie and Graham, and I liked how each chapter began with a snippet from their email exchanges. I feel like the ‘boy and girl from completely different worlds’ trope worked really well in this book, as Graham is an A-list teen actor and Ellie is the small-town girl working at the ice cream shop and her mom’s store (and who has her eyes set on a Harvard poetry course, so more power to you girl!). AND ELLIE HAS A BEAGLE NAMED BAGEL! This is What Happy Looks Like immediately earned points in my book for not only having a dog, but for having a dog named after my favorite food. Un-trope-like, I really enjoyed how there’s no ‘oh-my-gosh do they know that I’ve been emailing them for the past X months and how will our relationship and trust be affected’ action from either character; from the moment they meet, Graham tells Ellie that she’s the guy who’s been emailing. I feel like this saved some unnecessary drama and allowed the plot to move in a less expected direction.
For me, This is What Happy Looks Like fits as a summer contemporary for a few reasons other than the fact that book takes place from May to July. We see Ellie’s sleepy hometown in Maine transform into a summer tourist destination, and her town’s Fourth of July festivities alone would’ve made this a summer read. Ellie’s job in the ice cream shop and getting ice cream with Graham was enough for me to long for summer nights at the beach with a soft-serve.
Jennifer E. Smith’s writing really flows in This is What Happy Looks Like, and it’s the type of read where you don’t realize that you’ve read over 100 pages in just one sitting. I really enjoyed the book’s fast pace, but I wish we got more time with Ellie and her best friend, Quinn. The two get into a fight over Ellie’s secret relationship with Graham pretty early on the book, and I wish their disagreement ended earlier so we got more interaction from Quinn.
Overall, I highly recommend picking this one up for when you’re in the mood for a light-hearted read or need a companion for a beach day. My next Jennifer E. Smith book is going to be The Geography of You and Me.
Have you read This Is What Happy Looks Like? Share in the comments!