Reviews for This Is What Happy Looks Like


Booklist Reviews 2013 April #1
When "GDL" gets an e-mail address wrong, the surprise recipient, "EONeill," decides to reply. The two develop a deep and intimate rapport despite guarding their true identities. But down-to-earth movie star Graham Larkin is certain that Ellie is someone special, and he lobbies to shoot his new movie in "the middle of nowhere, Maine," Ellie's hometown. Ellie is shocked to learn who Graham is, and she is anything but thrilled by the prospect of dating a teen heartthrob. Meanwhile, the paparazzi trailing Graham threaten to upturn the quiet, carefully constructed life Ellie and her mother have nurtured to smooth over a high-profile secret. The shared third-person narration lends a quiet insight into these two likable characters whose histories and flaws are relatable and fully fleshed out. The blend of celebrity glitz and small-town coziness gives this summer love story a pleasant frame, and it will leave readers wishing for more time with this endearing couple as the sun rises on their last morning together. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

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BookPage Reviews 2013 April
Summer love in the spotlight

Ellie O’Neill is probably the last person you’d expect to get involved with a movie star. She doesn’t really care about celebrities, and a secret in her own family’s past has made her skittish of even the idea of fame. Thanks to a misspelled email address, however, Ellie finds herself the unwitting pen pal of none other than Graham Larkin, teen heartthrob, who is about to start shooting a film in Ellie’s coastal Maine hometown. This shooting locale is more than just a coincidence, though—Graham pressured the director to choose it because he wants to meet the funny, smart, poetry-quoting girl with whom he’s been corresponding for the past several months. Even if she has no idea—yet—who he is.

Over the course of a single summer, Graham and Ellie’s relationship is characterized by a series of awkward encounters, miscommunications and mixed signals—and by some truly sweet and lovely discoveries. Graham loves Ellie because she sees him for who he is, apart from all the fame and rumors. Ellie loves Graham because he seems to hear and understand her when no one else does. But what will happen if the press gets wind of their romance? Can Ellie risk having her family’s secret uncovered? And can Graham’s career survive him dating someone other than another A-list star?

Told through adorably worded emails and chapters from both Ellie and Graham’s points of view, This Is What Happy Looks Like is both breezy and thoughtful. Author Jennifer E. Smith’s bittersweet romance certainly stretches the boundaries of believability at times, but readers likely won’t care as they’re swept away by the small-town resort atmosphere and the aura of Hollywood glamour that underlie Graham and Ellie’s love story.

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Fall
When sixteen-year-old Ellie erroneously receives an email from GDL824@yahoo.com, she strikes up a flirtatious friendship with the stranger: he's actually Graham Larkin, one of the hottest teen movie stars in the country. Told from both Graham's and Ellie's perspectives, this wish-fulfillment fantasy (who wouldn't want to be secretly corresponding with a celebrity who's both gorgeous and normal?) features likable protagonists who have undeniable chemistry.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2013 #3
When sixteen-year-old Ellie erroneously receives an email from GDL824@yahoo.com, she writes back, striking up a snappy, flirtatious friendship with the stranger. Thankfully, this isn't a cautionary tale about an internet predator, though GDL has omitted crucial information: he's actually Graham Larkin, one of the hottest teen movie stars in the country. And, in part because of their friendship, he's decided to spend the summer filming in Ellie's small town of Henley, Maine. Ellie and Graham feel an instant attraction: after all, they already know each other. But their relationship faces challenges and disapproval from both sides. Graham is encouraged to date an actress and is relentlessly pursued by paparazzi; Ellie, hiding a family secret, doesn't want to be photographed with him or reveal their relationship to her mother. This wish-fulfillment fantasy (who wouldn't want to be secretly corresponding with a celebrity who's both gorgeous and normal?) features likable protagonists who have undeniable chemistry. Told from both Graham's and Ellie's perspectives, the thoughtful narration is slow and unhurried, just like its sleepy small-town setting. Both characters are given time to grow and bring out the best in each other, and Ellie and Graham's connection, "like the pull of a magnet, powerful and inevitable," lingers on beyond their wistful but optimistic goodbye. rachel l. smith

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Kirkus Reviews 2013 March #1
A typo misdirects teen film star Graham's email to Ellie in Henley, Maine, launching an intense epistolary friendship that rapidly becomes an anchor for each. Keeping his identity secret from Ellie frees Graham to be the pre-celebrity self he's felt disappearing. Anonymity allows Ellie to safely share private dreams and worries (like how to pay for the prestigious but expensive Harvard poetry workshop that's accepted her), though not the secrets her family life rests on. Spending his star capital recklessly, Graham insists on Henley as a film location. Their relationship intensifies when they meet in person. Confident yet lonely, Graham pursues more-conflicted Ellie. For Graham--isolated by fame, adrift in a world where image trumps authenticity--Ellie's a lifeline connecting him to what's real. But as their attraction grows, so does the threat his fame poses to Ellie, tasked with protecting family secrets. Utterly convincing, Graham and Ellie lend credibility to the otherwise far-fetched setup. Smith's work, occupying the zone between literary and commercial fiction, occasionally has an airbrushed feel, avoiding life's messier realities. (Graham and Ellie's chaste behavior seems at odds with their passionate longing, for instance.) It's a minor quibble, though, next to the author's strong suit: a cast of vivid, sympathetic characters whose fate matters to readers and keeps them turning the pages. (Fiction. 13 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 March #1

Like Smith's The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight (2012), this sweet novel has a premise worthy of the movies. When a lonely teenage Hollywood heartthrob accidentally e-mails a 16-year-old girl in smalltown Maine, there is an immediate spark. Graham arranges to shoot his new movie in Ellie's seaside town, surprising her with his true identity and leaving levelheaded Ellie feeling "wildly unbalanced." This is partly due to Graham's fame, but also because she fears the spotlight would expose a family secret. The cute, brief e-mails between Ellie and Graham showcase the rapid but authentic connection between them (putting aside that they would be far more likely to text each other in this situation). Because the book is told from both characters' perspectives, readers will understand their vulnerabilities as they try to take their relationship into the real world. Ellie's family secret may not seem severe enough for the consternation it creates, and readers may be exasperated by the dramas that keep the couple apart. However, the charming leads, smalltown backdrop, and absurdly romantic conceit will win hearts. Ages 15-up. Agent: Jennifer Joel, ICM. (Apr.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

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School Library Journal Reviews 2013 May

Gr 8 Up--This well-crafted, character-driven love story opens with an endearing prologue told in emails. When 16-year-old Ellie O'Neill accidentally starts an exchange with a stranger, she doesn't expect their virtual conversations to turn into a romance. But over the course of a few months, that's exactly what happens. Ellie doesn't know the boy's name until he shows up on her doorstep. He's Graham Larkin, a famous movie star whose next film just happens to be shooting in her quiet Maine town. While most of the girls are dying to be in her shoes, she has reservations. Ellie is the illegitimate daughter of a prominent politician, and her mom moved them to escape the unrelenting media. Now they struggle financially in order to maintain their privacy. Graham's life is anything but private. However, though he is handsome and wealthy, the teen is also lonely and uninspired. His parents, uncomfortable with his fame, choose to distance themselves from him, while his controlling manager wants Graham to date his beautiful costar for the good publicity. Despite those obstacles, Ellie and Graham sustain a sweet and genuine romance. Their chemistry is undeniable, and readers will wonder about their love story long after the last page. An excellent recommendation for fans of Maureen Johnson.--Kimberly Garnick Giarratano, Rockaway Township Public Library, NJ

[Page 126]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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VOYA Reviews 2013 June
Ellie O'Neill and Graham Larkin do not just live on opposite coasts, they live pretty opposite lives. Sixteen-year-old Ellie lives in Henley, Maine, a tiny coastal town where everyone knows each other. Money has been tight for Ellie and her single mom as long as she can remember. While just a year older, Graham lives in his own home with a pet pig and holds down a full-time job. Graham is a bona-fide Hollywood heartthrob movie star. But with one small email address error, Graham and Ellie make a connection that gives them the confidence to share their true selves. Yet they each fail to share their biggest secret--his fame and her unacknowledged father. With a little encouragement, Graham's movie selects Henley for their location shoot; and so the real drama begins Engaging from the first page, readers who leap to the conclusion this story sounds like it has been built on an implausible foundation are not only wrong, but are also in danger of missing out on something special. The characters, even the minor characters, have been given purpose and depth, allowing their actions or reactions to seem real and natural. A sweet, chaste romance for almost-strangers is a pleasant addition to a book that is really about discovering who you are, who you want to be, and making the hard choices that are sometimes necessary. A light touch of the Hollywood gossip feeling, a bit of small town comfort, and a satisfying but open-ended conclusion, gives this novel plenty of appeal.--Stacey Hayman Sullivan, Tara. Golden Boy. Putnam/Penguin, 2013. 368p. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-16112-4. 4Q 2P J Habo is a young albino boy growing up in a small Tanzanian village, where his differences not only separate him from the rest of the community, but also cause trouble for him and his family. In his remote village, albinos are murdered for their body parts--considered lucky by different African tribes--and Habo is forced to make the difficult decision to leave his family behind, fleeing to Dar Es Salaam, where he feels he may find a better life and keep his family out of harm's way. Through Habo's journey, different parts of African culture are examined, and awareness is raised, not only of such issues as ivory poaching, but also such lesser known issues as the high murder rate of albinos in Tanzania, a city that has the largest albino population in the world. Habo's powerful narrative describing life when you just do not fit in pairs nicely with the wisdom of a blind elder in Dar Es Salaam to create a moving novel that explores finding the worth of an individual as they see themselves, not as the world sees them. The book finishes nicely with a glossary of African terms and resources to further explore albinism in Africa. Readers who enjoyed Eliot Schrefer's Endangered (Scholastic, 2012/VOYA December 2012) and Michael Williams's Now Is the Time for Running (Little, Brown, 2011/VOYA June 2011) will appreciate this addition to multicultural young adult fiction.--Stephanie Wilkes 5Q 4P M J S Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.

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