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

This Is What Happy Looks LikeTitle: This Is What Happy Looks Like

Author: Jennifer E. Smith

Genre: Contemporary, YA

Publisher: Headline

Publication Date: October 2013

Paperback: 404 pages

Stand alone or series: Stand alone

How did I get this book: Bought

Check out the summary on Goodreads

What I thought:

I enjoyed this one so much that I bought myself a copy of it because I know I’ll want to read it again (also, I’m glad I had it so I could get it signed when I met and interviewed Jen!).

I’ve read some reviews of this book that criticized it because supposedly nothing happens. This is not true. No, it is not action packed and full of twists and turns and blah blah blah. But it is a sweet, adorable book that fills you up from the inside with all its cute. I smiled a lot while reading this book and I love that. It made me feel content. I wasn’t worried about the fact that it wasn’t a rollercoaster of action because I just felt good while reading it.

Ellie gets an email from a mysterious “G” who’s sent the email to her on accident. The two end up chatting back and forth from across the country and a connection grows between them. When Graham Larkin, a relatively new celebrity, shows up in Ellie’s small town to film his new movie, it turns out Ellie’s mysterious “G” is Graham – who moved his movie’s filming location to Ellie’s small town after she told him where she lived. Okay, a little stalker-ish but unbelievably cute.

I really liked both of these characters; Ellie didn’t take any crap from Graham or let him off the hook for anything just because he was a celebrity. She teased him for it and he just loved it. Their banter was hilarious and cute and I loved reading it. The characters both felt whole to me, fully developed with separate personalities, so it was easy to tell whose chapter was whose (each chapter is written in third person but with a focus on either Ellie or Graham). I think I connected a little more with Ellie, probably because I’m not a famous person and I’m a girl. Haha. But I enjoyed both of these characters.

The emails between Graham and Ellie were my favorite part though. The book starts off with their first email exchange and some of their emails back and forth for the next several months. Once the actual chapters begin, we get at least one new email between the two at the beginning of each chapter. I really like when authors have other means of communication between characters (letters, emails, texts, diary entries, etc.). I think it adds another layer to the book to allow us to get to know the characters even more.

Okay, occasionally I felt a little like, “Why is this scene necessary?” or “Dang, this is so cheesy,” but not once did I want to stop reading. Sometimes you just need a book that is so unashamedly adorable and cheesy and sweet, and This Is What Happy Looks Like was just that for me.

POTENTIAL SPOILER. SORT OF. Some people didn’t like the ending of this book, but I really did. Real life isn’t wrapped up with a nice little bow. Everything doesn’t get resolved. There are always problems to be solved and things to work around. I found the ending to the book to be really refreshing.

The bottom line: If you’re looking for a book with really adorable characters, no insta-love, and some sweet romance, check this out. Good for people who love movies or small towns, open endings or lovely beginnings. If you don’t need a book that has action on every page but rather gives you a feeling of contentedness and makes you smile, This Is What Happiness Looks Like is probably for you. I know I said sweet about 275384245 times in this review, but this book is just that. Rot-your-teeth-out, give-you-diabetes sweet.

Rating: 7.5 – between pretty good and freaking fantastic

Reading next: Of Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday

Book Review: The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

The Geography of You and MeTitle: The Geography of You and Me

Author: Jennifer E. Smith

Genre: YA, Contemporary

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Publication Date: April 2014

Hardback: 337 pages

Stand alone or series: Stand alone

How did I get this book: Borrowed from the library

Check out the summary on Goodreads

What I thought:

I knew what I was getting into when I started this book: a hopefully swoon-worthy romance, cute characters, probably a little too idealistic storyline, and a lot of too good to be true. Did all of this stop me from enjoying this book? Heck no. In fact, I loved all of that. Sometimes you want to read a story where it all just works out, don’t you? This isn’t your typical romance though. Shortly after meeting in an elevator in New York, both Lucy and Owen move away from each other. The two of them spend most of the book on two different continents, communicating through postcards (a bit of a joke between the two). This makes it so that the romance is a little less passionate than you might see in other contemporaries. The two characters hardly spend any time together before they realize that there’s just something about the other that they love. It leads to a kind of instalove, but it didn’t bother me in this case.

I think this is because they have separate lives throughout the novel. They each have separate relationships, different schools, and live on completely different continents. So yes, they like each other pretty quickly, but then they must figure out who they are separately before finding each other again.

So I had some issues with the relationship, but my favorite part of this book was seeing all of the different places they went. After meeting, Owen and his father leave NY. They take a road trip across the country, so we see several places through their eyes, before they settle (sort of) in a few cities. Lucy’s father gets a job in Edinburgh (You guys know I loved this!) and then eventually London, but she also takes several trips to different countries. I am a wanderer myself and I love to travel; being able to spend time in my favorite city in the world (Edinburgh) and experience some new places as well was awesome. But not only do these two travel, they deal with some deep feelings (especially Owen who works towards overcoming the grief about his mother’s death), which made this a book not only focused on romance but on some profound feelings too. However, I did get a little bored in the middle with this separation of the two of them and I just kept wanting them to reunite already.

I definitely preferred Owen to Lucy, however. Lucy lives in the penthouse of her building, and her parents constantly leave her at home to travel to other countries, meaning they leave her alone in a penthouse in New York for weeks at a time. She gets kind of emo about this, has no friends, and blah…cry me a river. Owen’s feelings felt much more profound to me as he worked toward overcoming his grief. Once Lucy started to grow and confront her feelings with her mother, I liked her more.

The bottom line: Recommend for hopeless romantics and lovers of travel.

Rating: 7 – pretty good

Reading next: Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid