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

Genre: contemporary, romance Age Level: young adult Series: N/A
Genre: contemporary, romance
Age Level: young adult
Series: N/A

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?


I generally don’t like contemps because I find them boring and am always left wondering where the storytelling is. I don’t just want to hear about some random person’s life, I want to read about someone interesting or someone who does something interesting.  I can always read a biography if I want to hear about someone’s life. Yet occasionally, a contemp comes along that I do enjoy, like The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight.

I was hoping my enjoyment of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight signified two things. One, that I might actually like contemporaries more than I thought I did and two, that I’d found an author who wrote the type of contemp I liked. Well I was wrong on both scores. This is What Happy Looks like got on my nerves in the same way your average contemp does. Apart from the quirky concept behind the romance, it wasn’t really an interesting story. Luckily Smith’s writing, quirky concept and lovable characters saved the story.

Between the brilliant idea for a story and the third person present tense narration, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight felt magical. This is What Happy Feels like just didn’t do that for me. For one thing, it was much too long. I adored the 24 hour time setting of The Statistical Probability, but the month that This is What Happy Looks Like is stretched over felt unnecessary. Somewhere in the middle I began to lose interest and only regained it at the end. It became too repetitive and boring as there wasn’t much else to the story apart from Graham and Ellie’s romance and life stories. I did enjoy reading about Graham and Ellie’s lives – I just wish it would have been shorter.

I learned a lot about what it’s like to be a movie star from Graham and how to take chances from Ellie. Their romance was adorable and I enjoyed any part with dialogue between them tremendously. We’ve all texted strangers accidentally, or had them text you, and I’ve always wondered what would have if you furthered the conversation. Who could you end up talking to? Who could you meet? I was worried that the concept would be forced, but the flow of the conversation and the ease at which Graham and Ellie write to each other is masterfully done. It feels organic and leaves you hoping for a similar email in your own inbox.

So it was light and fluffy and fun and enjoyable, but nothing more. It was by no means a bad book, and I recommend it to fans of contemps, it’s just not my thing. I’ll likely still read the Geography of You and Me, but only when I’m in the mood for something completely opposite to what I usually read.

Other books by Jennifer E. Smith:

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight 

Do you like contemporaries? Do you have any recommendations of contemporaries you think I’d like? I’d love to hear from you!


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