This Is What Happy Looks Like

( 57 )

Overview


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 ...

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Overview


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?

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

It all began with a misaddressed email about his pet pig. Drawn in by the unknown sender, Ellie O'Neill responded, never suspecting that her appealing new correspondent is teenage film swoon Graham Larkin. The email exchange continues and intensifies until it reaches an inevitable roadblock: Graham wants to shoot his next picture in Ellie's Maine hometown. What happens next endangers their relationship, but does it doom it?

Publishers Weekly
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.)
The Horn Book
"Undeniable chemistry...Ellie and Graham's connection, 'like the pull of a magnet, powerful and inevitable,' lingers on beyond their wistful but optimistic goodbye."
Booklist
"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."
From the Publisher
* "Engaging from the first page."—VOYA, starred review

"Like Smith's The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight (2012), this sweet novel has a premise worthy of the movies... [The] charming leads, smalltown backdrop, and absurdly romantic conceit will win hearts."—Publishers Weekly

"Utterly convincing... a cast of vivid, sympathetic characters whose fate matters to readers and keeps them turning the pages."—Kirkus Reviews

"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."—Booklist

"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."—School Library Journal

"Undeniable chemistry...Ellie and Graham's connection, 'like the pull of a magnet, powerful and inevitable,' lingers on beyond their wistful but optimistic goodbye."—The Horn Book

Children's Literature - Paula McMillen
Happiness looks different to different people and this discussion is part of an ongoing e-mail exchange that brings together two teens from totally opposite lifestyles and parts of the country. A mistyped e-mail address initially connects Graham and Ellie who become friends without really knowing some important things about one another, like the fact that Graham is now a wildly popular young movie star and that Ellie and her mom are flying under the radar due to an earlier scandal involving Ellie's father. So there are just so many reasons why Graham's idea to bring the shooting of his current film to Ellie's little town in Maine in order to meet Ellie is not such a great idea. Wanting to protect her daughter from the type of rapacious press coverage she has experienced in the past, Ellie's mom tries to keep them apart. Ellie's best friend, Quinn, is totally shutting Ellie out for having kept this relationship a secret. And Graham's agent wants him to be involved with his new co-star rather than a local girl. Even though a lot of things go wrong, Ellie and Graham are drawn together by the total honesty of their earlier, somewhat anonymous e-mail relationship. There is no tidy ending here, although Ellie does get at least one thing her heart desires. And reminiscent of the movie Notting Hill, you could say Graham is just a boy who wants a girl to love him. The story is told through portions of the original e-mail exchange and then through chapters told from either Graham's or Ellie's point-of-view. Reviewer: Paula McMillen, Ph.D.
VOYA - Stacey Hayman
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. Reviewer: Stacey Hayman
Kirkus Reviews
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)
SLJ
"The teens are realistic and empathetic characters, and their story unfolds effortlessly, quickly capturing readers' interest. Fans of Sarah Dessen will enjoy this enchanting novel of family quandaries and love at first sight."
The New York Times Book Review
"A gorgeous, heartwarming reminder of the power of fate."
Susane Colasanti
"This phenomenal depiction of an instant connection shows that everything happens for a reason. Smith's unique story will make you contemplate the magic of fate. I've been waiting for a love story like this forever."
School Library Journal
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
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316212823
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 4/2/2013
  • Pages: 404
  • Sales rank: 89,688
  • Age range: 13 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 1010L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Jennifer E. Smith
Jennifer E. Smith is the author of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, The Storm Makers, You Are Here and The Comeback Season. She earned her master's degree in creative writing from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and currently works as an editor in New York City.
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Read an Excerpt

This Is What Happy Looks Like


By Jennifer E. Smith

Poppy

Copyright © 2013 Jennifer E. Smith
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780316212823

PROLOGUE

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 10:18 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: (no subject)

Hey, we’re running pretty behind here. Any chance you could walk Wilbur for me tonight?

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 10:24 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

I think you have the wrong e-mail address. But since I’m a dog owner too, and I don’t want poor Wilbur to be stranded, I thought I’d write back and let you know…

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 10:33 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

Ah, sorry about that. New phone, so I’m typing in the address. Looks like I forgot a number. Wilbur and I both thank you. (And by the way, he’s actually a pig.)

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 10:34 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

A pig! What kind of pig goes for walks?

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 10:36 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

The very sophisticated kind. He even has his own leash…

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 10:42 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

Some pig!

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 10:45 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

Oh, yeah. He’s terrific! Radiant! Humble!

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 10:47 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

Wow, a pig owner and a fan of Charlotte’s Web. You must be either a farmer or a librarian.

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 11:01 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

I dabble in both.

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 11:03 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

Seriously?

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 11:04 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

No. Not seriously. What about you?

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 11:05 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

I’m neither a farmer nor a librarian.

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 11:11 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

Let me guess then. You’re an underemployed dogwalker who’s been sitting by the computer in the hope that someone might ask you to walk something more exciting than a poodle?

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 11:12 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

Bingo. Guess this is my lucky day…

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 11:13 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

Really, though. What’s your deal?

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 11:14 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

… asks the random stranger from the Internet.

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 11:15 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

… says the girl who’s still writing back.

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 11:17 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

How do you know I’m a girl?

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 11:18 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

Easy. You quoted Charlotte’s Web.

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 11:19 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

So did you!

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 11:24 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

Yeah, but my parents are teachers.

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 11:26 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

So does that mean you’re not a girl?

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 11:27 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

Nope. Not a girl.

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 11:31 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

Does that mean you’re a creepy old Internet predator using your pet pig as an excuse to stalk 16-year-old girls?

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 11:33 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

Busted.

No, I’m only seventeen, which I think lands me pretty solidly outside of creepy-old-man territory.

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 11:38 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

Fair enough. Though, unfortunately, I’m still not available to walk Wilbur tonight. And even if I was, you’d probably have to find someone a little bit closer, since I doubt you live anywhere near me.

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 11:39 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

How do you know?

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 11:40 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

I’m from Middle-of-Nowhere, Maine.

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 11:42 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

Oh, then I guess you’re right. I’m from Middle-of-Everything, California.

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 11:43 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

Lucky duck.

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 11:44 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

Lucky pig, actually.

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 11:48 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

Right! Hey, weren’t you running behind with something?

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 11:51 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

Yeah, I should probably be getting back to it…

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 11:55 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

Okay. Nice talking to you. And sorry I couldn’t come through for Wilbur.

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 11:57 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

He’ll forgive you, I’m sure. He’s a very magnanimous pig.

  • From:



  • Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 11:58 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

I’m relieved to hear that.

  • From:



  • Sent: Friday, March 8, 2013 12:01 AM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

Hey, E?

  • From:



  • Sent: Friday, March 8, 2013 12:02 AM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

Yes… G?

  • From:



  • Sent: Friday, March 8, 2013 12:03 AM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

What if I e-mail you again tomorrow?

  • From:



  • Sent: Friday, March 8, 2013 12:04 AM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

I don’t know. I’m not exactly in the habit of trolling the Internet for pen pals…

  • From:



  • Sent: Friday, March 8, 2013 12:05 AM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

But?

  • From:



  • Sent: Friday, March 8, 2013 12:07 AM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

But I’m also terrible at good-byes.

  • From:



  • Sent: Friday, March 8, 2013 12:08 AM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

Okay then. I’ll just say hello again instead.

  • From:



  • Sent: Friday, March 8, 2013 12:09 AM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

I like that better. And I’ll say: Good morning!

  • From:



  • Sent: Friday, March 8, 2013 12:10 AM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

But it’s not morning…

  • From:



  • Sent: Friday, March 8, 2013 12:12 AM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

It is in Maine.

  • From:



  • Sent: Friday, March 8, 2013 12:13 AM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

Ah, right. Then: Howdy!

  • From:



  • Sent: Friday, March 8, 2013 12:14 AM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

How very western of you. Greetings!

  • From:



  • Sent: Friday, March 8, 2013 12:15 AM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

Are you an alien invader? Ni hao.

  • From:



  • Sent: Friday, March 8, 2013 12:17 AM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

You definitely just looked that one up.

  • From:



  • Sent: Friday, March 8, 2013 12:19 AM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

You don’t think I’m proficient in Chinese?

  • From:



  • Sent: Friday, March 8, 2013 12:20 AM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

I do not.

  • From:



  • Sent: Friday, March 8, 2013 12:21 AM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

Fair enough. Then, salutations! (That one was from Wilbur, of course.)

  • From:



  • Sent: Friday, March 8, 2013 12:24 AM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

Of course. Until tomorrow…

  • From:



  • Sent: Friday, March 8, 2013 12:25 AM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

Wait, is that your way of saying good-bye without really saying good-bye?

  • From:



  • Sent: Friday, March 8, 2013 12:27 AM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

No. Actually, I’m not sure I’m quite finished saying hello yet.

  • From:



  • Sent: Friday, March 8, 2013 12:30 AM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

Me neither. Hello.

  • From:



  • Sent: Friday, March 8, 2013 12:31 AM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

Hi.

  • From:



  • Sent: Friday, March 8, 2013 12:33 AM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

Good morning.

  • From:



  • Sent: Friday, March 8, 2013 12:34 AM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

I already said that one.

  • From:



  • Sent: Friday, March 8, 2013 12:36 AM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: (no subject)

Yeah, but it really is.

PART I

  • From:



  • Sent: Saturday, June 8, 2013 12:42 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: hi

Don’t you hate it when people use smiley faces in their e-mails?

  • From:



  • Sent: Saturday, June 8, 2013 12:59 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: not really

  • From:



  • Sent: Saturday, June 8, 2013 1:04 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: not really

I’m going to ignore that.

I read once that in Russia, they usually end the salutation of a letter with an exclamation point. Isn’t that funny? It must always seem like they’re shouting at each other. Or that they’re really surprised to find themselves in touch.

  • From:



  • Sent: Saturday, June 8, 2013 1:07 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: not a chance

Or maybe they’re just really happy to be writing to that person…

Like I am: !

  • From:



  • Sent: Saturday, June 8, 2013 1:11 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: not a chance

Well, thank you. But that’s not what happy looks like.

  • From:



  • Sent: Saturday, June 8, 2013 1:12 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: not a chance

What does it look like, then?

  • From:



  • Sent: Saturday, June 8, 2013 1:18 PM

  • To:



  • Subject: what happy looks like

Sunrises over the harbor. Ice cream on a hot day. The sound of the waves down the street. The way my dog curls up next to me on the couch. Evening strolls. Great movies. Thunderstorms. A good cheeseburger. Fridays. Saturdays. Wednesdays, even. Sticking your toes in the water. Pajama pants. Flip-flops. Swimming. Poetry. The absence of smiley faces in an e-mail.

What does it look like to you?

1

It was not all that different from the circus, and it came to town in much the same way. Only instead of elephants and giraffes, there were cameras and microphones. Instead of clowns and cages and tightropes, there were production assistants and trailers and yards upon yards of thick cables.

There was a sense of magic in the way it appeared as if from nowhere, cropping up so quickly that even those who had been expecting it were taken by surprise. And as the people of Henley showed up to watch, even the most jaded members of the film crew couldn’t help feeling a slight shiver of anticipation, a low current of electricity that seemed to pulse through the town. They were used to filming in locations like Los Angeles and New York, cities where the locals gave them a wide berth, grumbling about the traffic and the disappearance of parking spots, shaking their heads at the huge lights that snuffed out the darkness. There were places in the world where a movie shoot was nothing more than a nuisance, a bothersome interruption of real life.

But Henley, Maine, was not one of them.

It was June, so the crowds that had gathered to watch the men unload the trucks were fairly large. The size of the town rose and fell like the tides. Through the winter, the full-timers rattled around the empty shops, bundled against the frost coming off the water. But as soon as summer rolled around, the population swelled to four or five times its usual size, a stream of tourists once again filling the gift shops and cottages and B&Bs that lined the coast. Henley was like a great hibernating bear, dozing through the long winters before coming back to life again at the same time each year.

Most everyone in town waited eagerly for Memorial Day, when the seasons clicked forward and the usual three-month frenzy of boaters and fishermen and honeymooners and vacationers invaded. But Ellie O’Neill had always dreaded it, and now, as she tried to pick her way through the thick knots of people in the village square, she was reminded of why. In the off-season, the town was hers. But on this blisteringly hot day at the start of June, it belonged to strangers again.

And this summer would be worse than ever.

Because this summer, there would be a movie too.

A few seagulls wheeled overheard, and from some distant boat a bell began to clang. Ellie hurried past the gawking tourists and away from the trailers, which now lined the harbor road like a gypsy caravan. There was a sharp tang of salt in the air, and the smell of frying fish was already drifting out of the town’s oldest restaurant, the Lobster Pot. Its owner, Joe Gabriele, was leaning against the doorframe, his eyes trained on the flurry of activity down the street.

“Kind of crazy, huh?” he said, and Ellie paused to follow his gaze. As they watched, a long black limo glided up to the main production tent, followed by a van and two motorcycles. “And now photographers too,” he muttered.

Ellie couldn’t help frowning as she watched the explosion of flashes that accompanied the opening of the limo door.

Joe sighed. “All I can say is, they better eat a lot of lobster.”

“And ice cream,” Ellie added.

“Right,” he said, nodding at the blue T-shirt with her name stitched to the pocket. “And ice cream too.”

By the time she reached the little yellow shop with the green awning that read SPRINKLES in faded letters, Ellie was already ten minutes late. But she didn’t have to worry; the only person inside was Quinn—her very best friend and the world’s very worst employee—who was hunched over the ice-cream counter, flipping through the pages of a magazine.

“Can you believe we’re stuck in here today?” she asked as Ellie walked in, the bell above the door jangling.

The inside of the shop was wonderfully cool and smelled like spun sugar, and as always, there was something about it that made the years recede for Ellie, peeling them back one at a time like the layers of an onion. She had been only four when she and her mom moved here, and after the long drive up from Washington, D.C.—the car heavy because of all they’d taken with them and silent because of all they had not—they’d stopped in town to ask for directions to the cottage they’d rented for the summer. Mom had been in a rush, eager to finish the journey that had started well before the ten-hour drive. But Ellie had walked right through the front door and pushed her freckled nose against the domed glass, and so her first memory of their new life would always be the black-and-white tiles, the cool air on her face, and the sweet taste of orange sherbet.

Now she ducked beneath the counter and grabbed an apron from the hook. “Trust me,” she said to Quinn, “you don’t want to be out there right now. It’s a total zoo.”

“Of course it is,” she said, twisting around and then hoisting herself up so that she was sitting beside the cash register, her feet dangling well above the floor. Quinn had always been tiny, and even when they were younger, Ellie used to feel like a giant beside her, tall and gawky and entirely too noticeable with her red hair. The Bean and the Beanpole, Mom used to call them, and Ellie always wondered how it was fair that the only thing she’d inherited from her father was his ridiculous height, especially when her only goal in life was to stay under the radar.

“This is probably the biggest thing that’s ever happened here,” Quinn was saying, her eyes bright. “It would be like something out of the movies if it wasn’t literally a movie.” She grabbed the magazine and held it up. “And it isn’t some little dinky art-house film either. I mean, there are huge stars in this thing. Olivia Brooks and Graham Larkin. Graham Larkin. Here for a whole month.”

Ellie squinted at the photo being dangled in front of her, which showed a face she’d seen a thousand times before, a dark-haired guy with even darker sunglasses, scowling as he muscled his way through a group of photographers. She knew he was right around their age, but there was something about him that made him seem older. Ellie tried to picture him here in Henley, dodging paparazzi, signing autographs, chatting with his beautiful costar between takes, but she couldn’t seem to make her imagination cooperate in that way.

“Everyone thinks he and Olivia are dating, or will be soon,” Quinn said. “But you never know. Maybe small-town girls are more his type. Do you think he’ll come in here at all?”

“There are only like twelve shops in the whole town,” Ellie said. “So the odds are probably in your favor.”

Quinn watched as she began rinsing the ice-cream scoops in the sink. “How can you not care about this stuff at all?” she asked. “It’s exciting.”

“It’s a pain,” Ellie said without looking up.

“It’s good for business.”

“It’s like a carnival.”

“Exactly,” Quinn said, looking triumphant. “And carnivals are fun.”

“Not if you hate roller coasters.”

“Well, you’re stuck on this one whether you like it or not,” Quinn said with a laugh. “So you better buckle up.”

Mornings were always quiet at the shop; the real rush didn’t start until after lunchtime, but because the town was so busy today, a few people trickled in to buy bags of penny candy from the jars on the shelves, or to cool off with an early cone. Just before the end of her shift, Ellie was helping a little boy pick out a flavor while Quinn made a chocolate milkshake for his mother, who was busy on her cell phone.

“What about mint chip?” Ellie suggested, leaning over the cool glass as the boy—probably no more than three years old—stood on his tiptoes in an effort to survey the various flavors. “Or cookie dough?”

He shook his head, his hair falling across his eyes. “I want pig.”

“Pink?”

“Pig,” he said again, but less certainly.

“Strawberry?” Ellie asked, pointing at the pink container, and the boy nodded.

“Pigs are pink,” he explained to her as she scooped some into a small cup for him.

“That’s true,” she said, handing him the cup. But her mind was already elsewhere; she was thinking about an e-mail she’d gotten a couple weeks ago from—well, she didn’t quite know who it was from; not really, anyway. But it had been about his pig, Wilbur, who had apparently, to his horror, gotten hold of a hot dog during a barbeque.

My pig, the e-mail had read, is now officially a cannibal.

That’s okay, Ellie had written back. I’d be surprised if there was any real meat in that hot dog at all.

This had been followed by a lengthy exchange about what exactly was in hot dogs, which had then, of course, spun off into other topics, from favorite foods to best holiday meals, and before she knew it, the clock was showing that it was nearly two in the morning. Once again, they’d managed to talk about everything without really talking about anything at all, and once again, Ellie had stayed up way too late.

But it was worth it.

Even now, she could feel herself smiling at the memory of those e-mails, which felt as real and honest as any conversation she’d ever had face-to-face. She was practically on California time now, staying up late to wait for his address to appear on her screen, her thoughts constantly drifting across the country to the other coast. She knew it was ridiculous. They didn’t even know each other’s names. But the morning after that first e-mail went astray, she’d woken up to find another note from him.

Good morning, E, he’d written. It’s late here, and I just got home to find Wilbur asleep in my closet. He generally stays in the laundry room when I’m out, but his “dogwalker” must have forgotten to shut the gate. If you’d been nearby, I’m sure you’d have done a much better job…

Ellie had only just gotten out of bed, and she sat there at her desk with the morning light streaming in through the window, blinking and yawning and smiling without quite knowing why. She closed her eyes. Good morning, E.

Was there any better way to greet the day?

Sitting there, thinking back to the previous night’s correspondence, she’d felt a rush of exhilaration. And though it seemed odd that she still didn’t know his name, something kept her from asking. Those two little words, she knew, would inevitably set off a chain reaction: first Google, then Facebook, then Twitter, and on and on, mining the twists and turns of the Internet until all the mystery had been wrung out of the thing.

Maybe the facts weren’t as important as the rest of it: this feeling of anticipation as her fingers hovered over the keyboard, or the way the lingering question mark that had pulsed inside her all night had been so quickly replaced by an exclamation point at the sight of his e-mail. Maybe there was something safe in the not knowing, something that made it feel like all the mundane questions you were usually required to ask were not all that important after all.

She considered the screen for another moment, then lowered her hands to the keys. Dear G, she’d written, and so it had gone.

Theirs was a partnership of details rather than facts. And the details were the best part. Ellie knew, for example, that GDL—as she’d taken to thinking of him—once cut open his forehead while attempting to jump off the roof of his family’s van as a kid. Another time, he’d pretended to drown in a neighbor’s pool, and then scared the hell out of everyone when they tried to rescue him. He liked to draw buildings—high-rises and brownstones and skyscrapers with rows upon rows of windows—and when he was anxious, he’d sketch out entire cities. He played the guitar, but not well. He wanted to live in Colorado someday. The only thing he could cook was grilled cheese sandwiches. He hated e-mailing most people, but not her.

Are you any good at keeping secrets? she’d written to him once, because it was something she felt was important to know. It seemed to Ellie that you could tell a lot about someone by the way they carried a secret—by how safe they kept it, how soon they told, the way they acted when they were trying to keep it from spilling out.

Yes, he’d replied. Are you?

Yes, she’d said simply, and they left it at that.

All her life, secrets had been things that were heavy and burdensome. But this? This was different. It was like a bubble inside her, light and buoyant and fizzy enough to make her feel like she was floating through each day.

It had been only three months since that first e-mail, but it felt like much longer. If Mom noticed a difference, she didn’t say anything. If Quinn thought she was acting funny, she made no mention of it. The only person who could probably tell was the one on the other end of all those e-mails.

Now she found herself grinning at the cup of pink ice cream as she handed it to the boy. Behind her, there was a loud click and a sputter, followed by a thick glugging sound, and when Ellie spun to see what was happening, it was to find the aftermath of a chocolate milkshake explosion. It was everywhere, on the walls and the counter and the floor, but mostly all over Quinn, who blinked twice, then wiped her face with the back of her arm.

For a moment, Ellie was sure Quinn was about to cry. Her entire shirt was soaked with chocolate, and there was more of it stuck in her hair. She looked like she’d just been mud wrestling—and lost.

But then her face split into a grin. “Think Graham Larkin would like this look?”

Ellie laughed. “Who doesn’t like chocolate milkshakes?”

The boy’s mother had lowered her cell phone, her mouth open, but now she dug for her wallet and placed a few bills on the counter. “I think we’ll just take the ice cream,” she said, shepherding her son out the front door, glancing back only once at Quinn, who was still dripping.

“More for us,” Ellie said, and they began to laugh all over again.

By the time they’d gotten the mess cleaned up, Ellie’s shift was almost over.

Quinn glanced up at the clock, then down at her shirt. “Lucky you. I’ve got two more hours to stand around looking like something that crawled out of Willy Wonka’s factory.”

“I’ve got a tank top on underneath,” Ellie said, peeling off her blue T-shirt and handing it over. “Wear mine.”

“Thanks,” Quinn muttered, ducking into the tiny bathroom near the freezers in the back of the store. “I think I’ve even got chocolate in my ears.”

“It’ll help you survive the noise when things start getting busy,” Ellie called back. “Want me to wait with you till Devon gets here? I can be late for Mom’s.”

“That’s okay,” Quinn said, and when she emerged again, she was wearing Ellie’s shirt as if it were a dress. “It’s a little long,” she admitted, trying to tuck in all the extra material. “But I’ll make it work. I can stop by the shop when I’m done to give it back.”

“Great,” Ellie said. “See you then.”

“Hey,” Quinn called, just as Ellie was about to walk out the door, her shoulders now bare except for the thin straps of her tank top. “Sunscreen?”

“I’m fine,” she said, rolling her eyes. It was just the second week of summer vacation and already Quinn had a deep tan. Ellie, on the other hand, was only ever one of two shades: very white or very pink. When they were little, she’d landed in the hospital with a bad case of sun poisoning after a trip to the beach, and ever since then, Quinn had taken it upon herself to enforce the liberal use of sunblock. It was a habit that Ellie found simultaneously endearing and annoying—after all, she already had a mother—but nevertheless, Quinn was unrelenting in her duties.

Outside, Ellie paused to study the movie set being assembled down the street. There was less of a crowd now; people must have grown tired of watching the teams of men in black shirts rushing around with heavy trunks of equipment. But just as she was about to head up toward the gift shop, she noticed a guy in a Dodgers cap approaching the ice-cream parlor.

His head was low and his hands were in his pockets, but everything about his casual posture suggested a kind of effort; he was trying so hard to blend in that he ended up sticking out all the more. Part of her was thinking that he could be anyone—he was, after all, just a guy; just a boy, really—but she knew immediately that he wasn’t. She knew exactly who he was. There was something too sharply defined about him, like he was walking across a billboard or a stage rather than a small street in Maine. The whole thing was oddly surreal, and for a moment, Ellie could almost see the magic in it; she could almost understand why someone might fall under his spell.

When he was just a few feet away from her, he glanced up, and she was startled by his eyes, a blue so deep she’d always half assumed they were touched up in the magazines. But even from beneath the brim of his cap, they were penetrating, and she pulled in a sharp breath as they landed on her briefly before sliding over to the awning of the shop.

The thought occurred to her with surprising force: He’s sad. She wasn’t sure how she knew this, but she was suddenly certain that it was true. Underneath all the rest of it—an unexpected nervousness, a hint of caution, a bit of wariness—there was also a sadness so deep it startled her. It was there in his eyes, which were so much older than the rest of him, and in the practiced blankness of his gaze.

She’d read about him, of course, and seemed to recall that he wasn’t one of those celebrities always in and out of rehab. As far as she knew, he didn’t have financial troubles or nightmare parents. He hadn’t been brought up as one of those poor child stars either; his big break had happened only a couple of years ago. She’d heard he celebrated his sixteenth birthday by flying the entire cast of his last movie to Switzerland to go skiing in the Alps. And he’d been linked to several of the most sought-after young actresses in Hollywood.

There was no reason Graham Larkin should be sad.

But he is, Ellie thought.

He’d come to a stop outside the ice-cream parlor and seemed to be weighing something as he stood there. To her surprise, his eyes drifted over to her one more time, and she smiled reflexively. But he only gazed at her for a long moment, his face unchanged beneath the low brim of his cap, and the smile slid from her face again.

As she watched, he squared his shoulders and stepped up to the door of the shop, and Ellie’s eyes caught Quinn’s through the window. She mouthed something that Ellie couldn’t make out, her face a picture of disbelief, and then turned her attention back to the entrance as the bell rang out and Graham Larkin made his way inside.

It was only then that the photographers appeared, seemingly from nowhere, six of them, with enormous black cameras and bags strung over their shoulders, each of them rushing to press against the window, where they began to snap photos with frantic intensity. From inside the store, Graham Larkin didn’t even turn around.

Ellie stood there for another moment, her eyes flicking between the window, where Quinn was smiling behind the counter as he approached, and the photographers, who were jostling one another for better angles. Those milling around in the streets nearby started to drift closer, drawn to the scene by some sort of magnetic pull, an irresistible mixture of celebrity and spectacle. But as the crowd grew, Ellie took a few steps backward, making her escape around the side of the building before anyone could notice she was gone.

  • From:



  • Sent: Sunday, June 9, 2013 10:24 AM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: what happy looks like

Visiting new places.

2

Graham had been visualizing this moment for weeks now. And so the way it was all unfolding—the town looking just as he’d imagined it, the rows of shops and the salty breeze at his back—almost made it feel like he was in a dream.

The sun was gauzy behind a thin film of clouds, and his head was pounding. He’d taken the red-eye to Portland and, as usual, hadn’t slept at all. Graham had never flown when he was growing up, and even with things like first-class seating and private jets, he was still restless and anxious in the air, unaccustomed to the rhythms of this type of travel, no matter how much of his life seemed to be spent on a plane.

But it didn’t matter now. As he walked to the shop, he felt more alert than he had in ages, wide awake and burning with conviction. It had been a long time since he’d felt this way. In the past two years, as his life had become increasingly unrecognizable, Graham had grown as malleable as a piece of clay. He was now accustomed to being told what to do, how to act, who to see, and what to say when he saw them. Casual-seeming conversations on the couches of talk shows were pre-scripted. Dates were set up for him by his people. His clothes were chosen by a stylist who was forever trying to wrangle him into V-neck shirts and skinny jeans, things he’d never have been caught dead in before.

But before felt like a million years ago.

And this is how things were in the after.

If someone had told him two years ago that he’d be living on his own at seventeen—in a house three times the size of the one he’d grown up in, complete with a pool and a game room and the necessary precaution of a state-of-the-art security system—Graham would have laughed. But like everything else that came on the heels of his first movie role and the unexpected feeding frenzy that followed it, this just seemed like the next logical step. There had been a momentum to the whole chain of events that struck him as inevitable. First there was a new agent, then a new publicist; a new house and a new car; new ways of acting in public and new tutors to help him finish high school while filming; new rules for social engagements; and, of course, new and previously unimagined possibilities for getting into trouble.

Even his parents were different. Now, whenever he stopped by, they were both oddly strained, choosing their words carefully, as if they were all on camera. Every once in a while, Graham would do something that used to drive them nuts—leave his dirty dishes on the counter or his shoes strewn in the middle of the hallway—but instead of barking at him like they used to, they’d only exchange an unreadable look and then pretend not to see it. The whole thing was so disconcerting that Graham had, for the most part, stopped going home at all.

He thought this must be what whiplash felt like. It wasn’t long ago that he was just a high school sophomore acting the part of Nathan Detroit in the dim auditorium, after having tried out on a lark for the same reason he did most things: to impress a girl. A few days later, he’d been shocked to actually discover his name on the casting list.

His school was located in a suburb so affluent that Graham often felt like a visitor to some strange and well-groomed planet, but its proximity to L.A. meant that most of his classmates, and certainly those in the drama club, dreamed of Hollywood. They’d spent their lives at dance lessons and voice lessons and acting lessons. They studied Variety to keep up a certain level of industry knowledge, and they viewed shopping as an important opportunity to cultivate their image.

But then Graham, lanky and off-key and a little bit awkward, had sauntered onstage with a goofy grin directed at some girl he’d never even spoken to, and somehow, he’d managed to get the part. And yet, nobody else seemed to find this odd. That’s just the way things had always worked for him. He’d never had a problem making sports teams or the honor roll, collecting awards for everything from Most Valuable Player to Exemplary Citizen. For better or worse, he’d always been that guy.

And so there he was on opening night, plowing his way through the lyrics in a costume that was perhaps a size too small, his eyes watering from the glare of the lights, feeling less certain about his plan to ask the girl playing Adelaide to the spring formal afterward. As it turned out, he didn’t have the chance. A classmate’s father was trying to cast an unknown to play a teenage magician in a movie—not the lead, but the one who makes the love interest doubt her feelings for the hero—and afterward, he cornered Graham to discuss the possibility of his coming in for some screen tests. His parents, as clueless as he was about just what it might mean if he got the part, agreed that it could be a good opportunity, a fun experience, maybe even something to put on his college applications—and if things worked out, to help foot the bill.

Later, all the magazines would describe his emergence as a star in ways that made him sound like a cartoon character, how he’d been “plucked from obscurity” or “skyrocketed to fame” or “catapulted into the limelight.” And that was sort of how it felt. He enjoyed the acting part of it more than he thought he would, and at first, he found the world of Hollywood intriguing, a welcome distraction from the smaller melodramas of high school.

But what nobody ever told him was that once something like this happens to you, there’s no going back. In hindsight, this seemed like it should have been obvious, something he might have realized before everything was already in motion, but there was a slow inertia to the whole process that made it feel less like a catapult and more like a tumble down a hill. And as with most cartoon characters, once the ground ran out beneath him, he continued to hang there in midair, legs churning, hoping that if he just kept moving, maybe he wouldn’t fall.

It was lonelier than he ever could have imagined. There were agents and managers and directors, costars and tutors and wardrobe specialists, publicists and hairstylists and image consultants. But none of them seemed quite real to him, and when the cameras stopped rolling, they faded away like opportunistic ghosts. He tried to keep up with his friends from high school, but something had shifted between them, and in this strange and uncharted territory, they didn’t know how to act around him anymore. He’d drifted too far beyond the world of curfews and homework and soccer practice, and once he stopped offering up his house for parties, there was little reason for them to see one another anymore.

It was the same with the new people he met at events and parties, and with the girls he met pretty much everywhere. Before, he’d been the guy everyone wanted to be around because he was funny, and because he knew how to have a good time, and because underneath it all, he was actually pretty decent. But now he was the guy everyone wanted to be around because he was good-looking and famous and had a nice house, or because they wanted those things too, and thought he might be the key.

So when he wasn’t working, he holed up and read the scripts his agent sent, trying to fill his days. He went to parties only occasionally, usually to meet some hot new director or a writer he’d been hearing good things about, and when the photographers inevitably showed up, he smiled grimly and left as soon as he could slip away. He read more books than he ever had in school. He ordered more pizza than he thought was possible. He played video games with depressing enthusiasm. He adopted a pig and the two of them spent most of their days out by the pool.

Then one of his e-mails found its way to her.

And just like that, he understood the power of the Internet. There was something intoxicating in the anonymity of it all. Suddenly, he had a clean slate. He was as much a mystery to her as she was to him, no longer Graham Larkin, but just GDL824. And GDL824 could be anyone, a hundred different brands of seventeen-year-old guy: the kind who lived for football or who won awards for playing chess, the type who smoked on the bike path behind school or who was one of those geniuses already in his second year of med school. He might be a guy who collected butterflies or baseball pennants or girlfriends. He could be a fan of rock stars or tennis stars or the countless stars in the sky. He could be a fan of Graham Larkin, for all it mattered.

The point was, he could be anyone.

For weeks, as he reported for preproduction on his newest movie—a love story, this time, to showcase his more sensitive side—he struggled to keep his attention on the studio in L.A. But his mind was all the way on the other side of the country. Ever since she first mentioned she was from Maine, Graham had found himself reading up on the state as if it were some sort of exotic land.

Did you know that the wild blueberry is the state berry of Maine? he wrote to her one night. And, more important, that the state treat is the whoopie pie?

I don’t even know what a whoopie pie is, she’d written back. And I work in a sweet shop. So I have a feeling you’re making that up.

I’m not, he responded. In fact, I imagine that all towns in Maine are paved with whoopie pies.

Not Henley, she’d said, and like a coal miner grasping about in the darkness, he was suddenly presented with the tiniest crack of light.

Just a few days earlier, the location scout for the film had been fired after it was discovered that the North Carolina town where they were meant to be shooting for the first month of the summer was under attack by a swarm of cicadas. The director was furious that she’d managed to overlook a bug infestation that showed up every thirteen years like clockwork, but Graham had been secretly pleased.

He’d suggested changing the location to Henley, pointing out that it had everything they were looking for: the quaint shops, the scenic harbor, the rough stretch of beach. He spoke of it as if he’d been there many times, and the truth was, he’d thought about the place so often recently that, in a way, it felt like he had.

Still, it took some convincing, and in the end, Graham had been forced to act the way everyone always seemed to expect him to act anyway: he was petulant and demanding and condescending. He made threats and waved his phone around menacingly. And to his surprise, it had worked. New scouts were sent ahead and reported back that it was indeed a perfect location. Permissions were obtained and papers were signed. The second unit went out early to start collecting B roll. And Graham and his costars were slated to spend four weeks at the Henley Inn, which was just three-tenths of a mile from the only sweet shop in town.

Even if his love life weren’t a newsworthy topic, and even if he weren’t constantly wary of the potential for gossip and rumors, Graham still wouldn’t have told anybody the real reason he was so desperate to go to Henley. At best, it made him sound a little crazy. At worst, it made him seem like a stalker.

But the truth was, he was pretty sure he was falling for a girl he’d never met before, a girl whose name he didn’t even know.

He realized that it was ridiculous. If someone had handed him a script with this exact story line, he’d have told them it was completely unrealistic.

But that didn’t change what he felt.

He supposed it might have been easier if he’d just asked to meet her. But what if she wasn’t feeling the same way about him? What if she was only looking for a pen pal? This way, at least he had an excuse for being there.

After all, they had to film the movie somewhere.

Graham wasn’t scheduled to begin shooting his scenes until the next day, and when he’d told Harry Fenton, his rapidly balding manager, that he wanted to get there early, the older man had looked confused.

“You’re never early,” he said, but Graham only shrugged.

“I’m supposed to have lived there all my life, so I think it’s important to fully immerse myself,” he told him, parroting back something he’d once heard his pompous costar on the Top Hat trilogy say. He realized he was getting as good at playing Graham Larkin as he was at playing all these other roles.

He slowed a bit as he drew near to the ice-cream shop. He could sense the photographers lurking somewhere behind him, stealthy as a school of sharks. The sun was hot on his shoulders, his shirt already sticking to his back. He passed a willowy girl with long red hair, and when he glanced up at her, there was a look of silent rebuke in her green eyes. Graham had been so fixated on getting to the town of Henley that it had never occurred to him that the town of Henley might not be as thrilled about having him. He looked over again, and this time, she smiled, but he felt it as a kind of appraisal, a summing up of something about himself he wasn’t sure he wanted to know.

But it was too late to worry about that now. He paused in front of the shop and squinted at the glass storefront, but the light was thrown back at him. He was desperate to see what she looked like, though he knew it shouldn’t matter. It had been a long time since he’d felt this way about anyone. Being famous was like carrying around some kind of magic key; you could say something stupid or boring or you could say nothing at all, and the girls still liked you anyway. But rather than making him more confident, this just seemed to shake his resolve, since it meant there was never a way to gauge how anyone really felt about him.

Until now. Because whoever this girl was, Graham was pretty sure that she liked him. Not the movie-star version of him, but the real him.

And he liked her too.

When he pushed open the door, he was rattled by the sound of the tiny bell, and he ducked his head so his face was hidden by the brim of his cap. There were no other customers in the shop, and he kept his eyes trained on the black-and-white tiles of the floor until he was nearly to the counter. It had been a long time since he’d been afraid to look at a girl, but he was inexplicably nervous now, and it took him a moment to force his eyes in her direction.

When he finally did, he was relieved to see that she was quite obviously beautiful, with almond-shaped eyes and long dark hair. But he barely took the time to register that. He was too busy looking at the word sewn onto the pocket of her shirt.

Ellie, he thought, finally pairing a name with the initial. Ellie O’Neill.

She was watching him anxiously, her expression halfway between shock and delight. He nodded at her, then slid over to the display of ice-cream flavors and pretended to be deciding. But what he was really doing was thinking back to a conversation they’d had a few weeks ago, when he’d jokingly sent her one of those e-mails that asks you to answer questions about your favorite things.

There’s no way I’m filling this thing out, she’d replied. You can’t be that desperate to know my favorite ice-cream flavor.

Are you kidding? Graham had said. You’d be surprised how much it says about you.

Let me guess, she’d written. If I say rocky road, it means I’m going through a hard time. If I say vanilla, it means I’m boring…

Something like that, he’d responded. I’m a sherbet guy myself. What does that say about me?

That you’ve got great taste, she’d written back. That’s my favorite too.

He watched now as she moved down along the opposite side of the counter to lean over the glass at him. “Can I help you with anything?” she asked, and he was startled to hear a familiar note in her voice, the same sugary tone used by so many publicists and managers in L.A. He gave her a half smile, but said nothing, and she giggled. Graham’s stomach twisted.

He pointed at the glass. “I’ll have the rainbow sherbet,” he said, venturing a look in her direction, waiting to see if she’d put things together. But she simply nodded and turned to grab a cup, and he realized that it wasn’t enough; of course it wasn’t enough. He tried to think of other ways into the conversation—casually mentioning something else they’d already discussed over e-mail, some other inside joke—but over his shoulder, there was a sharp bang as a photographer got too close to the window with his camera, and Graham realized that maybe this wasn’t the right moment after all.

“You’re going to like it here,” she was saying as she handed over his ice cream. “It’s a great place to spend the summer.”

Her tone was light as air and quite obviously flirty, and Graham had to remind himself that it was unfair to assume she’d be so different from all the other girls. Once she realized who he was—who he really was—then everything would click into place, but until then, it was pointless to be surprised by the way she tossed her hair as she spooned out the ice cream.

“Oh yeah?” he said, placing a ten on the counter and then waving away the change. “Where’s a good place to grab dinner?”

“The Lobster Pot,” she told him, smiling a bit coyly. “It’s my favorite.”

Graham nodded. “Well, in that case,” he said, “would you like to go with me tonight?”

“Me?” she asked, looking at him with genuine surprise. “Really?”

“Really,” he said, smiling his million-dollar smile, the one that in his previous life had never seemed to hold any extraordinary charm, but that now had the curious ability to make hordes of teenage girls go wobbly at the sight of it.

“I’d love to,” she said, her voice an octave too high.

He nodded, and an awkward pause followed. It took him a moment to realize he was supposed to suggest a time. “Should we meet there at nine?”

She looked embarrassed. “I think it might close at nine.”

“Ah,” Graham said. “Seven thirty, then?”

She nodded, then handed over a spoon. It took him a moment to reach for it; the sleepless plane ride must have been catching up to him, because he felt suddenly weary. A spreading disappointment filled his chest, though he wasn’t sure why. This was exactly what he’d wanted. This town, this girl. She was not only cute, but perfectly nice, and apparently eager to go out with him. What more had he hoped for?

He jabbed the spoon into the ice cream, which was already melting, and then lifted his cup in a little salute as she waved good-bye. When he turned around, he was greeted by the dizzying flash of the cameras at the window, and for a brief moment, he closed his eyes. But the lights refused to go away, and all he could see were stars.

  • From:



  • Sent: Sunday, June 9 2013 11:11 AM

  • To:



  • Subject: Re: what happy looks like

The change of seasons.

3

It seemed to Ellie that walking into the Happy Thoughts Gift Shop was a little bit like stepping inside her mother’s brain. There was no sense of organization whatsoever, nor was there an obvious theme to the store’s contents. Eight years ago, when Mom first bought the shop, it had been known for selling mostly furniture and home decor, and was filled with elegant displays of candles and napkin rings and vases of all kinds. The previous owner was now happily retired in Florida, having long since given up on the Maine winters, but Ellie was pretty sure that if she were ever to see what had become of the place, she’d be horrified.

There was simply no rhyme or reason to it now. The whole store was no bigger than a large classroom, but it was so crammed with stuff that it tended to feel even smaller. They still sold place mats and pepper grinders, lamps and pillows and other assorted furnishings, but now there were also books and vintage toys and bins full of saltwater taffy. There were greeting cards and postcards, T-shirts and swimsuits, beach toys and board games.

And, of course, there were lobsters. Not real ones—though Ellie wouldn’t have been terribly shocked to stumble upon a fish tank in all the confusion—but lobster teacups and kettles, key chains and bookmarks and wind chimes. There was even a giant plush lobster that had been sitting in the back of the shop for years now. It was the size of a large ape, and with its black marble eyes and oversize antennae, it had, on more than one occasion, startled an unsuspecting kid who came wheeling around the corner a bit too fast.

Quinn was always itchy to organize the place, but Ellie loved its chaos. She’d basically grown up in this shop, and it felt almost like an extension of the house, a messy closet or treasure-filled basement. Mom had been hoping to expand for years now, lingering each morning at the dusty window of the adjacent storefront, a former real estate office that had been empty for ages. But there was never the money for it. At this point, there was hardly even enough to keep their house from falling to pieces all around them. And so the clutter in the shop only continued to grow. But the customers didn’t seem to mind, and neither did Ellie.

She’d spent countless afternoons here, doing her homework with lobster-shaped pencils, balancing on the old antique sea captain’s trunk while waiting for Mom to close up, sitting at the window and listening to the waves crash into the rocks just down the street. But her favorite part of the shop was the collection of picture frames lining the shelves in the far back corner. They came in all shapes and colors and sizes, some of them silver and some of them wood, while others were made of sea glass or had delicate designs along the edges. And in each and every frame, instead of a glossy photograph, there was a poem.

Years ago, on a winter day when the snow drifted high against the window and the shop was empty and quiet, Mom had left Ellie alone to trek down the street for some hot chocolate. While she was gone, Ellie found herself studying the framed photographs, black-and-white images of happy families smiling their toothy grins. There were couples gazing into each other’s eyes, parents holding the hands of their kids, families on picnics and boat rides and walks in the woods. As her eyes skipped over the display, Ellie realized there were exactly four pictures of fathers with their daughters perched on their shoulders, and exactly zero pictures of mothers and daughters.

She was eight that winter, old enough to understand that they weren’t ever going back to D.C., but too young to keep a firm grip on the memory of her father’s face, which slid in and out of her mind like a slippery fish. And so when she’d looked at all those happy faces tiling the wall of the shop, something inside of her split clean open.

By the time Mom returned, a steaming cup of cocoa in each hand, Ellie had systematically removed every single one of the photos, sliding them from their frames and ripping each one neatly before throwing it into the garbage. Mom stood in the doorway, her cheeks pink from the cold, a look of confusion in her eyes, and then she set down the cups and unwound her scarf. Without a word, she crossed the shop and grabbed a new pack of crayons from one of the hooks in the toy section, handing them over to Ellie.

“I have a feeling you can do better anyway,” she said.

For years after that, the frames housed Ellie’s construction-paper drawings, brightly colored sketches of trees and boats and lobsters. And when she was older, she switched to poetry, filling them with her favorite stanzas, each one scrawled in her tiny handwriting. Customers began to linger in that corner, perusing the shelves, lost in the words, and they became as much a draw as anything else in the shop. The ones with poems about Maine were scooped up by the tourists almost as soon as they were set out, and once, when Ellie went to a party hosted by one of her classmates, she saw that the frame his mom had bought months ago was still empty of a family photo. But it was there in the foyer anyway, featuring a poem by W. H. Auden, Ellie’s favorite.

As she walked into the shop this afternoon, Mom was opening a brand-new carton of frames, and when Ellie was close enough to get a look, she began to laugh.

“Those aren’t—”

“I know,” Mom said with a groan. “They sent us the wrong ones.”

“Maybe some gift shop in Maryland can use them.”

“Who’d want a picture frame with a crab on it?”

Ellie rolled her eyes. “Who’d want one with a lobster?”

“Hey,” Mom said with a grin. “Don’t knock the lobsters. They’re our bread and butter. So to speak.” She began to pack up the frames again, wrapping them in tissue paper. “How come you’re late? Were you busy gawking at movie stars like everyone else in this town?”

Ellie hesitated, then shook her head. “Quinn had a little milkshake mishap just as I was leaving, so I helped her clean up.”

“See,” Mom said, sweeping aside the box. “That’s why you should only be working here. We’re nothing if not tidy.”

Ellie raised her eyebrows pointedly at the mess of inventory, the random items strewn about so that the whole shop felt like a maze, and they both laughed. But it was clear she was only partially joking about the second job. When Ellie had started taking shifts at Sprinkles a few months earlier, Mom wasn’t thrilled about it.

For as long as Ellie could remember, money had been an issue. When she was younger, it had never seemed to matter. They had everything they needed, the two of them. But this fall, she’d be starting her last year of high school, which meant that college—and the staggering cost of tuition—was looming ever closer. Ellie didn’t want to go to a state school; she had her heart set on the Ivy League, and so they’d already started talking about loans, the paperwork piling up on Mom’s desk, columns of numbers and percentages, line after line of fine print. This, alone, was enough to make Ellie feel guilty, enough to set her heart beating fast with worry whenever the subject came up.

But a few months ago, she found out she was accepted into a summer poetry course at Harvard. The program was impossible to get into, and Ellie had only applied on a whim after seeing a flyer taped to the bulletin board of her English classroom, never thinking she might be chosen. There were only fifteen high school students from across the country who would get to spend the first three weeks of August studying poetry while staying in the Harvard dorms. But the program cost just over two thousand dollars, and there were no scholarships or financial aid.

The night she told Mom about it, she’d seen the hesitation in her eyes.

“It sounds like a great opportunity,” she began, choosing her words carefully. “And I’m so proud of you for getting in. But—”

Ellie didn’t let her finish. She couldn’t bear it. “And they gave me a scholarship too,” she found herself saying, relieved to see the light go back on behind Mom’s smile, the worry replaced by a look of pure pride.

“Of course they did,” she said, giving her a hug. “I’m so happy for you.”

Ellie had needed to let them know she was coming by the end of May. At that point, she had exactly $178.24 in her savings account, and no plan whatsoever for how to make up the balance by the time the course started and the payment was due. But she sent back the form anyway, a check mark in the box beside the words “Yes, I will attend!”

The job at Sprinkles helped. But even with that and her pay from Happy Thoughts, Ellie’s calculations showed that at the end of the summer she was still going to be short by half. Quinn had offered to lend her some of it, and as much as Ellie appreciated the gesture, she knew not to count on that. Money had a habit of slipping through Quinn’s fingers pretty quickly, her paychecks usually disappearing the same day she got them; a few hours of online shopping and poof, they were gone.

But she dreaded having to give up her spot in the course to some trust-fund kid who’d spent her summer lying by the pool at a country club. There was no way she couldn’t go, and there was no way she could ask Mom to help make up the difference when they were just getting by as it was. It only made it worse that Ellie knew she’d say yes. It didn’t matter what she needed to do—sell the shop, donate a kidney, rob a bank—Mom would make it happen, which was precisely why Ellie could never, ever ask her.

Since school had let out, she’d started to become more desperate, working all day at one job or another, and then babysitting at night. She could see that Mom was worried about her new industrious streak, the way that work was taking over her summer.

“You’re sixteen,” she said. “You should be out getting into trouble.”

“I’m fine,” Ellie told her, again and again.

Now, as they stood there on opposite sides of the counter, the wind chimes tinkling in the breeze from the window, Ellie was sure they were about to stumble into the discussion once again, the same one that had lately been running on an endless loop like a bad recording. But there was a reluctance in Mom’s eyes that matched Ellie’s own. Neither of them wanted to talk about this; neither of them wanted to argue.

So when the door banged open, Ellie whirled around with a rush of relief. It took a moment for Quinn to emerge from between the T-shirts that were hanging near the register, and when she did, Ellie could see that her face was flushed.

“Okay,” she said, her hands held up as if she were about to perform a spell. “Okay, okay, okay.”

Mom leaned forward and turned to Ellie. “Is she having a nervous breakdown?”

“This is serious, Mrs. O,” Quinn said, sinking onto a blue beanbag chair. “This is, like, a dire emergency.”

“Is everything okay?” Mom asked, still looking relatively unconcerned. Ellie and Quinn had been best friends since they were five, and if the O’Neills had learned one thing in that time, it was that Quinn had a flair for the dramatic. Her definition of an emergency was a little more flexible than everyone else’s.

Okay?” Quinn said, her eyes widening. “I have a date with Graham Larkin.”

There were a few beats of silence as this announcement settled over them. The moment Quinn said his name Ellie was surprised to be reminded of those eyes of his, and she blinked hard to shake loose the memory. Just behind her, Mom was shrugging her shoulders, mystified.

“Who’s Graham Larking?” she asked, and Quinn gave her a stern look.

“Graham Larkin,” she said, “is only one of the biggest stars in the world.”

Ellie laughed at the expression on Mom’s face, which was still utterly blank. “He’s in those magician movies,” she explained, “and now he’s the star of whatever they’re filming here.”

“And you’re going out with him?” Mom said to Quinn, who raised and then lowered her chin. “I haven’t been outside all day. Are there movie stars just wandering around town looking for dates?”

“He was in Sprinkles,” Ellie explained. “And he must have thought Quinn was at least as irresistible as the ice cream. By the way, who’s watching the shop?”

Quinn waved a hand in the air, as if this were a matter of little importance. “I left Devon there,” she told them. “He said he could handle it on his own. I need your help to get ready.”

Ellie couldn’t help feeling sorry for poor Devon Alexander, who’d been in love with Quinn for years now, and probably had no idea he was covering their busiest hours alone so she could get ready for her date with a movie star.



Continues...

Excerpted from This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith Copyright © 2013 by Jennifer E. Smith. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 57 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 57 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 4, 2013

    I went into this book expecting a lot. The preview of it was fun

    I went into this book expecting a lot. The preview of it was funny, cute, and all around witty, but I didn't feel much excitement while I was reading it. 
    The first couple of chapters offer a bit of suspense, but the rest was just words for me. I felt like the author had a good plot written out, but didn't deliver it as she should have. And I think the reason for that was the characters.
     In the beginning all of the characters looked promising, but by the end I was just really annoyed and frustrated. The protagonist, Ellie, was written well, but the fact that she let people walk all over her took away from her character. I understand that she's supposed to be the typical nice girl, but the fact that  she lets her supposed "best friend" Quinn treat her like crap through out most of the book and then forgives her without a second thought really bugged me. 
    She also lets her mother dictate her life and lets her selfish reasons get in the way of her happiness. By the end, I could some what understand the mothers point of view, but she mostly just came off as self-absorbed and as someone who only cared about her image instead of her daughters feelings. The only character I truly liked was Grahm, Ellie's significant other. He was cute and charming and the author wrote his backstory well and was able to go really in depth with his character.




    I just wish I would have gotten a couple more out of this, maybe a couple tears or a couple laughs. The beginning was promising, but now that I'm done with the book I'm not sure if it was worth the $10.
    Overall, it was very cute, easy and quick read. 

    9 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 4, 2013

    This is What Happy Looks Like was surprising, to me. I read a re

    This is What Happy Looks Like was surprising, to me. I read a review yesterday by Jen YA Romantics, that described it as a mix of You've Got Mail, Notting Hill, and What a Girl Wants. That's about as accurate of a description as I could ever hope to come up with.

    What was surprising for me about This is What Happy Looks Like is that it was, hmm... underwhelming. Don't get me wrong, it was sweet, and charming. I liked the characters, but there was not a lot to keep me hooked. In fact, I put this down for three days because I got swept away in another series that was full of fun and passion and angst, highs and lows. And in comparison, this was just nice.

    Smith is obviously an extremely talented author. I absolutely adored The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. I raved about it to all my friends for months, and credit it with making me love a boy named Oliver. Maybe that has caused me to judge this book a little too much. And though I liked Ellie and Graham, their portrayals were just sort of flat. I understood were they were coming from with their feelings and questions about their lives, but they didn't feel fully developed. I almost felt a true attachment to them and their story at certain points, the epic was just within reach, but then the story would move along and the feeling went away. Also, I would have like a least a smidge more resolution in the ending.

    This Is What Happy Looks Like was a good, if underwhelming, story. I did like it, but will also say that I never fell in love with it. And I wouldn't discourage anyone from reading it, but I would also say to maybe be prepared to not be swept away.

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2013

    Buy this book and enjoy a gentle story of a young boy and girl w

    Buy this book and enjoy a gentle story of a young boy and girl who fall in love, you can't help turning the page and follow how they come 
    together over a summer in Maine. 

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 11, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    This was definitely a much needed read for me. It was sweet and

    This was definitely a much needed read for me. It was sweet and a quick read. I felt myself having a hard time putting it down to do, you know those every day life things that we need to do like eat and sleep and...well you get the idea.

    I fell in love with the blurb a while ago and couldn't wait to get my hands on it. Once it arrived this week, I dropped everything I had lined up to read and dove right in. I was a bit nervous that it wouldn't live up to my high expectations I already had for it. And I'll say that except for maybe just a slight disappointment in the ending, it was happy it just wasn't my dream HEA (Happily Ever After for those not familiar :D), but nonetheless I fell in love with this book.

    The characters of Ellie and Graham were both such a pleasure to read. Ellie is the sweet small town girl with dreams and goals..and a small secret. And she's the perfect love interest for Graham. She's not caught up in the glitz and glam of his celebrity like most girls her age would be, she hadn't even seen any of his movies, which added to the cuteness of them. And then Graham himself he wasn't written like you would expect most teenage "heart throb" types to be. He was pretty grounded and had a good head on his shoulders, but sort of stuck between two worlds. One in which he loved his job and what he did...but the recognition and paparazzi were getting to him. And even though he's surrounded by all these people he felt totally alone. They are both such likeable characters!

    I loved how the author all throughout the book would put pieces of their back and forth emails. Starting from the first mistaken one and then as it progressed we get to see a line, maybe two here and there. It was completely adorable and added some fun to the story.

    Like I said it wasn't my ideal HEA. But it's one that I can accept and be okay with. I am so glad I found this book and now was finally able to read it. It was my first book by Jennifer E. Smith and now that I've connected her with The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight I am going to go order it after I finish this review. I've passed that one by many times in the past and am now kicking myself! This book has granted Jennifer E. Smith a nice cushy seat on my auto buy list. I can't wait to read more of her work!!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2013

    Sue

    Very romantic story. Loved the plot and how Ellie reacts to Graham.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2013

    The statistical probability of love at first sight

    This is such a good book, i mean who doesn't want to fall in love, especially at first sight.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2013

    Great

    Great beginning cant for the full thing!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2013

    I loved it

    Its an amazing book and I loved it I recomend it for anybody who is gonna buy it. It is a beautiful love story.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2013

    Hullo

    The book is really good in the beggining, but becomes boring in the end. The book wasn't exactly wirth the 9 dollars, more like 7 or 6 dollars.

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2014

    Hi

    OMG I love this book soooooo much!!! Anyone who likes a woderful sweet well-written romance has to read this book!!!:)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 30, 2014

    Sometimes you just need a happy book, one that will pick you up

    Sometimes you just need a happy book, one that will pick you up off the ground and set your feet on the ground again. I read This Is What Happy Looks Like while studying for my final law school exams. You know what? No regrets. I wanted a book that would cheer me up, and give me an added jolt of courage.

    Jennifer E. Smith's newest book delivered exactly that. Just like there is comfort food, there are comfort books. I began reading this book with that expectation, and I wasn't disappointed. Plus, I really love the movie You've Got Mail which this novel was compared to, so I had to give it a shot!

    Reasons to read:

    1. Romance in its simplest form:

    The love story isn't an overly complicated one, flush with frustrations and problems. It can seem like a number of YA books include more forbidden romance, so this was a welcome change for me from what I typically read. There's something fresh about this simplicity, and I loved that Ellie and Graham were able to recognize this, too.

    2. So much more than a love story:

    For me, a good romance is just one part of the overall story. I think this is especially true in contemporary books, because too often it seems to me that they focus on the romance and pay very little attention to anything else. The problem with that is that there is the potential to explore so many other ideas, and I love that Jennifer is an author who acknowledges this and incorporates it into her writing. The relationship between Ellie and Graham is incredibly important (and sweet!), but there's so much more to their lives than each other that it was integral to the story that their individual lives be explored as well.

    3. Quirky, fun characters:

    I loved this SO much. Characters need to stand out to me- from each other, from the setting, and from OTHER characters in OTHER books. Graham and Ellie both have their own unique traits, totally uncommon but real enough for them to be believable characters. Their struggles are honest and completely plausible, but they're still unique people. That's a tricky balance to accomplish, but it's successful here.

    By the time I finished reading, however, I couldn't help feeling that it was a bit anti-climatic. The hardcover is over 400 pages, but it still felt short somehow. I think that can be attributed to the ease of reading it, while not having too much actually happen.

    I also think it helps to go into this book, knowing that you shouldn't expect anything extraordinary but instead more of a quick, sweet read. Because that's exactly what makes it so enjoyable!

    ARC received from HBG Canada for review; no other compensation was received.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 19, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    This is What Happy Looks Like will not disappoint fans of The St

    This is What Happy Looks Like will not disappoint fans of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, Smith's earlier contemporary novel. I personally enjoyed both stories, but didn't love them. I think that Smith's writing doesn't appeal to me 100% which is why I never really completely connected with the plot and characters. Nevertheless, This is What Happy Looks Like is a story filled with a ton of humor, friendship, romance, layered characters, and a beachside setting, the type of setting I love in contemporary novels. 
    I have to say, the plot of this novel is one that could create endless funny, butterfly inducing, and cute scenes and story lines. A celebrity actor, think Zac Efron, accidentally emails a small town girl who he thought was his pet walker. Not only that but his pet is a pig! That in itself had me laughing every time I remember it. When the misunderstanding is cleared, meaning the girl isn't the pet walker, they start to send emails back and forth. Of course Graham hid from Emma his celebrity status which is to be expected. After a couple of months, Graham ends up in Emma's town for his outdoor filming for his next movie. You all now think it will be a happily ever after from now but that's not the case. 
    Emma is a very complex character, she tries to stay away from the spotlight, her and her mom, for some reasons that you find out later in the story. I loved that Emma wasn't selfish or too selfless, she thought about her family first but at the same time still thought of herself. She has emotional issues in regards to her lack of a father and his high status in the country at the moment. Graham on the other hand has his own family problems and I really felt for him. Imagine getting instant fandom after a movie and then seeing the closest people, your mom and dad, change the way they act around you and treat you like a celebrity, i.e.: stranger. I enjoyed their emotional development but I grew kind of tired of the internal monologues after some point in the novel. I wished there were more time spent together between the two or at least more side characters involved.  
    This novel is told from both Graham and Emma's POVs and is more of a reflective and healing book than outright romantic. Yes there is romance, but that is secondary to the friendship that both Emma and Graham needed in each other. Like I mentioned before, I didn't connect with the novel completely but I do like Emma, Graham, and their story. Fans of Smith's tSPoLaFS will fall in love with This is What Happy Looks Like! 

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2013

    Book

    It's ok not great, quick read, didn't like the ending but it's ok

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2014

    BEST BOOK EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    THIS IS THE BEST BOOK EVER MADE! THR PLOT IS AWESOME AND THE ACTUAL STORY IS BETTER!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2014

    Cheeey but an adorable, fun, quick read!!!

    Loved it!!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2014

    Anynomos

    I honestly thought i would hate this book im not the type of person to read a love story if thats what you want to call this book. But she dose such a good job at describing whats going on in the book i could picture every thing she wrote. I ended up loving this story if anyone trys to tell you other wise dont listen.you will regret not reading it and her other books too.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2014

    Good book

    It was a really good book, not as good as the statistical probability of love at first sight, but it was still really good but i hated the ending! They couldve done like a "three months later..." and see about ellie meeting her dad, grahams relationship with his parents, and graham going to visit ellie

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2014

    Anonymous on January 1, 2014

    Two words: awesome book. : )

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 27, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    First I have to say that I can't guarantee the absence of imagin

    First I have to say that I can't guarantee the absence of imaginary smiley faces in this review (sorry, Ellie)!

    Jennifer E. Smith's books are mostly about the things in life we cannot grasp. In THE STATISTICAL PROBABLITY OF LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT, she booked a flight for two teens to explore the ways of fate. And now with THIS IS WHAT HAPPY LOOKS LIKE, readers all around the world are invited to join the search for true happiness.

    Finding answers to the question of happiness wasn't always easy for Ellie. She's living a quite and very guarded life with her mother in a coast small town until one day she gets an e-mail by a stranger.
    That stranger would be Hollywood beau Graham Larkin. And Graham, too, doesn't feel like his life is on perfect course. Always on the move, making movies, pretending to be someone he will never be and missing his parents. When he comes to Ellie's town to make a new movie, things start to look brighter than before. Both characters complement each other in the best ways possible. Thankfully Graham isn't, as some might assume, a spoiled or arrogant brat. He is very down-to-earth and receptive for other people's sentiments or problems. Just as Ellie is a very honest person who cares very much for the people she loves.

    Jennifer E. Smith explores the chances of a relationship between an ordinary girl with a secret and a big actor, the differences between Hollywood versus small-town life and the difficulties in drawing a line between public and private interests.
    And all along she gives Ellie and Graham a lot of time to get to know each other in a setting that felt very cozy and atmospheric.

    The chapters alternate between Ellie and Graham and that was just perfect! I had feared they would stay in e-mail contact for a long time wondering who the other person might be and was relieved and happy to see that they met very early in the story so that there was enough room to develop their non-online relationship. But I also loved that their actual conversations were still supplemented with their e-mail contact even after they had met. And the e-mails in general, receiving an e-mail by a stranger and falling for him? Totally loved that!

    The story as a whole didn’t meet all of my expectations. It's hard to explain what was lacking, because I did like THIS IS WHAT HAPPY LOOKS LIKE very much. I might have imagined the romance to be more intense and conflict-laden and the pace to be a bit more explosive. The story wasn't as over the top as some YA contemporary novels feel the need to be today, which was totally okay with me, but some tiny spark was just missing.

    So I only had to read the e-mail teaser on the back of my proof copy to know that this book would be a keeper! Ice cream, sunrises and flip flops, swimming, dogs and pyjama pants are things meaning happiness for me, too. After reading Jennifer's book I will hopefully learn to pay more attention to the things that make me happy every day. Happiness is keeping the best memories and most beloved people close to you. THIS IS WHAT HAPPY LOOKS LIKE is cuddly and sweet, but despite its high cuteness factor, it should still be taken as a seriously good and meaningful read.


    4/5 **** THIS IS WHAT HAPPY LOOKS LIKE – Uplifting, heartfelt and charming!

    This book is like all sunrises, sunsets and puppies combined, really cute. Jennifer E. Smith is a safe bet should you ever be in need of YA books that raise your spirits, provide you with lovely romance and put you in a summery cheerful mood.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2013

    a-MAZ-ing

    Best book EVER!!!!

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