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Thursday, August 15, 2013

This Is What Happy Looks Like, written by Jennifer E. Smith. Little, Brown & Company, Hachette. 2013. $19.99 ages 13 and up

"I mean, do you even know this guy, Ellie." "Yes," Ellie said, her voice low and fierce. "I know him. I do." Mom shook her head as if she hadn't heard. "He's a movie star, for god's sake. He lives in California. He's going to be out of here in just a few weeks. How can you possibly think this is worth it?" 

If you loved Jennifer Smith's The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight (2012), you are going to want to read this book, too. I can almost feel a movie in it, just as I did when I met Hadley and Oliver last year.

Ellie and Graham mistakenly meet online when he sends a text intended for someone else, and she answers it. Thus begins an interesting and mutually enjoyable continuous conversation. They learn about the other in emails that are brief and real, and often humorous. As readers we are given a clear look at who they are when nothing else is in the way. When shooting for his movie moves to the Northeast coast, Graham suggests they film the final scenes in 'Middle-of-Nowhere, Maine'...where Ellie lives.

When they meet, the generally unflappable Ellie is nervous. She can't believe the attention that follows Graham everywhere he goes, and recognizes that the endless scrutiny may bring her own family 'secret' to light after her mother has worked so diligently to keep it quiet. Told from both perspectives, the reader will begin to understand how each character has vulnerabilities and concerns for family, friends, and their circumstances; but, they also have strong feelings for each other. That creates unwavering difficulties for both.
Yes, there's romance here. But, there is more to the story than that. Graham and Ellie are strong protagonists trying to deal with family, friendship and their own growing relationship. They are loyal and thoughtful, while also being teenagers and it is, after all, the summer.  The complications they face are inherent in their family relationships, and the unwanted and un-asked-for attention and notoriety that fame can bring.

This fine book is sure to find audience in Jennifer Smith fans, and likely to draw even more into that large group. I wonder if we will hear more about Ellie and Graham in the future.

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