Publisher: Headline (4 April 2013)
Kindle: ASIN: B00ABLJ4FU
When 17-year-old Graham Larkin sends an email to a friend about his pet pig, Wilbur, the last thing he expects is a response from the other side of the country, from one Ellie O’Neill. As their online friendship blossoms, they begin to reveal more about themselves but crucially leave out the truth about Ellie’s past and Graham’s career as a Hollywood heartthrob. And when a new location needs to be found for Graham’s next film, he jumps at the chance to visit Ellie’s hometown, Henley, Maine. But, now that they’re together, it’s impossible to keep their secrets for long and there’s a lot to overcome if love is to blossom…
This Is What Happy Looks Like begins with a prologue … the email that was sent to Ellie in error and her response.
Part One we get to read the emails Ellie and Graham have sent to each other, leading up to his arrival in Henley. Ellie is still unaware of who Graham is.
We’re made aware that Ellie came to Henley with her mum when she was a pre-schooler and that they were escaping something. Whatever it was, Ellie does not want to be in the public eye – she doesn’t want to be noticed.
Narrated in the third person, we also get to hear Graham’s point of view. I love this in books as I feel it gives added depth. Graham’s had to leave his life since the huge change of movie stardom two years ago and hasn’t found a way to belong yet… either with his parents, his friends or his new life. He’s lost his place in the world. Instead of parental authority he has his manager, publicist etc telling him what to do.
After a mix-up on his arrival in Henley, they finally get to meet. What follows in part one is their growing feelings for each other. Part Two begins with emails – but they are the drafts that Ellie never sent …
Underlying their relationship and why Ellie can’t be seen with such a public figure is also her acceptance into Harvard on a poetry course. With no scholarship available, Ellie is working hard to get the money together. This leads to quite an exciting adventure on July 4th and also realisations. There’s also trouble between Ellie and her best friend Quinn. Lots of conflict in this story that will hold your interest besides the sweet romance.
I really enjoyed Smith’s writing style. For example, in my proof copy I loved this :
“The morning felt like a mixing bowl, just waiting for its ingredients; there was a sense of possibility to it, a promise of something more to come.”
How evocative is that? You really ‘feel’ this!
This Is What Happy Feels Like has a simple plot, our male lead who is finding it difficult to adjust to his new life and our female lead with a secret in her past and a new identity. Their meeting brings everything out of the shadows into the light so healing can begin to take place. However, the journey along the way is full of excitement and conflict amidst a small community. I feel as if I have been on holiday in Henley alongside our characters and watching their love blossom and grow.
YA readers will adore This Is What Happy Feels Like while adult readers will also be transported back to that first love and the uncertainty of emotions, with change on the horizon.
I would like to than Sam Eades at Headline for providing a proof copy in exchange for an honest review.