Title: This is What Happy Looks Like
Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Release Date: April 2, 2013
Publisher: Poppy (Hachette imprint)
When teenage movie star Graham accidentally sends small-town girl Ellie an e-mail about his pet pig, the two seventeen-year-olds strike up a witty and unforgettable correspondence, discussing everything under the sun except their names or backgrounds. Then Graham finds out that Ellie's Maine hometown is the prefect location for his next 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?
This is What Happy Looks Like is a sweet, funny, and complicated few weeks in the lives of two teenagers whose first contact with each other is an e-mail send by mistake. This is an entertaining look at secrets and messages, at celebrity and fame, at hiding the truth as it's being exposed, and at what people's different versions of what makes them happy are.
The book starts with an intriguing premise, rather relevant now in the 21st century with so many lives circling around e-mail. If you were accidentally sent and e-mail from someone you didn't know, if the message was an innocuous as an owner's concern over a pet, would you reply back, not knowing where the message was going or who might read it? Would there only be that one exchange, or would it continue? What if that one encounter turned into something more, something bigger than either of you, something amazing and surprising? Would you see it as fate?
I was surprised as the tension in such a fun and light-hearted book. There was something building, something that neither Ellie nor Graham wanted exposed by photographers and reporters. Ellie is sweet, but she has her issues and her skeletons that she doesn't want anyone to see. Graham, by contrast, is constantly in the public eye as a teen actor, but he's not that typical of an actor. He has, to be blunt, human qualities, he hasn't been a famous Hollywood actor for that long, but he can't escape being a target and that puts a damper on his attempts to meet up with Ellie.
These days, as a celebrity constantly in the public eye, you can't escape the risk of being exposed, of being revealed, of having everything you struggle to hide shown to the world. People have public lives and private lives, but quite often with celebrities having a private life is seen as impossible, or even a joke. There are people out there who feel they deserve to know every aspect of celebrities' lives. I imagine it's a very trying and a very hard life to live.
If the e-mail Graham sent by mistake to Ellie was fate, then everything that happened afterwards was meant to be. The ups and downs, the laughter and tears, the scandals and the secrets. If it was fate, then they were meant to come face to face with it all, meant to struggle, and in the end it's up to them to work past it to see if they were meant to discover what happy really looks like to the both of them.
(I acquired an advance copy of this book at ALA Midwinter.)