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THIS IS WHAT HAPPY LOOKS LIKE by Jennifer E.  Smith

THIS IS WHAT HAPPY LOOKS LIKE

By Jennifer E. Smith

Age Range: 13 - 18

Pub Date: April 2nd, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-316-21282-3
Publisher: Poppy/Little, Brown

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)