Kirkus Reviews QR Code
HAPPYFACE by Stephen Emond Kirkus Star

HAPPYFACE

By Stephen Emond

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: March 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-316-04100-3
Publisher: Little, Brown

Moving easily between cartoons and painterly black-and-white illustration, this epistolary novel of a young teen's reinvention of self is subtle and effective. As he's stuck in his brother's shadow and in the middle of his alcoholic parents' unhappy relationship, it's little surprise that when the breakup of his family necessitates a move to a new school, the protagonist decides to become “Happyface.” Embracing lighthearted goofiness, he hopes to banish his former self—an artistic loner. At first, this seems to work: He finds friends and dates a girl on whom he has nursed a long crush. Eventually, though, he must find a way to integrate his true self with this invented persona. Poignantly real journal entries, e-mails and chat sessions allow readers to see into Happyface's world, and many will identify with his yearning for supposed normalcy. Though the catalyst for his metamorphosis is so understated that it's possible some may miss it altogether and be a bit puzzled later in the story, this is a minor detail in an otherwise engaging and absolutely heartfelt tale. (Fiction. 12 & up)