When teenage movie star Graham Larkin accidentally sends small town girl Ellie O’Neill an email about his pet pig, the two seventeen-year-olds strike up a witty and unforgettable correspondence, discussing everything under the sun, except for their names or backgrounds.
Then Graham finds out that Ellie’s Maine hometown is the perfect location for his latest 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?
Design – Liz Casal Rating – 4/5
The only thing I don’t like about this cover is the couple’s pose. Ellie and Graham are very tentative about their new relationship, while the couple on the cover looks all gooey. Other than that, I love the black and white, the focus on the title, and the accents of yellow. The slight smiley face curve to the word Happy is perfect and echoes the curve of the sun shape at the top.
This is What Happy Looks Like is told from both Ellie and Graham’s POVs. It’s a cute story about an unlikely romance, the secrets we keep, and feeling alone when it seems like you have it all. Ellie and Graham’s relationship is sweet, but a little bit strange, and definitely unorthodox.
- Ellie – Ellie is independent and thinks for herself, especially when it comes to Graham. She’s working 2 jobs to save up for her poetry program. She’s not looking for a boyfriend and she has no idea what to do when her pen pal turns out to be famous. Ellie is hesitant to get caught up in Graham’s world, but they form a sweet friendship and enjoy each other’s company when they can. I like that Ellie immediately sees past Graham’s happy act and that she has no trouble rejecting him.
- Graham – I like that we also get Graham’s perspective in this book. That way we get to see all of the people influencing his life, especially his manager who keeps trying to push Graham to date his costar. We see all of the ways in which Graham’s life is lonely rather than charmed. I like that Graham is seeking a relationship with someone that sees past his fame and the happy face he puts on.
- Ellie + Graham – The way these 2 interact is sweet. Graham insists that the whoopie pie is the state treat of Maine, while Ellie says she’s never even heard of them, so they go on quests to find one. They don’t do anything where the paparazzi can find them, and when Graham lashes out at a cameraman in Ellie’s defense, his only concern is her privacy and not the effect on his image or career. Ellie and Graham sort of keep a careful distance from each other even though they’re in the same town for the time being.
- movie star stalker – Graham is a movie star, so he has a lot of money and influence. After emailing with Ellie for a few months, Graham and his entire movie production show up in her hometown because Graham researched the town she lives in and decided it would be a good idea to convince the studio to film there. Just to be clear, he showed up unannounced and without discussing meeting up in person at all. When he shows up, he knows who Ellie is, but she has no idea that he’s the star of the movie filming in town. That’s all a bit much and is really creepy.
- Ellie’s dad – Ellie’s absent father is a semi-famous person who hasn’t been in her life since she was too young to remember. Her mom’s idea of moving on and being independent is to move, change their last name, and never ever talk about this man. She seems more concerned with people finding out his identity due to Ellie’s relationship with Graham than she is about Ellie being happy. Basically, she’s made it so their entire lives are about avoiding being linked to a man who has much more to lose from the association than they do. Ellie is trying to save money to attend a poetry program, and when she needs more money, her pride keeps her from asking her mother or accepting it from Graham. Instead, Ellie decides to seek out this man who’s a stranger to her and ask him for the cash, figuring that he owes it to her. I just found this entire plot about Ellie and her mom avoiding the limelight due to her father to be unnecessary. There are plenty of reasons other than that for someone to avoid the media craze surrounding Graham.
“He’s in those magician movies,” she explained, “and now he’s the star of whatever they’re filming here.”
“And you’re going out with him?” Mom said to Quinn, who raised and lowered her chin.
“I haven’t been outside all day. Are there movie stars just wandering around town looking for dates?” – Ellie + her mom pg. 61
“What are the odds,” Graham said, “that they’ve realized we’re out of gas and are just coming over to help?”
“Slim,” Ellie said, her heart thumping hard. She’d never so much as stolen a pack of gum before, never sneaked a cigarette or cheated on a test, and now here she was, about to get caught stealing a boat. I wouldn’t matter that she wasn’t the one to have stolen it. She’d gone along with the plan. Because Graham had stolen it for her, and she could almost feel the guilt scrawled all over her face as she watched the gap between the two boats grow smaller. – Graham + Ellie pg. 321-322