This Is What Happy Looks Like—Jennifer E. Smith
If someone had handed him a script with this exact story line, he'd have told them it was completely unrealistic. (44)
I recently read The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith and made a comment about how I appreciated the consistent cover art of her books, and how I had seen the cover of This is What Happy Looks Like. Then I remembered where I had seen the cover: on my own bookshelf. One of the problems I have as a bibliophile is that sometimes I forget which books I own, which books I got from the library, which books I knew that I wanted to get at some point but haven't yet; it all sort of blends together at some point. I've tried to sort that all out by inventorying them and putting them on sites like LibraryThing and Goodreads, but it still happens occasionally.
When Ellie receives an email clearly not meant for her, she responds to the sender to let them know they've got the wrong email address and they start corresponding. Little does she know the sender is Graham Larkin, famous teenage movie star. Also unbeknownst to Ellie, Graham arranges for the movie he's filming to shoot on location in Ellie's hometown.
I actually liked this one better than The Geography of You and Me (henceforth known as TGOYAM). At least once I got past the inanity of the whole idea. The characters even acknowledged it (see above pullquote). Graham accidentally emails Ellie when he's trying to email his pigsitter. (He has a pet pig called Wilbur, obvs.) Never mind how that's unlikely to happen because, these days, when you've emailed someone once, their email address autofills when you start a new message to them. After this chance email from Graham—who she doesn't know is Graham—Ellie continues to converse with this stranger. Internet Safety 101, girl. Then Graham, not doing any more investigating into this person than the conversation they're having via email, convinces the crew of his movie to film in her small, sleepy Maine town. Never mind how a 16-year-old actor has no impact whatsoever on the decisions of where location filming occurs. Graham trusts that the person on the other end of the email chain is actually the teenage girl they purport to be, rather than a complete Catfish situation. So, yeah, it's a completely ridiculous premise, but beyond that...
I did think that Ellie could be a bit irksome at times. When she's struggling to figure out how to pay, she thinks about perhaps just not going. "But she dreaded having to give up her spot in the course to some trust-fund kid who'd spent her summer lying by the pool at a country club." (59) That's pretty presumptuous. Maybe it's another kid just like her who is waiting anxiously for a spot to open up.
I also really liked the complicated dynamics between the lead characters: Ellie as the teen girl next door, Graham as the newly-rich teen movie star, how their lives are so similar in so many ways, and so different in many others. Ellie's backstory made the story more compelling and added more depth to her than either of the characters in TGOYAM, and maybe even more than I remember of the characters in her other book, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. A cute story with a cute couple. Just cute.