This is What Happy Looks Like
Little, Brown and Company, 2013
“He’d mistaken loneliness for independence, and had become so good at closing himself off from the world.”
Rating: 4/5 stars
Sent: Sunday, June 9, 2013 10:24 AM
Subject: Re: what happy looks like
I was thinking about how fast I finished reading this one because of the pages with email messages on them. Just kidding. From these email messages, the story takes off, and what it offers is kind of cool, simple and refreshing. Okay those words are corny, and the story is not that new but it still has something on it that makes it special, something that at the end of this year when I will, again, picked up my top ten, I will definitely remember this one. Are you intrigued? Good, keep on reading.
It all started when this apparently teenage star Graham Larkin emailed the wrong person who will baby-sit his pig, yes a pig. This girl Ellie O’Neill got the message and then boom, they clicked, just like that. Telling each other stories and things and thoughts they were too uncomfortable to be sharing to other people. They were happy in their online world but the guy did of course took matters on his own hand, deliberately arranging the place of their next movie shooting in the place where the girl lives, in this place called Henley, which we were told was in Maine, I think, I’m not sure now. So you could imagine the shock of Ellie upon discovering that her email buddy was a superstar. Kind of like meeting um let see, Andrew Garfield? Or Logan Lerman? Or Robin van Persie if you are a football fan. So, they met and it turned out that Ellie and her mother have this little secret and I’m going to stop now, just read it.
The story is kind of cliché, I know but what was special in this book is the depth of the writing, how the characters plunged in their thoughts which are surprisingly impressive to read, something readers could learn from and comprehend. The other thing is that, okay, I admit it, I was hooked about how this setup will work for the two characters, will it end up like the other stories of this kind? A superstar falls in love with an ordinary woman, here comes a problem, they solved it and they lived happily ever after. Nope, I am happy to report that This is What Happy Looks Like, is not that kind of story.
The intricacies of the subplots, okay it is not that intricate, but the mystery surrounding the life of Ellie makes the story more compelling, in addition to the fact about the difficulties of dating a super star and stuff like that. The characters, as I mentioned, have depth, making the book not your ordinary type of YA novel. Also the story is simple, no teenage party things, just the two characters and their stories.
But what makes this novel worth remembering is the setting of the story. Somehow the place matches the story, simple yet captivating. The story of Graham and Ellie resembles reality so the ending might not be the happy one that we used to read, but in the real world, their story is indeed a happy one, and yes that is what happy looks like.
And even before he could register its color, he noticed the girl sitting curled on the swing, and he knew that he had arrived.
As he walked up the path, she looked up from her book. The light above her was small and buzzing with insects, and it reached only so far in its efforts to push back the gathering darkness. When he stopped, she lifted her chin, craning her neck, and Graham could tell from the uncertain look in her eyes that he was only a shadow to her, a mere silhouette.
But from where he was standing, he could see her perfectly: the wavy red hair and the oversize T-shirt with a smiling lobster on the front, the way her legs were tucked up beneath her on the swing, and the freckles across her nose. He could see her, and it was just like he’d thought. It was just like being punched in the stomach.
At first, there was nothing beyond the edge of the porch but darkness. If not for the crunch of gravel, Ellie would never have known someone was there at all. She listened more intently. But there was only the chirping of crickets and the rush of the waves down the street, and behind her, the sound of the dog skittering madly around the wooden floors of the house. She squinted out, but beyond the pool of light where she sat, there was nothing; she could only sense someone out there the way you can feel someone watching you across a crowded room—that prickle of awareness, that shiver up your spine.
“Hello?” she called out, laying her book down on her lap. Her voice sounded strange even to her, wavery and thin. She heard the person take another step forward, and though she was blinking hard, her eyes still hadn’t adjusted enough to see who it was. “Quinn?”
This time, there was the sound of a throat being cleared, and Ellie realized it wasn’t Quinn at all. She rose from the porch swing, a little bead of worry starting to work its way through her. Henley was as safe as any small town—probably even safer—but the feel of the place changed in the summertime, its very molecules seeming to shift as it made room for an influx of strangers, and any of her friends or neighbors would have called out by now, rather than lurk in the shadows.
“Sorry, I didn’t meant to scare you,” the person said, a deep male voice that carried across the lawn as the blurry figure approached. “It’s just… me.”
He took a few steps closer, and like someone emerging from the water, he seemed to appear in pieces; first his eyes, then his mouth, then finally the rest of his features, coming into focus all at once as the light fell across him to reveal the familiar face of Graham Larkin.
“I never said I was good (at sketching). Just that I liked doing it.”
“That’s the best kind of good.”
“There was something methodical about it, something cathartic. When he drew, the rest of the world fell away.”