This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer e. smith

Author Biography

Cited from

"Jennifer E. Smith is the author of Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between, The Geography of You and Me, This Is What Happy Looks Like, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, The Storm Makers, You Are Here, and The Comeback Season. She earned her master's degree in creative writing from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and her writing has been translated into 31 languages."

This Is What Happy Looks Like is set primarily in a quaint town in Maine. The time isn't specified, so I assume it is set in Now.

Plot Summary:

In This Is What Happy Looks Like, Ellie O' Neil lives in Maine. Her life before Maine wasn't entirely normal. She was conceived through an affair of a politician with her mother. For years that affair followed them through the media. So, her mother moved them to the small town they now live in. Ellie spends most of her days working in a sweet shop. On one of these regular days, she received a mistake e-mail. A boy from across the country sent her the e-mail about his pet pig needing to be walked. She responded, and the harmless messages continued for months. What she didn't know during those few months, was that the Mystery Boy is actually the famous Graham Larkin. He searches out her location, and requests his upcoming movie to be set in her home town. The book follows their adventure and the consequences of it.

Main Characters:

The main characters of This Is What Happy Looks Like include Ellie O' Neil and Graham Larkin.

Ellie is a girl from a small town living a quiet life. Her wardrobe of jean skirts and tank-tops do not quite seem to live up to her exciting features of green eyes and red hair. Although, she is happy with how she looks. This happiness carries over to her home life. Although not rich in physical money, she is rich in love. Her reserved personality bubbles up once you get to know her, and her polite demeanor will draw you to her.

Graham Larkin is basically the polar opposite of Ellie O' Neil. The famous side of Graham is made up of skinny-jeans, movie scripts, and lonely days with his pet pig. He loves his job, although he doesn't always love the circumstances that come with it. He feels as if he lives two lives, one full of flashing lights and costumes. The other holding true happiness, comfort, and real relationships.

The theme of this novel is appreciation. The characters miss members of their family that they cannot get close to. Therefore, they learn to appreciate each other, and others that they already have in their lives.

Conflict & Resolution:


“Maybe growing up was really nothing more than growing away: from your old life, from your old self, from all those things that kept you tethered to your past.”

― Jennifer E. Smith, This Is What Happy Looks Like

This quote foreshadows that the characters will migrate from the pasts that they have clung to so fiercely. They grow together into new people with new values and motivations.


“He’d mistaken loneliness for independence, and had become so good at closing himself off from the world that it took an e-mail from Ellie to remind him what it was like to have a real conversation.”

― Jennifer E. Smith, This Is What Happy Looks Like

This quote draws attention to how Graham feels in his fame. He's most usually surrounded by people, but feels hopelessly lonely at times. When Ellie speaks to him, he feels charged with new energy. This really shows how important those conversations are to him.

Vocabulary Words:

Gobsmacked: Completely astounded.

Withering: intended to make someone feel humiliated.

Numbskull: A foolish person.


I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading the "typical" love story. It's believable, and keeps you longing for more. Although, I would not recommend it as something to analyze and ponder on. Out of 5 stars, I would give it a solid 3.5. Three words I would use to describe it would be: romantic, trust, and adventure. With all of the unexpected turns in this novel, you can be sure This is What Happy Looks Like will leave a mark on your heart.



Created with images by aliceabc0 - "nature love couple in love" • DariuszSankowski - "knowledge book library" • jaycross - "IMG_3550.JPG" • 947051 - "dog dogue de bordeaux mastiff" • GLady - "pigeons couple pair" • enneafive - "Sunset" • Dziunka (an amatour photographer) - "Sunset"

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