This is What Happy Looks Like

This Is What Happy Looks Like - Jennifer E. Smith

In every sense of the word, this is a breezy summer read: it takes place in the summer, in a quaint town in Maine, and involves the romantic fallout of two cutesy teenagers. Ellie and her mom came to Maine years ago to hide out from the publicity Ellie's senator-father gave them. (She's an illegitimate child of his.) Now Ellie discovers that the guy she's been emailing with for months is--GASP--none other than movie star Graham Larkin... AND he's filming a movie right in her town.
     I like Graham and Ellie. That have an interesting closeness that I believe throughout the novel. I like how Graham struggles with his fame, and how it creates this strain with his parents. I like how we see how lonely he is, and how heartbroken he is that his parents won't spend the holiday with him. He feels like an actual teenager. I like Ellie also, but towards the end of the story, she loses dimension. Her pride at not taking Graham's money is what made me like her, and when she agrees at the end...? It feels conflicting, that's all.
     Here is the main con: a lot of aspects of this story are oversimplified. Firstly, Graham and Ellie's relationship is a little weird, because all of Graham's feelings seem to stem from Ellie treating him differently than other girls. In other words, he likes that she's not impressed by him. Now, that is a realistic thing that people who deal fame might experience. However, it's the "differently than other girls" that nags me. EVERYONE wants to date Graham? Really? Because, in real life, I've never seen a Hollywood star that everyone unanimously agrees on as both gorgeous and dateable. Where some see a god of a man, others see a boy with rat ears. So I think it would have more realistic if at least SOME female characters aren't swooning over him.
     Going off that, my other problem is Olivia, Graham's costar and a star happy with her publicity. In this story, Olivia isn't just an unwanted, staged "girlfriend" for Graham. She is (illegally) club-hopping, whiny, and provocatively-dressed. While I won't get on my soapbox and explain that not all blond, beautiful women are vapid airheads... I will say that Smith could have done something more creative with her. Smith makes her so unlikeable so not to detract from Graham's attraction to Ellie, and I get that. But can't Olivia be something different? Like a workaholic or, at the very least, NOT interested in Graham? Plenty of girls in Hollywood accept their fame as part of their job, and don't bother running from it. Since I am not one of them, I can't say whether that's a good or bad thing. But I would appreciate Olivia more if she reflected that grouping instead of an archetype. Because she had some good lines, at the end of the story, so she can't be that stupid.