Narrator: Andrew Sweeney, Marcie Millard
Published by Hachette Audio on 02 April 2013
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Young Adult
Length: 8 hours 37 minutes
Also by this author: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, The Geography of You and Me, Summer Days and Summer Nights
Place(s) Traveled to: Henley, Maine
First Line: Hey, we’re running pretty behind here. Any chance you could walk Wilbur for me tonight?
I first became acquainted with Jennifer Smith’s writing with her 2011 contemporary The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight (my review). It was a book that I wasn’t sure I would like as I despise insta-love in stories but in the end I fell head over heels in love. When an opportunity arose to review the audio of her next book, This is What Happy Looks Like I jumped at it. And then when I started it I almost stopped it immediately. If there is one thing that I dislike most in audios its stories that are filled with IM or email exchanges. The start of this one is all emails and it made my eye all twitchy. But I put a call out on Twitter and was told that this wasn’t an epistolary story so I persevered.
This is What Happy Looks Like is a dual POV story told from both the main characters, Ellie and Graham and had a different narrator for each. I love when dual POV audios use different people for the narration. It really helps to break up the story and follow whose head you are in when. The two narrators of Happy Andrew Sweeney and Marcie Millard did a good job with the story. Although I did find that Sweeney sounded a bit old at first I was able to get over that and accept him as Graham Larkin, teen movie star. Millard’s narration sometimes annoyed me but I’m not sure if it was because of her or because of Ellie’s actions. Sometimes it can be hard to separate the narrator from the character they are bringing to life.
I enjoyed this story but there were a few things that bothered me, like Ellie’s so called BFF Quinn. I really dislike characters who claim to be a BFF and then one small incident that has no real effect on them turns them into a raging b*&$h. Quinn’s silent treament and rude behavior to Ellie was totally uncalled for when all Ellie did was not tell her about random email conversations she was having. Seriously? Ellie had no idea who those emails where from so I don’t get Quinn’s reaction. I don’t get why Quinn felt the need to be so mean to Ellie and make her feel bad and that everything was her fault. That Ellie was the one who had to grovel. If I could have punched Quinn in the face I would have, Ellie can do so much better than Quinn.
The other thing that bothered me was basic geography errors. At one point Ellie wants to travel down to Kennebunkport and says that the journey, by car will take around an hour. Instead, she ends up traveling by boat and leaving around 7 am. By 11, they still “have awhile to go” and I just thought to myself, how? Yes Maine is huge but traveling by boat shouldn’t take that much longer than car. It also didn’t add up in terms of where Henley should have been, going an hour south from that point would put Ellie in Massachusetts. *sighs* I do hate when authors don’t seem to do basic research. A few minutes spent on Google maps and a quick chat with someone who sails a lot could have avoided so much. Am I being a bit nit-picky? Maybe but its the little details that really make a story and when they don’t add up they jerk me out of the story and ruin my enjoyment of it.
I also thought that Graham gave up too fast and didn’t try very hard to keep Ellie. There was all this initial build up and then brakes pulled. Followed by a time jump with lots of pointless filler, followed by an uber quick resolution. There were no consequences to actions and some things that took place were just so pointless that I wondered why it was in the story at all. The story also just felt so unfinished and I thought that there should have been more. With the print version of Happy clocking in at just over 400 pages it just seems like so much potential was wasted.
One thing that I really enjoyed about Happy was how close Ellie was with her mom. While I may not have always have agreed with Maggie O’Neill’s actions I did admire what she did for her daughter and believed she really cared for her. I dislike the trend in YA books that have uncaring or absent parents. I also really enjoyed the beginning of this story when Graham and Ellie were first getting to know each other. I enjoyed their emails and wish that more of those could have been explored although if there were more I would have switched over to the print form of this book because there’s only so much email in audio I can take.
Overall, I didn’t fall for Happy as I did with Statistical but I did enjoy the story. The writing was a little bit repetitive but I’m not sure I would have noticed that if I’d read it in print over listening to it in audio. Happy is a book that I enjoyed listening too and found myself doing so even when I wasn’t driving to or from work. Which is always a good sign in an audio. Happy is an interesting story and while I may have wanted more from it I don’t regret listening to it. If you are a fan of Smith’s previous book or are just in the market for a fun contemporary then you will probably enjoy this one as well.