Tag Archives: teen life

Book Discussion: This Is What Happiness Looks Like

This Is What Happiness Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

Happiness coverSummary

Ellie lives in a small, tourist town in Maine. One day she receives an accidental email and begins an e-flirtationship with the person on the other end. At the same time, a big time movie star of the most recent wizardly-YA adaptation comes to town to film his next movie. While mistaken identities, paparazzi, and family secrets create obstacles, Ellie finds that her own heart is the biggest barrier to love.

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Romance Score: Good Effort

Ellie and Graham have a cute flirtation going on. They also have a real relationship before the summer sparks fly, so the romance felt more real. Still, I wish there were a little more depth to it.

RosieFeminist Score: You’re Trying

I’m conflicted about this.  Ellie’s mom takes charge of her life and encourages Ellie to do so, too. But, I disliked the “don’t trust anyone” (especially men) theme that she also repeated.

diversity people circle iconDiversity Score: Not a Bit

The cast is fairly small and it’s in a small town in Maine. I have family in main, so I know exactly how un-diverse it can be, but I still think there could’ve been more – especially with an LA film crew in town. How cool would it have been if the movie star hottie was a POC?

wow iconAwesome Factor: Good Effort

This book is fun, flirty, and light – just like a good summer romance should be. I’m also enticed to try another Smith book; a definite sign of a good summer love!

Favorite Character

No one really stands out for me. But, I think it might be the pet-sitter taking care of Wilbur, the pig. His (lack of) response to Graham’s increasingly annoying emails actually made me smile.

Favorite Line

“Sunrises over the harbor. Ice cream on a hot day. The sound of the waves down the street. The way my dog curls up next to me on the couch. Evening strolls. Great movies. Thunderstorms. A good cheeseburger. Fridays. Saturdays. Wednesdays, even. Sticking your toes in the water. Pajama pants. Flip flops. Swimming. Poetry. the absence of smiley faces in an email.

What does it look like to you?”

After reading this, I felt like Ellie and I should be best buds. We like a lot of the same things. I wish the story had the same amount of personality that this list did.

Also, I love when I catch the line in a book that corresponds to the title. (Not included here, but on the same page in the book.)

Fun Author Fact

She came up with the premise for the book because her own very common name resulted in some misdirected emails (something I can definitely sympathize with). And, she loves Harry Potter!

Is this worth a book hangover?

It was a quick, fun read. The story wasn’t especially original and it lacked depth, but I still found myself hoping that the two would find a way to make it work. Also, so glad Ellie is following her writing dreams!

Read this next:

Fangirl  by Rainbow Rowell or This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen both have romantic story lines with personality and depth.

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Jess loves SFF – old and new school –  and is learning to appreciate the more lovey-dovey YA under the careful tutelage of Anisha’s recommendations.

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Filed under Contemporary, High School, Romance

Book Discussion: Very Far Away From Anywhere Else

Very Far Away from Anywhere Else by Ursula K. LeGuin


Owen has never felt like he fit in. Then he runs into his neighbor, Natalie, on the bus and they connect over an awkward joke. As their friendship grows, each teenager realizes they may have finally found the one person that understands their peculiarities.

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Romance Score: A+ Success

I appreciate the realistic approach to the haze of hormones and social pressure and the self-respect each character has for themselves and their relationships.


Feminist Score: Good Effort

There’s not a whole lot here to judge – but even after a mistake, Owen does a good job of listening to what Natalie says. Natalie speaks for herself, so I think this is a good example of how to treat your lady friends.

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Diversity Score: You’re Trying

Not much to go on – although Natalie is “stocky” and Owen has crazy hair. It’s possible that things are intentionally vague, as LeGuin is very clear about her character descriptions and usually makes an effort to be diverse.

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Awesome Factor: Good Effort

This book isn’t for everyone – but it is for people that feel different, struggle against the norm, or want to remember the triumph of overcoming the emotional hurricane of high school.

Favorite Character

Natalie – She is dedicated to her goals, strong enough to say no to something she doesn’t want, and equally strong enough to realize when she may have been wrong.

Favorite Line

[Of the Bronte family] “The kind of frightening thing was that it was the boy, the only son, who couldn’t take it, and cracked up – went on drugs and alcohol, got hooked, and died of it. Because they’d all expected the most of him, because he was the boy. The girls, whom nothing was expected since they were only girls, went on and wrote Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.

There were tons of insightful lines in the book as Owen turns his outsider eye on the way life is lived around him, but this one encapsulated the crux of the teens’ issues with their current situations. Their goals and choices don’t conform to the usual expectations and they struggle under the weight of others’ opinions.

Is this worth a book hangover?

I LOVE LeGuin’s work – pretty much all of it. This one is a less common piece for her as it is neither sci-fi or fantasy, but her ability to create characters is still perfectly exhibited. It was a quick read and I think it would be well-appreciated by the target audience. I felt a little nostalgic for high school but also incredibly relieved that I am now a little more comfortable in my own skin than I was then.

Fun Author Fact

LeGuin won the National Book Award and her speech was awesome. 

Read these next:

I hate to recommend it, but Catcher in the Rye is similar in its coming-of-age-ness. For more fantastical takes on teens figuring themselves out: Ender’s Game and LeGuin’s wonderful Earthsea series (especially the first 2).

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Jess loves SFF – old and new school –  and is learning to appreciate the more lovey-dovey YA under the careful tutelage of Anisha’s recommendations.


Filed under Contemporary, High School