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Happyface Paperback – June 14, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 7–10—Happyface is a shy, artistic sophomore, awkwardly coping with life from the sidelines. When horrific tragedy tears his family apart, he finds himself living in a ratty apartment with his newly sober mom and attending a new high school. Bottling up his grief and fear, he pastes a big smile on his face and makes a fresh start as the class clown. It works for a while and, surrounded by popular friends who know nothing of his real story, Happyface pursues the enigmatic Gretchen, struggling to interpret her mixed signals. Inevitably, the suppressed inner feelings build until Happyface blows up, finally giving him the chance to come clean and make an authentically fresh start without hiding behind a mask. Emond tells the story via the teen's illustrated journal, authentically capturing his up-and-down emotions. The pencil-and-ink sketches, comics, and doodles, paired with a disastrously small handwriting font, lend an intimate stream-of-consciousness feel to a story by turns funny, wrenching, quirky, and redemptive.—Joyce Adams Burner, National Archives at Kansas City, MO
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


[star] "Comic artist Emond (Emo Boy) pens an endearing and self-deprecatingly witty debut novel à la illustrated diary...The illustrations range from comics to more fleshed-out drawings. Just like Happyface's writing, they can be whimsical, thoughtful, boyishly sarcastic, off-the-cuff, or achingly beautiful.—Publishers Weekly, starred review

[star] "Moving easily between cartoons and painterly black-and-white illustration, this epistolary novel of a young teen's reinvention of self is subtle and effective... Poignantly real journal entries, e-mails and chat sessions allow readers to see into Happyface's world... [an] engaging and absolutely heartfelt tale.—Kirkus, starred review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (June 14, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316040991
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316040990
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #622,599 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Hello, my name is Stephen Emond, or just Steve if you prefer. There isn't much about that me isn't be said in this excerpt from the HAPPYFACE page on amazon.com:

About the Author
Steve Emond does not have any superhuman powers, neat tricks, or famous relatives, but he's a pretty cool guy who can draw. He is the creator of Emo Boy, which ran for 12 issues and two collections, and the comic strip, Steverino. He grew up in Connecticut, where he wrote and directed a public access sketch comedy show that only his grandmother watched.

I'm pretty sure my editor on the book wrote this to mimic my sometimes self-deprecating manner because I don't remember writing it myself.

Anyway, I'm a creator, I guess you can say. I focused solely on drawing in my youth, wanting to be a comic book artist. Not so much the kind I became, I was more interested in superheroes. Starting with Spiderman, which led to the New Warriors, which led me to following Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee, the guys that wound up at Image. I was a huge Image fan until a girlfriend turned me on to indie comics, which read more like the things that went on in my head.

Another thing I drew, that fed into my later love of writing, was a comic strip called STEVERINO. I did STEVERINO from my senior year of highschool, and for about six years after. I did twenty-five page books every month, three cartoons per page, and sent them to never more than thirty people. I worked through a lot of my own neuroses in those years, but it was a lot of fun.

Feedback for Steverino was generally positive. I won a national contest, Andrew-McMeels/Follett College Store's STRIP SEARCH: DISCOVERING TOMORROW'S TOP CARTOONISTS TODAY and had my comic printed in a book of the same name. I had three or four local newspaper articles and ongoing dialogues with a few syndicate editors. There wasn't really any hook, though. It was just me and my thoughts. They liked the art, they liked the writing, they thought it was charming, but you couldn't sell it.

Eventually I had the idea for EMO BOY, which was "what if this emo kid had superpowers, but they were completely destructive and he was too emo to use them anyway?" It was a joke at first but my girlfriend at the time urged me to go on with it. I did a mini comic, ashcan style - 8 1/2X11 pages folded down the middle and xeroxed. In it, Emo Boy joins a garage band, falls for a pretty girl, kisses her and explodes her head in a fit of emo-nerves. The band is ready to beat him down when he comes up with a hit emo song about the experience.

I sent the comic to SLG Publishing, because honestly, who the heck else would publish it? About eight months after I mailed the book to SLG, I got an email from Dan Vado asking if I was still looking for a publisher. Indeed, I was! I sent him the new issues to show how the art and writing had improved, although Dan did recommend giving him the powers back, as it lent the series a feeling of suspense, not knowing what was going to happen next.

At the end of EMO BOY's 12-issue run, one fan of mine was Connie, an assistant editor at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. She thought the tone of EMO BOY was great for a possible YA book and asked if I had any other ideas. I didn't, but I came up with EMO BOY, didn't I? There had to be something else I could think of!

I went with a darker character-piece called HAPPYFACE. The idea was that a kid suffers a terrible tragedy, puts on a happy face and swallows all the pain. With time the cracks would show and ultimately he'd explode. What exists now as HAPPYFACE has the same general concept, but is not nearly as dark and moody as I'd intended. I pictured seething rage and contempt in every page, but the biggest change came when I decided to use art in the piece.

Connie felt it was a strength that not everyone had, and we could do something to make the book really stand out. I gave it some thought, and became excited with the possibilities. I even thought it would be great to hand-write the entire thing, but that wasn't really feasible. I thought of making little doodles and writings in the margins, scribbled all over. What we ended up with was a sketchbook of sorts. It's a journal, but it's illustrated. A little of the story is told in comic form, there's realistic beautiful drawings and silly cartoony ones. I thought it showed what you really can't write. It was very personal and intimate, and it does look different from anything else.

As I was working on the early planning of Happyface, I also became involved in the EMO BOY movie. Dan was pitching Emo Boy at San Diego one summer and a few people were interested in doing a movie. The best choice for us was John Williams at Vanguard Films and Animation. John is best known for discovering SHREK and developing and bringing it to Dreamworks. They were looking to do a live action movie and Emo Boy seemed in line with what they wanted to do. In early talks, we thought of it as a quirky indie comedy in the line of HAROLD AND MAUDE or RUSHMORE. We had a lot of talks and were seeing eye to eye, so they offered me the chance to write a draft of the screenplay. For the next two years, that's what I did. I wrote HAPPYFACE and EMO BOY at the same time. I was away from the internet, away from the comics community and probably completely forgotten but I was busier than I'd ever been!

Kyle Newman of the movie FANBOYS was brought in as a director and we worked on the screenplay some more, as he infused it with some new ideas. In the end, it's very much EMO BOY from the comics. It's what the comics maybe should have been. When I wrote the individual issues, I had no plan other than to write what was funny. There was no arc planned, no major outline I was working from. With the movie, it was like every character I'd written suddenly had a purpose and a clear arc. I'd figured out why they were there. There's development now, new interactions between characters, some stuff you won't be expecting. I pray it gets made, because I'm very proud of how it came out! And having seen FANBOYS now, I can say Kyle will be perfect for this project.

Currently working on my second YA novel, with a half-dozen other ideas I'd love to do something with, but one thing at a time!

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Virginia Garcia on July 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I am currently in High School, and I am exactly the same age as Happyface. This book is much more realistic than most of the novels, TV shows, and movies that are aimed at teenagers. I can relate much more with this book than I can with others, since I am also the biggest loser imaginable.
Stephen Emond's Happyface was very realistic because of several factors. For one, too many adolescent dramas don't show what teenagers actually talk about. Which is stuff that adults don't want to hear. Drug & alcohol references, dirty jokes, lots of swearing, and rantings about how much family life sucks are really what we talk about. And in teenage television shows, by the end of the episode whoever experimented with drugs or alcohol has a complete physchotic meltdown within a couple of days and stays a stright-edge for life. That NEVER happens in real life.
What also seperates this Young Adult book from others is the social structure. In so many cliche movies, a high school loser with two buddies and without glasses goes on an adventure and by the end is the stereoypical cocky popular guy with a blonde girlfriend and a red convertible. These movies make us genuine social outcasts feel pretty crappy about ourselves. The social structure of the book is so accurate that I can even relate to individual experiences. Like when Gretchen has a party in her basement. On halloween this popular girl that I'm not really friends with invited me to her party. I was so akward there, I was too shy to talk to anyone even though I knew them all, and I kept to myself the whole night. Pretty much the same thing happens to Happyface.
This is the kind of book that shools should use for assigned reading. If kids could find more book like this, it would open them up to reading and we would have a smarter and more world-aware generation of teens.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Lindsay Frost on February 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover
By Stephen Emond
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
# of Pages: 320
Age Rating: 14+
My Rating: 4 Stars

Enter Happyface's journal and get a peek into the life of a shy, artistic boy who decides to reinvent himself as a happy-go-lucky guy after he moves to a new town. See the world through his hilariously self-deprecating eyes as he learns to shed his comic-book-loving, computer-game playing ways. Join him as he makes new friends, tries to hide from his past, and ultimately learns to face the world with a genuine smile. With a fresh and funny combination of text and fully integrated art, Happyface is an original storytelling experience.

I was not expecting Happyface to be like this. When I first got this book, I was going to wait to read this intill I was done with one other book but the drawing in the book just drew me in and I just had to read it to find out what happens next in the book and I finished reading it in one hour.
The book was very engaging ( that's why I couldn't put it down. :D) Happyface was character that I could kind of relate to a little, I could understand now he wanted to start over and become a new person, Happyface.
I really like how the author rewrote this so that the plot was fresh.( I can say a whole list of books who's plot are a girl/boy's mom & dad fight together and they move to a new house and they have to go to a new school.)
It was kind of heavy but Happyface wry, honest perspective help makes it lighter, it was just like as if you were reading a real journal written by a real person.
I really enjoy this book but it's not my top-favorite go-read-now book. Boys will enjoy reading this book because it is told from a boy's perspective but girls will enjoy this too.
I give it 4 stars.

Enjoy! :D:D:D
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Miss Sam, the Librarian on June 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Happyface, like Whip It, is another teen story that surprised me. It's got so many elements that you find in other young adult books, but some how Emond manages to put enough of a twist on the story that I could not put the book down.

One reason is that it's not a normal book. This is Happyface's journal. After having to leave his home town after his parent's divorce, the young man decides he's not going to be the quiet kid in the corner drawing pictures, and reinvents himself as Happyface - the happy, outgoing, cool kid. We follow his journey through his notes and artwork. Don't be fooled, this isn't a silly story. While Happyface tries to maintain a sense of humor in his new persona, the story and themes are relatively serious.

What I think I really enjoyed about this book was Emond's writing Happyface as an unreliable narrator. You don't realize it at first. When you start the book, it feels very "Dear Diary" and you assume that Happyface is just telling you everything about his life. But you begin to realize that pieces are missing. He's not documenting his life for future generations, he's just using this journal to sketch, to vent, to ramble...so bits of information trickles in at a random pace.

I think this is what really drew me into the book (no pun intended). Suddenly, I realized, maybe Happyface wasn't doing as well as he said. Maybe things that happened to him and around him were not everything he wrote down. Because how much would you write down about something that changed your life forever? You wouldn't need to - your life has changed, why would you have to note why??

It's a very fast read, perfect for older teens, especially reluctant reader boys who are trying to figure themselves out. I really loved this book and the idea behind it.
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