- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (March 1, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0316041009
- ISBN-13: 978-0316041003
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 8.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #513,751 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Happyface Hardcover – March 1, 2010
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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
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[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
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Top Customer Reviews
Happyface struggles to be himself. You'll read one scene where he's just putting on a smile for the sake of pleasing others, and then you'll read another scene where he's just putting on a smile for the sake of pleasing others, and then... You get the point. All you do is wait for Happyface to realize the obvious: take that mask off! Many of these scenes felt like they were there just to fill up space. Also, the author seems to assume that being edgy (say, referencing masturbation) is the same as being funny. Maybe a middle school boy would agree, but the humor often fell flat for me. I definitely don't see this as a YA novel with a broad enough scope to appeal to adults.
To mix things up, the author occasionally throws in flashbacks of bad things that happened to Happyface in the past. Many of these events are embarrassing, to be sure, but Happyface could be so mean at times in the present that I hardly cared. It's not until about ¾ of the way through the book that you finally learn about something truly big, something truly traumatic. And it seems superficial and forced that Happyface completely withholds this piece of information for so long. By then, I was too frustrated with Happyface's inability to take charge of his situation to really care about him. Not to mention how he could act downright insane at times (for instance, trying to get a girl's attention by leaning back and falling down a stairwell).
It also doesn't help that I never got attached to any of Happyface's "friends." They often tease him for being a virgin and just don't have much personality. Gretchen, one you get to know fairly well, seems to enjoy having boys fight over her: she comes off as downright manipulative at times. It's also interesting that she's a fifteen-year-old girl who has gone through many boyfriends already: she openly shares how she went skinny dipping with one. Even though she has some troubles of her own, I didn't find her very appealing or well developed. That only made it even more difficult to sympathize with Happyface, who has feelings for her.
Finally, the ending seemed rather anticlimactic. There are a few e-mails between the characters and then... boom! It's over. It was time for a dramatic scene, not a few quick notes among friends.
If you want a young adult book told from the perspective of a boy who is struggling to be himself, a boy who tells his story with some pictures, then I'd recommend The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. It's funnier, has more effective, nuanced drama, and a more appealing art style. The art style in Happyface often came off as grim-looking with its many dark shades of gray.
I didn't hate Happyface. There were a few funny moments, and the overall premise is interesting. I can see why some teenage boys would enjoy it. However, the story feels dragged out, and the characters never got fleshed out properly, leaving me bored.
Again, I still did like how the protagonist was so honest. As a reader, you really came to understand why he did all the actions he did and why he tried to hide it behind a smile. In a way, it makes you think about how easy it could be to just pretend certain bad things in your life don't happen and just smile. Maybe eventually you'll be happy. I like how this book made me think that even though Happyface did not really learn much in the end. In my opinion anyway. I just feel like he did not make much progress on that front.
For all his flaws, I loved reading about Happyface. It was extremely fascinating to me and I could not stay away from the book for long no matter how much I needed to. I recommend this, just know what to expect.
-T.V and Book Addict