Saturday, 6 November 2010

Review: Happyface - Stephen Emond

Published: March 2010, Little, Brown

Pages: 320 pages, hardback

Acquired: ARC sent for review by Little, Brown

Summary (from Goodreads): Just put on a happy face!

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.


My review: I normally find it difficult to review my absolute favourite books so I’ve been putting off this review for a while. It’s silly, really but I’m always nervous I won’t quite do the book justice or I won’t be able to get across exactly why and how much I loved it.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of my favourite books of all time and when I heard somebody compare Happyface to it I knew I had to check it out. While there are a number of notable differences between the two books I think you’re very likely to enjoy one if you liked the other. For me, they are two of my favourites. Both absolutely fantastic.

From the outset it’s clear that Happyface is not just a book. The pages are covered in doodles, scribbles, cartoons, portraits – every page of text is accompanied by art that perfectly complements the words. It adds a completely new dimension to the experience of reading and made the whole novel shine even brighter for me.

Happyface is an absolutely adorable protagonist and I dare you not to agree with me! Honestly, I think he’s one of the most likeable guys out there in YA fiction and it was horrible to read about the sadness he felt inside, while he smiled on the outside and played up to his ‘Happyface’ nickname.

While Happyface is the true star of the novel, there are some other unforgettable characters too. Love her or hate her, Chloe is not somebody you’re likely to forget in a hurry – maybe it’s because of the part she plays in the book or maybe it’s down to the sheer scale of Happyface’s feelings for her, I’m not sure. Gretchen and Trevor are both great additions to the cast and I found myself breathing a sigh of relief when Happyface finally made some friends at his new school.

Happyface is a book that keeps you on your toes from beginning to end. When it seems like things are going smoothly for our hero something happens to upend him once again. Sometimes there are little setbacks – unrequited high school crushes, fights with friends and Happyface’s unending feeling of being the third wheel. Sometimes, though, the obstacles Happyface has to overcome are life changing to the extreme. I know it’s just a story but, honestly, I really felt for the kid.

The story takes the form of Happyface’s diary but he does withhold things from us. Near the beginning of the book we have a simple entry of ‘Today is the day the world changed, and that is all I will say because I don’t ever want to think of it again’, then Happyface moves house and the story really begins. We don’t know that happened on that day and it’s not until we’re quite far through the novel that we find out – when the incident is revealed I actually had to skip back to the beginning and make sure I hadn’t missed something earlier on. It seemed that such a huge event that Happyface had been concealing but it did explain a lot of things. I love that this was withheld and I got to know Happyface so well before I found out exactly what had happened.

To put it simply, Happyface is not a novel that you will forget in a hurry. It’s one of the most original stories I’ve read this year and I know it will always be one of my favourites. Truly innovative and inspirational, Stephen Emond is a great, great writer and I really hope some of you leave this review wanting to check out Happyface for yourselves.

First line: So I’m opening my Christmas present in June.

Read if you liked...: The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky

Rating:
Plot: 4/5
Writing: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Cover: 5/5
Total: 19/20 (A+)

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