Meet Happyface. He’s attempting to reinvent himself in the wake of some pretty traumatic events. His family used to be “typical”: mom, dad, two sons, but a series of events and bad choices caused the ideal to fall apart at the seams. Will that stop Happyface? No! Formerly a shy, artistic computer-game and comic geek, he’s using the move to a new town (into an apartment with his mother) as a chance to start over.
First off: get new friends.
Happyface is the nickname that the object of his idolization, Gretchen, gave him. He tries so hard to be happy, to be friendly, to be likable, that she dubs him “happyface”, and it sticks. In fact, as the book unfolds, we learn a lot about Gretchen, her friends Karma and Misty Moon, her ex-boyfriend Trevor, and even about Happyface’s ex-BFF, Chloe, but not much about Happyface himself (including his name). He’s a mystery, keeping everything close to his chest and away from the other characters as well as the reader. The conflict comes from this reluctance to reveal anything: because he’s not willing to talk about what happened in his family or his past, it ends up sabotaging his friendships. Captivating in its style — journal entries that include both prose and art — your heart aches for this boy, muddling through trying to make it all work, even as you can see it falling apart around him.
Incredibly sad, and yet imminently hopeful, it finds the lonely person in all of us — the one just aching to fit in and find a place to belong — and gives it a home.
Rated: Moderate for instances of teen drinking, mild language, and talk of teen sex (though there isn’t actually any sex “on screen”). It would be a mild for older readers/adults.