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The Pursuit of Happiness

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  436 ratings  ·  42 reviews
Dressing up as an eighteenth century farm girl is not how Betsy Odell imagined spending the summer before her senior year of high school, but her history professor father insists she take a job at Morrisville Historic Village. To make matters worse, Liza Henske, only the biggest freak from school -- piercings, tattoos, bleached hair -- works as a farm girl too. As far as B ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published March 7th 2006 by MTV Books
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3.77  · 
Rating details
 ·  436 ratings  ·  42 reviews

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Stephanie Fitzgerald
May 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: I wouldn’t
Shelves: donated
I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I thought I would from the description. I liked the storyline of a teen girl who has to learn independence for herself after her mother dies. Unfortunately, Betsy chooses sex, drinking, and neglecting relationships with friends and family in attempts to gain this.
The most enjoyable parts of this book were the ones of Betsy working as an interpreter in a Colonial village, a job that has always fascinated me.
PinkAmy loves books, cats and naps

I can’t decide between three and four stars. Reading THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS was enjoyable, despite the heavy topic of Betsy’s grief. Her grieving process was messy and she was often unkind comparing the loss of her mother against everyone else’s troubles. At one point she lacked empathy when her best friend’s cat was hit by a car. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a cat lover, yet I understood how a sixteen-year-old could think a cat dying didn’t “count” weeks after her mom’s dea
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Me for

According to the book ON DEATH AND DYING by Elsabeth Kubler-Ross, the five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. If you ask Betsy Irving, though, Elsabeth got it all wrong. The five stages of grief are really agitation, intoxication, experimentation, resignation, and reinvigoration. Betsy's known for awhile that her mother is going to die. After all, with the type of breast cancer that her mother has, and the late stage that
Nov 18, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who's lost a family member
Shelves: 2007
Betsy’s mother just died from breast cancer. In that moment, her life falls apart: her boyfriend cheats on her, her best-friend knew but didn’t bother to tell her, her family’s become silent and lives on Fast-Food, and Betsy’s stuck working in the colonial village with Liza, the freak with multiple piercing from school. All she wants to do is escape this world, where she doesn’t have to feel guilty about not thinking about her mother too much. Along comes James, who has his share of problems. Th ...more
Sep 24, 2009 rated it did not like it
This book completely sucked. I stopped reading it after about 100 pages when the already unlikable main character made fun of her best friend for crying when her cat was run over. The author seems to harbor dislike for cats in general from some of the comments in this book. Garbage, plain and simple.
Sep 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library, summer
cute story but your new bf still ain't shit imo
Mar 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
[ Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog.]

In a multitude of books I’ve read so far this year, the death of a parent is a major plot point. A lot of the times the book is about the death of a mother (like The Survival Kit and You Have Seven Messages). It’s understandable. A daughter and her mother share an unparalleled connection — whether it’s good or bad. A mother is instrumental in the growth of her daughter, especially when she’s in her teenage years trying to figure out who she i
May 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of Sarah Dessen and Deb Caletti
Shelves: teen
Betsy Irving is not looking forward to spending all summer working at Morrisville, a colonial village reenactment. She dreads wearing the colonial clothes, giving the tours, and hanging out with Liza Henske, the school goth. But when her mother dies, she begins to look forward to the escape that Morrisville provides--from her too-empty house, from the boyfriend who dumped her, from the friends who don't understand.

As Betsy throws herself into her summer job, she begins to learn a few things. Lik
Mrs. S
Nov 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2012
This is the kind of book I wish I had read in the summer, rather than during the first snowfall of the year--but I really liked it anyway. Betsy's mother dies at the start of the summer before her senior year. She's left with a falling-apart family trying to survive on fast food, a best friend who suddenly doesn't seem to fit, and a job at a historical reenactment site. And yes, there is a boy--he's the carpenter's apprentice by day, and a surfer with a complicated life of his own by night--and ...more
Mar 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult, 2009
4.5 stars. I really like the author's writing style (very smooth, very beautiful, very good at drawing the reader in) and I love how deep her books are. There are so many layers, so many thought-provoking moments, and it results in a really interesting and well-written novel. I have to admit, though, I like her second book, What Happens Here better than this one, but perhaps that's good, since it shows she grew as an author and that her work only got better.

In The Pursuit of Happiness, Betsy, a
Steph Su
Jun 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: dead-relatives
The summer before her senior year looks like it’s going to be Betsy’s worst. First, the traumatic event of her mother dying of breast cancer. Then, her boyfriend Brandon leaves her for another girl whom he’s been seeing behind her back. She grudgingly works at Morrisville, a historically reenacted village, and her father and young brother Ben are slowly falling apart (they wind up eating takeout and fast food every night).

Betsy feels like the loneliest girl in the world, but as she moves through
Mar 23, 2010 rated it liked it
The book seems to revolve around three things: sex, her mother's death and how horrible her life is (last item said in sarcasm). Ok her mother dies that is a hard thing to go through. She loses her boyfriend (guy whose name starts with a "B") and her best friend (Mary) didn't tell her he was cheating. Ok I would be a little upset but Betsy blows it out of proportion. Mary's cat gets run over, her father cheats on her mother and gets the lady prego so they are going to get married. Betsy can only ...more
Mar 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
I always come back to this book eventually because it's so good. For young-adult fiction there is just a teensy bit of teen angst but mostly real emotions. Its about the main character rediscovering who she is after her mother dies of cancer. It's not as Lifetime Network as it sounds. What gives it unique flare is Betsy's left of center summer job at a historic village, which is just hilairious, and the collapse of her home life. It's just a great read if your in the mood for real-life with hope ...more
Hannah • So Obsessed With
Jan 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2014
It's a simple story, yes, but Altebrando does a great job telling it! At its core, The Pursuit of Happiness about dealing with grief and loss while coming of age. It's a story of finding where you fit, learning to forgive and figuring out everything in the meantime. If you're looking for something under-the-radar but totally worth reading, this book would be a great option! I'd love to see more people discover it.

See my full review on So Obsessed With!
Nov 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Okay, I've read goodly amount of YA lately that involves overcoming the loss of a loved one and reinventing yourself and your family in the process. This book is certainly not without precedent. However, it never felt formulaic or treacly in the slightest. The characters felt realistic and imperfect and utterly relatable. I now must clear my schedule to read ALL of Altebrando's novels. Whyyy don't they carry more of her work in the library? Still, I remain a woman on a mission with a new author ...more
The Pursuit of Happiness was not what I was expecting, and that was definitely a good thing. I loved all of it, but my highlights were: Betsy, the fantastic main character who developed so brilliantly over the course of the novel, her family, and the romance. The romance was perfectly done, not over-dramatic or forced, and James is, like, the best book guy I've ever come across. He was realistic, flawed, and also gorgeous, I must say. So yeah, this one was awesome.
Chloe Olejar
Dec 03, 2012 rated it liked it
I thought this book was good because it teaches you a lot about the hardships of losing a loved one. Throughout the whole book, the main character deals with losing her mother to breast cancer, and it teaches you how to love what you have while you have it, and cherish every moment you have with someone because you never know when your going to lose them.
Mar 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
It was a pretty enjoyable read. Since it was set in the summer months and involved beaches etc, it would be a good read for lolling around outdoors on a sunny day during the holidays... not that they're too common where I live, but, you know. Whatever. The storyline was okay, and none of the characters bugged me - always a positive point.
Forever Young Adult
Graded By: Poshdeluxe
Cover Story: Way Better Than a Shave Gel Commercial
BFF Charm: Yay!
Swoonworthy Scale: 5
Talky Talk: Straight Up
Bonus Factors: Williamsburg, Sassy Best Friend
Relationship Status: Gal Pals

Read the full book report here.
Michelle Sallay
Sep 08, 2011 rated it liked it
For the bulk of this book it was a 4 star read for me, but the end just went on too long. I found the characters interesting and well rounded, but this will probably fade into my mind and mix with any other stories that involve working in a historic village. Unlike Altebrando's other book about Coney Island that I still remember well.
Jan 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
i personally loved reading this book!!! i think that many people can relate to it in many ways. Tara Altebrando does and amazing job of writing this novel so that it is a movie which plays in your head as you read. from her descriptions, i could picture everything and i really recommend that you read this book :)
Apr 22, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: library, ya
I did not expect much from this book, but it was a pleasant surprise. I did not put it down and it was not that bad...It was a story of loss and hope and happiness coming out of heartbreak and tragedy. I enjoyed it.
Aug 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
I would have read this book a thousand times when I was of the age for YA. Wait. I'm still of the age for YA because I read this in one sitting and couldn't put it down. Funny, insightful, and real--if I knew a teenage girl, I'd buy her a copy.
Feb 21, 2012 is currently reading it
so far i am really enjoying the pursuit of hapiness and feel like the more i read it the better it gets. one thing i like about this book is it keeps my attention the whole time im reading it and im able to focus and remember what i read.
Mar 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Did you know that MTV publishes books?? Nobody did! Picked this up from a friend and LOVED it. Great YA reading, makes me want to be a teenager and work at a colonial theme back and meet cute boys who carve me stuff.
Kayla Niven
Aug 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Taught me things that were detrimental to my current position in life, and I am glad to have read this one
Ash Lovegood
Aug 22, 2011 rated it did not like it
I really don't know why I couldn't finish this. It had a very strange feel to it that just didn't do it for me. I don't know. The part of my brain that controls reading is very fickle.
Terri Schuler
Feb 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I read it in one sitting. Tara Altebrando is one of my favorite YA authors and this book is one of her best.
Jan 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
enjoyable and a little different from a lot of other YA
Nov 19, 2012 rated it liked it
Read my review on Forever Young Adult:
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Tara Altebrando is the author of numerous books for young adult and middle-grade readers. Her upcoming book, THE LEAVING (Bloomsbury), is a YA thriller that received a starred PW review and is a Junior Library Guild selection. Her other YA novels include ROOMIES, coauthored with Sara Zarr; Dreamland Social Club (A Kirkus Reviews Best Books for Teens), The Best Night of (Your) Pathetic Life, What H ...more
“It’s wonderful,” his mother says, and I feel something old and familiar course through my blood. It fills
all four chambers of my heart, and I think maybe, just maybe, it’s happiness.”
More quotes…