Release Date: June 16, 2015
Publisher: Soho Teen
Review copy from Edelweiss
Part Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, part Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Adam Silvera's extraordinary debut novel offers a unique confrontation of race, class and sexuality during one charged near-future summer in the Bronx.
When it first gets announced, the Leteo Institute's memory-alteration procedure seems too good to be true to Aaron Soto—miracle cure-alls don't tend to pop up in the Bronx projects. Aaron can't forget how he's grown up poor, how his friends all seem to shrug him off, and how his father committed suicide in their one bedroom apartment. He has the support of his patient girlfriend, if not necessarily his distant brother and overworked mother, but it's not enough.
Then Thomas shows up. He doesn't mind Aaron's obsession over the Scorpius Hawthorne books and has a sweet movie set-up on his roof. There are nicknames. Aaron's not only able to be himself, but happiness feels easy with Thomas. The love Aaron discovers may cost him what's left of his life, but since Aaron can't suddenly stop being gay Leteo may be the only way out.
It should be known that my expectations going into More Happy Than Not were extremely high. After the buzz about Silvera’s debut caught my attention on Twitter, I requested the novel from Edelweiss and gladly got it approved. While it might have taken me a little while to get into the novel, I am happy that I kept reading, because More Happy Than Not is one of those books that consistently keeps getting better. At around 60% it completely surpassed all of my expectations and thus ended up becoming of the the best, and most surprising, novels I’ve read this year.
More Happy Than Not introduces the reader to Aaron, a guy trying to find a way to his happiness and his happy ending. After his father committed suicide, Aaron thought that the way for him to find happiness was to follow in the footsteps of his father but ended up realizing that he did not want to die, not when there was still so much beauty and hope in the world buried under all the bad stuff. Following his attempted suicide, Aaron has managed to find happiness from the time spend with his old friends and his understanding girlfriend Genevieve. Then a guy called Thomas shows up and Aaron starts to question everything he knows about himself - is Thomas supposed to make him feel in a certain way? Is he supposed to find happiness with Thomas instead of Genevieve? Is it possible that a guy who has always identified as straight is suddenly feeling all kinds of gay?
Struggling with his new found sexuality and feelings for someone who might not feel the same way, Aaron realizes that things won’t come easy for him. Living in the projects of Bronx, Aaron is familiar with the laws of the street and he knows that being gay in such an environment won’t only be a burden but also extremely dangerous. When he realizes that it might be too much for him to take, he turns to Leteo Institute and its memory-alteration procedure. But can such a procedure wipe away Aaron’s feelings for guys?
Those who frequently read my reviews and are aware of my reading tastes might be aware of the fact that I tend to find it quite difficult to connect with YA books narrated from the point of view of a teenage boy, mostly because I never was a teenage boy, so it is often difficult for me to enter the mindset of such a character. Fortunately once in a while I manage to come across such books that manage to suck me in right away. Adam Silvera’s debut was such a book for me. His narrative and the voice he gives to Aaron caught my interest and kept a hold on me until the last page.
Though the inclusion of the Leteo Institution and its memory-altering procedures make it possible for this book to be categorized as science fiction, in my opinion the novel is far more close to realistic, contemporary fiction than writing that attempts to portray a futuristic society. In general, the world is very similar to one that we inhabit with Harry Potter-like book series and Avengers movies. Silvera brilliantly weaves the futuristic Leteo Institute into the story very slowly and throughout the novel increasingly builds on its importance in relation to Aaron and his surroundings. Though the Leteo Institute is an extremely interesting concept, I found myself slightly creeped out by it as well because it feels so realistic and something that could definitely happen in the near future. It made me question whether I found want to erase the bad memories, the memories that occasionally make me sad?
More Happy Than Not was one of those special books that made me question my own decisions and what I would do if faced with the choice to erase memories of people that have hurt me. Would I erase the memory of my father and his suicide? Like Aaron, I would probably find the procedure as something that could possible make things better. But at the same time, I would question whether I would want to let go of all the good memories just to get rid of that one bad memory. And I think of big question is that even if I wiped away the memory of my father, could I live without worry and sadness for the rest of my life?
I loved the way Silvera has structured his debut from first introducing us with “straight Aaron”, a guy that seems fairly happy but not really like he is completely true to himself. When Thomas enters Aaron’s life, things start to get clearer and I found it easier and easier to connect with the real Aaron. As the plot starts to thicken, Silvera uses the structure to go back to Aaron’s life before the suicide of his father, which makes it increasingly easier to understand Aaron and his decisions and thoughts. Though I might have found it a bit difficult to connect with this book at first, as I started to near the end, I could not stop turning the pages (or clicking the Kindle page button).
I expected to like this book, but never quite so much. I had read the synopsis and some comments about it, but I never realized how diverse it would be and with how important issues it dealt with. I was completely heartbroken over the fact that Aaron finds himself from a situation where he cannot be himself without finding his life on danger. I was angry at the society where we still judge those who are different without realizing that at the end of the day, we are all the same. I found myself rooting for Aaron and his happy ending. I shed tears for Aaron and his struggles and identified with the struggle he goes through, especially in relation to his father’s suicide, which is something I have been forced to go through as well. I marveled at Adam Silvera’s capability to weave together such a story that not only managed to entertain but also made me think.
More Happy Than Not is the type of book I think everyone should read and I want to highly recommend it for every single reader out there. It is diverse, touching, funny and easy to read. It will probably break your heart, but it will also show that there is goodness in the world and that for every one of us, there must be a happy ending.
"What makes you #MoreHappyThanNot?"
When my 9 month old puppy Veera wakes me up I am more happy than not.
When I cheer for my hometown ice hockey team, one of the biggest loves of my life, I am more happy than not.
When I think about my upcoming university graduation in July I am more happy than not.