Title: More Happy Than Not
Author: Adam Silvera
Publisher: Soho Teen
Publication Date: June 2, 2015
Genre: YA, LGBTQ, Mental Illness, Science Fiction
Rating: 5 Stars
Dear fellow Babblers,
How am I just now reading Silvera ? One of the most anticipated books from the debut author in 2015 and I’m just discovering his writing now, in the beginning of 2018. How is this even acceptable for any YA reader ? More Happy Than Not is a whirlwind of tragedy, misfortune, self-discovery, and an utmost pursuit of happiness in a reality where happiness is taken for granted and lost more easily than it is gained. This is a book of struggles between race, sexuality as well as oneself. It’s everything that I could ever hope for in a modern YA of today. This is a page turner that goes back in time recreating the demons of young Aaron Soto’s past and his determination to erase it all, even if it means losing more of himself than just his past.
Good Reads Review:
Part Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, part Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Adam Silvera’s extraordinary debut confronts race, class, and sexuality during one charged near-future summer in the Bronx.
Sixteen-year-old Aaron Soto is struggling to find happiness after a family tragedy leaves him reeling. He’s slowly remembering what happiness might feel like this summer with the support of his girlfriend Genevieve, but it’s his new best friend, Thomas, who really gets Aaron to open up about his past and confront his future.
As Thomas and Aaron get closer, Aaron discovers things about himself that threaten to shatter his newfound contentment. A revolutionary memory-alteration procedure, courtesy of the Leteo Institute, might be the way to straighten himself out. But what if it means forgetting who he truly is?
Aaron Soto is a high school boy growing up on the rougher side of the Bronx, amongst violence, drugs and friends that are more like sorta friends. He struggles with his sexuality throughout the entire novel, going beyond all obstacles, even science to erase this part of himself. And what’s worse, he feels his father’s recent suicide is his doing. He is not only trying to move one from the death of his father but also trying to become someone who is simply not him; not in his cards.
Aaron’s sadness is a constant reminder to him of how hard happiness may be to achieve. He carries around a history and does not know how to cope or simply be okay – happy with who he is. He hides himself from his friends, his family, even himself buy undergoing an experimental procedure. If he can get rid of one memory then perhaps everything will fall back into place and he will finally find happiness. This is not now it works, hoover. Science only takes one so far, the rest is up to fate. By the time Aaron figures this out, it’s much too late and al his strives for happiness are taken to the ultimate extreme, destroying any notion or possibility for normalcy in his life.
He walks around with an smiley face scar on his wrist, cut by him as a final plea for help. Unlike his father, he does not give up on hope, home or happiness. His character exhibits strength and determination. Struggle and pain marks every stop in Aaron’s history, but, despite it all, he still strives to be more happy than not, no matter what the end result may be.
Throughout much of the novel he seems to be moving forward with the help of his girlfriend, Genevieve. But this bliss is short lived. Repression only results in the renewal of pain and emergence of memories, evermore painful than before. This is exactly what happens to Aaron. His encounter and eventual close friendship with a boy from the next neighborhood, Brendan, or should we call him the “boy with no direction,” reminds his of who he was, seemingly a lifetime ago. This relationship not only reminds Aaron of his sexuality but creates a domino affect of once tucked away memories being brought back, causing Aaron and his family pain and tragedy, when what they were originally seeking was an erasing of memories along with a new beginning.
Our protagonist is also the narrator which I found refreshing in the sense that his youth and innocence kept the novel raw and deep. His emotions and experiences are intense, not to mention absolutely heartbreaking. The writing is simple and not too profound which I found to be a good balance against the flawlessly tragic plot. Aaron is insightful and really felt everything he was experiencing through his writing from his guilt in regards to his father’s suicide, to his determination to undergo the Leteo procedure and even his troubled relationship with Collin. The novel is separated by time. At first I found this rather confusing, abrupt and the writing choppy at times. It was not until the science fiction” part of the novel, Aaron’s procedure and the involvement of Leteo that the style of narration and sequencing of events began to fall into place and make more sense. There was enough dialogue and action to compensate for all the emotional descriptions so I never had the feeling that the plot was going nowhere, which was oftentimes the case as most of the story was back and forth narration from past to present – before Aaron’s procedure, after, and then when he finally reaches rock bottom, anterograde amnesia.
Genevieve is the angel sent from the skies. She is there, each waking moment, watching over Aaron. She is his lap to lay his head on after his fathers death. She is the woman he turns to for intimacy. She is the counselor that talks him through his struggles. But no matter what she does, Aaron is not hers to keep and it is not until she begins to suffer witnessing Leteo’s affects on Aaron does she finally let go. Brendan, if there is any character I just want to disappear it has to be Brendan. He is just wrong wrong wrong in every sense of the word. I never really came to understand him. His sole purpose in the novel is to remind Aaron of everything he hoped to forget – his sexuality. Aaron’s crush on Brendan is what really destroys him in the end. I feel as though he could have, considering Aaron’s mental decline, taken better care of his friend instead of simply leaving him behind a bike on his birthday and getting together with Aaron’s sorta girlfriend.
Despite the slow beginning, the story captivated me with its confrontation of real issues of the day causing me to wonder about our society and the acceptance of outsiders and just “difference” in a place where all is tight and straight, with little room for something “bizarre.” More Happy Than Not is a realistic novel of Silvera, painting an evocative portrait of sexuality and what it means to be more happy than not, a noteworthy 5 star read to set me up for more from this author.
(Book image credits go to Goodreads)