Review | More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

The Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-relief procedure seems too good to be true to Aaron Soto — miracle cure-alls don’t tend to pop up in the Bronx projects. But Aaron can’t forget how he’s grown up poor or how his friends aren’t always there for him. Like after his father committed suicide in their one bedroom apartment. Aaron 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 has a sweet movie-watching setup on his roof, and he doesn’t mind Aaron’s obsession with a popular fantasy series. There are nicknames, inside jokes. Most importantly, Thomas doesn’t mind talking about Aaron’s past. But Aaron’s newfound happiness isn’t welcome on his block. Since he can’t stay away from Thomas or suddenly stop being gay, Aaron must turn to Leteo to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he is.

Adam Silvera’s extraordinary debut novel offers a unique confrontation of race, class and sexuality during one charged near-future summer in the Bronx.

5 cupcakes

More Happy Than Not was one of my most anticipated debuts of the year, so when my hold finally came in, I immediately dropped everything to start giving it a read. If it weren’t for the fact that I needed to go to work, I would have devoured this in one sitting… but, as it stands, More Happy Than Not was beautiful and heart-wrenching, and I can’t wait to read it again.

Having recently re-watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I couldn’t help but draw parallels between it and More Happy Than Not – especially since the relationships and characters took centre stage, not the idea of memory erasure. That being said, I was still completely surprised by all of the twists and turns that the story took, so any expectations that the movie gave me did not dampen my reading experience.

The structure of More Happy Than Not and Aaron’s narration were what really made this story for me. Although it’s told in a linear fashion, each chapter can be viewed as a memory. Aaron’s voice captured my interest immediately; it’s raw and honest, confused and realistic. We get to watch him fall in love, make mistakes, and desperately try to find happiness – even if that happiness means giving up a part of himself.

Aaron’s relationships with Genevieve and Thomas add much-needed lightness to the story, from Trade Dates and rooftop movies to comic books and banter. They truly cared about Aaron, and were an excellent support system.

And can I just say how much I loved the diversity? More Happy Than Not contains characters of different sexual orientations and socioeconomic backgrounds, and the protagonist and other major characters were PoC.

Overall, More Happy Than Not is one of those books that will stick with me for a long time. It’s poignant, heartbreaking, and (surprisingly) hopeful, and I highly recommend giving it a read.

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