I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
Published by Soho Press on June 2nd 2015
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, LGBT, Love & Romance, Young Adult
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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. 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. Aaron could never forget how he’s grown up poor, how his friends aren’t there for him, or how 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.From the Hardcover edition.
There are some books that just leave you feeling breathless and a little bit drained after finishing them. Debut author Adam Silvera has hit me hard in the emotions with his book More Happy Than Not. Talk about a book that packs a punch. Silvera’s debut is heartfelt and honest. It may have a concept that is slightly similar to Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind however, I felt like More Happy Than Not was a wholly original read. I felt as though this was not a story that I’ve read before. You know how some books can feel like the same story over and over again? That was absolutely not the case with this book. After finishing the very last line, I find myself eager to read whatever Silvera comes out with next.
Aaron Soto is a poor Hispanic kid who lives in the Bronx projects in a one bedroom apartment with his mother and brother, Eric. Aaron has a girlfriend, Genevive who is patient with him and caring and overall wonderful. He’s got some friends who are okay but honestly, not as supportive as they could be. Aaron lives his life the best that he can — he’s happy now in a sense, but certain things still bother him. For instance, the absence of his father, who committed suicide last year. Aaron has mostly good memories of his dad, who sure was more into athletics and was distant from Aaron. Still, he misses his dad. Aaron is afraid that he will commit suicide like his dad.
His happiness begins to change and get better when he meets this kid from another project named Thomas. Thomas has these crazy eyebrows but he gets Aaron. And so, the two form this amazing friendship bond over movies on Thomas’s rooftop and long conversations. Unfortunately, Aaron’s friends and his girlfriend begin to get resentful of his friendship with Thomas. Aaron also begins to question his sexuality. Meanwhile, there is this procedure that is all the rage being performed by the Leteo Institute where these doctors are able to extract and bury memories which seems like a legitimate solution to Aaron for his issue — forget that he is actually gay and just be straight. However, this may be out of reach for Aaron given that he’s a poor kid and the procedure is rather expensive.
I feel like I know Aaron Soto intimately, as though he is one of my best friends. More Happy Than Not is a book with solid characterization. I challenge you to read this book and to not empathize the entire time with Aaron. I thought the intersection of Aaron’s race, class, and sexuality was fascinating. He’s dealing with these different characteristics and challenges head on. I mean, I think that the experience of a white middle class gay person is different from the experience of a non-white poor person. And so, I thought this made Aaron’s character journey compelling. I also liked that Aaron was a comic book fan who loves fantasy and drawing. I liked that this unique touch was consistently revived throughout the book. Silvera doesn’t just add in a characteristic and then forget about it. Instead, every word and every characteristic counts.
The Leteo procedure is perhaps the biggest theme aside from sexuality in Adam Silvera’s debut. Throughout the book we get to see Aaron deeply consider and question the procedure. He wants it and then he doesn’t. And then it seems like the perfect solution and then it doesn’t. We learn about his friend who had the procedure to forget his twin brother who was murdered and how his friend had to move because he could not be triggered with those memories of his brother. It’s absolutely fascinating and philosophical to boot. There’s so much to discuss and think about in regards to the Leteo procedure that I think this book would make a perfect discussion piece for your local young adult book club.
Setting feels like a character in Silvera’s More Happy Than Not. Set in the Bronx, you get the feel of a large city and the close knit neighborhood within. I feel as though I know Aaron and all of his friends. I feel as though I’ve walked the streets of his project after reading. It’s like I’ve taken the subway with Soto. I love that feeling. I love that I know all about the bodega Aaron works in under his boss, Mohad. I love that I know the comic book store that Aaron loves to spend his time in as well as the track that he enjoys running and holding conversations on. Silvera has brought the Bronx to life in More Happy Than Not.
I am slightly in shock over how much I enjoyed and took away from Silvera’s debut. There is a big twist. When it happened, I had to put the book down and breathe for a few minutes. Then I needed to talk to someone and explain what just happened because it just blew my mind. If you are looking for a book to blow your mind and make you feel all sorts of emotions, order yourself a copy of More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera.