Title: More Happy Than Not
Author: Adam Silvera
Publisher: Soho Press, Inc
Publication Date: 2015
Page Count: 295 (Hardcover)
Age Recommendation: 14
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? ~ Goodreads
More Happy Than Not is hands down the best contemporary novel I’ve ever read. Written by the same author as They Both Die at the End, I was a little cautious about putting my hopes up. Surprisingly, it was amazing!
More Happy Than Not follows a teen named Aaron who lives in the Bronx. He is in love with his girlfriend, has a crew of friends, and just made a really good friend named Thomas. Thomas is smart, kind, cool, handsome, and an all-around cool guy. Aaron really likes Thomas, maybe a little too much. He’s willing to do anything to fix that.
I was blown away by this book. I love it so much. It wasn’t a coming out story, nor was it a coming of age story, it felt like a mixture of both and something completely new all at once. I loved the main character. Aaron wasn’t always great, and in fact sometimes he was outright horrible, but he was someone who you could understand. His past sucked, and everything he did–good or bad–had a reason for it. He felt real. Throughout the story I was rooting for him, and as we learned more about him all I wanted was for him, and his friends, to be ok.
The side characters, especially Aaron’s girlfriend were so unexpectedly lovable. I really did expect Genevive (Aaron’s girlfriend) to be this horrible person, because for some reason I feel like the girlfriends always are in these types of novels. She wasn’t. She was amazing, and she loved him. Just maybe a little too much at times.
The ending was so absolutely–unexpected for one thing–and perfect for the story. It was unsatisfying, yes. It was also sad and a little bit heartbreaking. Aaron didn’t let us down, though. He survives, like he has throughout the whole book and I respect him so much for that. Also, props to the author for not taking the predictable ending route.
The platonic love in this story is something that I wish more YA books payed attention to. It’s something so underrated, and especially between two male characters. Platonic love is also incredably important. Friendships are just, if not oftentimes more, important than romantic relationships. However, especially between guys, these relationships are rarely shown or given weight in most stories. I really hope that this changes in the future, and this book creates a wonderful example of how it can be done.
This book handles some really intense topics such as homophobia, suicide, and domestic violence. The book never shied away from the topics, and they were never sugarcoated nor glorified in any way. Even though these were topics ingrained in the story, discussed, and handled with, the author made sure to show that the world isn’t all bad, even though it’s not all good either. The ups and downs, the highs and lows and the in-betweens, I felt all of those in this story.
After reading, I honestly have such a clearer understanding of what a contemporary novel is supposed to be. Sure, sometimes they are cutesy novels about romance and having a single meaningful conversation with your parents, but they can be so much deeper. A story doesn’t need magic, romance, torture chambers, or love triangles to make a character come alive. All a story really needs to be meaningful, is following a journey that doesn’t sugarcoat the truth and is real in a way everything else just isn’t. Contemporary can be used to tell the stories that we feel but can’t explain. It’s a bit like poetry, expressing the unexpressable and letting each other know that they aren’t alone.
She pulls away – and then I see why: she’s holding out her palm as a landing place for a firefly. It’s easy to forget it’s there when it’s not glowing, until all of a sudden it comes back and surprises you; it reminds you of grief.
I’ve become this happiness scavenger who picks away at the ugliness of the world, because if there’s happiness tucked away in my tragedies, I’ll find it no matter what. If the blind can find joy in music, and the deaf can discover it with colors, I will do my best to always find the sun in the darkness because my life isn’t one sad ending—it’s a series of endless happy beginnings.