Title: More Happy Than Not (2015)
Author: Adam Silvera
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBT
Extent: 293 pages
Release Date: June 2, 2015
In the months after his father’s suicide, it’s been tough for 16-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again–but he’s still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he’s slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely.
When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron’s crew notices, and they’re not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can’t deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can’t stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is.
Why does happiness have to be so hard?
I found this review really hard to write but to start off, More Happy Than Not is NOT a happy book. In fact, it’s really more depressing than not. This is a book with really realistic and mature issues: the death of a parent, death in general, suicide, loss, grief, heartbreak, personal and sexual identity, homophobia, friendships, relationships, etc.
One of the strongest points of this book is most definitely its characterisation.The characters are complex, flawed, occasionally selfish with wants and needs that oppose each others’. Think about how closely that mirrors real life: sometimes good people want good things, and they might still not get it, they might still hurt other good people. This book is perhaps the epitome of that.
Aaron is a good person, but he does not live a happy life. No character in More Happy Than Not, in fact, happy, regardless of the fact that they are (arguably) all good. Not Genevieve, who I believe really, truly love Aaron but is still somewhat self-centred in getting what she wants. Not Aaron’s mum, who is overworked to the extent of being neglectful and is supportive when Aaron really, really needs it, but not a second before. Not Thomas, who dwindles about his life, possibly in denial, and is somewhat plagued by his lack of commitment.
“We all make mistakes… but it’s also a step in the right direction. If nothing else it’s a step away from the wrong one.”
From the blurb of the book, I kind of expected romance to be more of a theme, but I feel like Thomas was in the end more of a catalyst character than a main character, if that makes sense. His existence pushed Aaron to discover himself and confront his fear as well as who he really is, but in the end wasn’t particularly important — I feel like he could’ve been substituted by any other character and the result would’ve been the same.
Plot-wise, this book is incredibly bittersweet. I expected this from reading the blurb and other reviews — Aaron is considering a memory-altering procedure to ‘fix’ his sexuality, after all — but I didn’t expect the twist, nor did I expect all the implications, emotional or otherwise, that came from it. The first half of the book is much, much lighter than the second, and past the midpoint, everything just kind of went downhill for our characters.
“It’s okay how some stories leave off without an ending. Life doesn’t always deliver the one you would expect.”
More Happy Than Not deals with the question of memory and identity. If all our memories are erased, are we still who we are? Can we change our very own nature if we want it hard enough? Who are we? What makes us, well, us? These are all questions Silvera attempts to explore via Aaron’s eyes.
The only reason why I’m giving it four stars is because it took a while for me to delve into the story — the beginning was too slow, and the twist came by a bit too late, so there was personally some pacing issues in the storytelling. In the end, though, I can’t think of anything more realistic (and also more depressing) than the message this book sends:
“Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go.”
Bittersweet, emotional and heartbreakingly realistic, More Happy Than Not is the kind of book that makes you wonder ‘what if?’, but also teaches you to accept yourself and your life exactly how they are.