Author: Adam Silvera (website | twitter)
Publisher: Soho Teen
Publication date: June 2, 2015
Part Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, part Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Adam Silvera’s extraordinary debut novel offers a unique confrontation of race, class and sexuality during one charged near-future summer in the Bronx.
When it first gets announced, the Leteo Institute’s memory-alteration procedure seems too good to be true to Aaron Soto—miracle cure-alls don’t tend to pop up in the Bronx projects. Aaron can’t forget how he’s grown up poor, how his friends all seem to shrug him off, and how his father committed suicide in their one bedroom apartment. He 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 doesn’t mind Aaron’s obsession over the Scorpius Hawthorne books and has a sweet movie set-up on his roof. There are nicknames. Aaron’s not only able to be himself, but happiness feels easy with Thomas. The love Aaron discovers may cost him what’s left of his life, but since Aaron can’t suddenly stop being gay Leteo may be the only way out.
MORE HAPPY THAN NOT ripped my heart out, threw it on hot asphalt, watched it melt, then stomped one or two more times for good measure. Yeah. It’s THAT good.
Despite the synopsis, it is NOT all about Leteo or a memory-altering procedure. The book, in fact, begins with summer days in the Bronx, where our MC Aaron Soto lives in low-income housing with his mom who works two jobs, his brother who pretty much ignores him, and some major issues: Aaron’s father committed suicide a few months ago, and Aaron himself attempted suicide after that. Basically, Aaron has had a terrible year.
Adam Silvera writes Aaron with both a wide-eyed idealism and self-knowledge about what he could be, as well as the world-weariness of someone who has seen too many of his friends and community get hurt or killed. There is danger in this neighbourhood, and it’s gritty and real. Aaron’s friends are dudes who like intense games of amped-up hide-and-seek or handball that include a lot of violence and pummelling. This isn’t a good neighbourhood.
But despite that, there are bright moments, whether Aaron is discovering new dollar comics, or having Trade Dates with his girlfriend Genevieve. He’s a guy who loves sci-fi and fantasy, spends his time drawing comics, and really wants to be happy.
The funny moments and banter saved this book from being too dark, and at every page-turn, I just wanted to hug Aaron more. Because this is a guy who is trying so hard just to be himself, who wants so much more than the life he’s given, but who is in real danger of not being able to get it because of the terrifying threats around him. And I do mean terrifying.
Throughout the book, we discover that Aaron is literally fighting for his life, for an existence that is more happy than not. And he deserves it, but the torture that he goes through in order to try to get it – so many times, he questions whether it’s worth it, and to be honest, I did, too. I got why Aaron did the things he did to try to be happy, and the pain and suffering that he feels…I think this is the first time I’ve read a book that includes bullying that I’ve had a visceral reaction to.
Even though I guessed at a few of the twists and turns that Silvera put in, the back third of the novel had me completely floored. There are no cheap tricks to this book – every twist is a well-earned sucker punch to your feels.
There were moments when I actually didn’t think I’d get through this book because it was so brutal. But it was also incredibly honest. MORE HAPPY THAN NOT broke my heart with Aaron’s journey, and I’m pretty sure this is going to be one of my most emotional reads of the year.
Form Follows Function: The structure of MHTN is really cool, with little episodes serving as moments, almost like snapshots (or, dare I say it, memories) that are tied together to create each chapter. I don’t want to give too much away, but the form works incredibly well to show the Aaron’s state of mind and…I can’t say anything else. Just know that it’s really really cool.
Book Theme Song:
The Final Word:
MORE HAPPY THAN NOT is kind of book where you walk in expecting something and then nothing turns out quite as you expected. Even though I knew that it was going to deal with memory, with a boy dealing with his homosexuality, and yes, with major class issues, I didn’t expect how real and raw and poignant this would be. Put this unexpectedly emotional and deeply realistic book at the top of Mount TBR – I guarantee that this is one you’re going to be talking about and foisting on others for a long time.
MORE HAPPY THAN NOT is out in bookstores now. Will you be picking up a copy (You definitely should!)? Are there memories you wish you could erase? What makes you #MoreHappyThanNot? Hit the comments and let me know!