Trust me when I say you have got to pick up this book.
After hearing so much praise about this debut novel and even hearing it compared to Benjamin Alire Sáenz’ Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (one of my favourite books of 2015!), I finally got myself around to picking up my own copy on kindle and you can guarantee I don’t regret it.
While it doesn’t appear at first, More Happy Than Not is a dark, sad book that deals with class, race, homophobia, depression and suicide. I heard a few reviewers mention just how sad this book was before I picked it up but I shook it off as them exaggerating, because it couldn’t be as sad as they were describing, right? But it was and I should have listened.
This is a story about Aaron who is trying to move on after both his father’s suicide and his own attempted suicide. He spends his days hanging out with his guy friends at his apartment complex where he lives in a one-bedroom apartment with his mum and brother and spends his spare time hanging out with his girlfriend, Gen. When a new kid Thomas comes along, he’s everything Aaron has been missing from his life and more and they quickly become best friends. When he realises that he may be falling for Thomas, in a place where being gay isn’t welcomed, he has to make up his mind: try and ignore his feelings or go to the Leteo institute and have his memories taken away.
Often when reading Young-Adult fiction I find that the important subjects are brushed over as though they aren’t everyday things for a lot of teens, but thankfully Adam Silvera ensured that the important subjects were covered in this debut. Homophobia unfortunately still exists. Suicide still happens. Hearts continue to break. I went into this novel expecting a contemporary YA novel about a boy finding love but boy was I wrong. More Happy Than Not explored characters in situations that are often ignored in YA fiction. By doing this, it didn’t bother me that the writing wasn’t mind-blowing or exceptionally beautiful to read. In fact, the writing style (which was often at times crude and nondescript) rather suited the characters.
More Happy Than Not was littered with realistic and unlikable characters, which I found real beauty in. None of the characters felt pushed into being anything they weren’t and because of that I found them all very relatable to people in my own life, and therefore I was able to connect deeply with this novel.
And the romance. Oh boy the romance. Don’t go into this one hoping for a cute contemporary novel about two boys falling in love. Although it is very cute at times, it is a realistic portrayal of a boy discovering his sexuality in a suburb where being gay is looked down upon, things don’t always turn out like Cinderella and unfortunately hearts can break.
A book featuring depression, suicide and homophobia was always going to be a sad read, but I think that it was the other things in this book that made it a truly emotional read. The underlying message that was hidden behind every plot in this book was that if something doesn’t turn out the way you wished or you don’t get what you hoped for, wiping away the memory (either through memory loss or suicide) isn’t the answer. Destroying your memories does not change who you are. It was moments when this was enforced through the novel that hit closest to home for me and made it such an important read.
I won’t say that this book is beautiful and heartwarming, but I will tell you that it is unforgettable. These characters will stay with you. Adam Silvera has blended the good and the bad in a way that just works. Give it a go.
“Sometimes pain is so unmanageable that the idea of spending another day with it seems impossible. Other times pain acts as a compass to help you get through the messier tunnels of growing up. But the pain can only help you find happiness if you can remember it.”