Sunday, July 12, 2015

Book Review: "More Happy Than Not" by Adam Silvera

It's been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing twice but expecting a different result each time. I'll also say that insanity is believing a book will make you an emotional wreck (admittedly an easy feat, but...) and reading it anyway. And so it was with Adam Silvera's beautiful, sad, thought-provoking book, More Happy Than Not.

Life hasn't been easy for Aaron Soto. He has grown up poor in a Bronx housing project, his father committed suicide in their small apartment, he struggles emotionally from time to time, and his relationship with his friends, many of whom are on their own troubled paths, is often tenuous. But there are good things, too—his love of comic books, drawing, and a Harry Potter-like fantasy series of books; at times he and his friends play many of the games they played when they were younger (albeit ratcheted up a notch or two); and he has a wonderfully supportive girlfriend, Genevieve, about whom he cares a great deal.

And then one day, he meets Thomas, a boy from a nearby housing project. Thomas is different from Aaron's other friends—he knows what he wants to do with his life (or at least he thinks he does), he's obsessed with movies, and he seems to know Aaron, and know his struggles, because Thomas has faced his own challenges. Like a light switch flipping on, suddenly Aaron realizes his strong feelings for Thomas, feelings he never knew were possible before. He doesn't want to hurt Genevieve, but he can only think about Thomas, and wanting to be with him.

The thing is, Aaron's new-found happiness doesn't sit well with his old friends. Rather than allow himself to get killed, and hurt the ones he cares about further, he seeks out a controversial procedure being conducted by The Leteo Institute, which promises to wipe out memories you want to get rid of. A boy he grew up with had it done, so it seems to be the best way to get his "old" self back again. But no cure-all is what it seems, and Aaron's life and those of his friends and family become more complicated.

"Memories: some can be sucker punching, others carry you forward; some stay with you forever, others you forget on your own."

More Happy Than Not raises a lot of thought-provoking questions. Are the bad things we experience in life better off wiped from our memories, or do those moments help make us who we are? Is being gay the worst thing that can happen to you? Should we deny who we really are and how we really feel for the sake of others?

This book is beautiful and sad and so moving. Nearly everyone who has struggled with identity and self-esteem issues, especially in the face of potential disapproval from those around them, has probably felt and thought the same things that Aaron has. While some of the characters appear to be tremendously stereotypical on the surface, the further you delve into the book, you realize the plot and the characters are far more complex than you think they will be.

I read the entire book in one day and cannot get it out of my mind. It's definitely a downer, but Silvera is a fantastic writer, and I can't wait to see what's next for him.

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