The Leteo Institute's revolutionary memory-relief procedure seems too good to be true to Aaron Soto -- miracle cure-alls don't tend to pop up in the Bronx projects. But Aaron can't forget how he's grown up poor or how his friends aren't always there for him. Like after his father committed suicide in their one bedroom apartment. Aaron 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 has a sweet movie-watching setup on his roof, and he doesn't mind Aaron's obsession with a popular fantasy series. There are nicknames, inside jokes. Most importantly, Thomas doesn't mind talking about Aaron's past. But Aaron's newfound happiness isn't welcome on his block. Since he's can't stay away from Thomas or suddenly stop being gay, Aaron must turn to Leteo to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he is. Adam Silvera's extraordinary debut novel offers a unique confrontation of race, class and sexuality during one charged near-future summer in the Bronx.
More Happy Than NotFeatured
Aaron Soto doesn't like what's happening to him. He has a perfect girlfriend who has helped him cope with the grief of his father's recent suicide, a big group of friends from his Bronx neighborhood, and even a part-time job. But when Aaron meets Thomas, he gets turned upside down. Suddenly Aaron can't think about anything but Thomas, they spend all their time together, and he isn't even that interested in his girlfriend anymore. What is happening to Aaron? He doesn't want to find out. Instead, Aaron turns to the Leteo Institute to find an answer to these changes that he can't accept.
MORE HAPPY THAN THOUGHT is a powerhouse of a YA debut that will crumple your heart and make your soul soar, all in the same chapter. The writing is very good, driven by Aaron's strong and captivating voice. While I wanted a little more connection to Aaron in the first half of the novel, I got that connection later on, once the secrets and twists come to light. The near-future setting is so very authentic, yet fascinating in its nuanced differences. The story is also incredibly contemporary - it isn't quite sci-fi and isn't quite your typical realistic novel. With powerful, sucker-punch moments and tearful, soul-searching questions, MORE HAPPY THAN NOT is quite possibly the best debut novel of the year.
Incredibly authentic setting.
Fascinating near-future context.
Real life issues.
For a good two-thirds, the book is very slow and feels as though nothing is happening. But that is done on purpose. The protagonist, Aaron Soto, is an unhappy 16 year old boy whose father recently committed suicide, which just might be his fault, and is dealing with his own failed suicide attempt. His mother tip-toes around him and his brother ignores him. Aaron’s only solace is his girlfriend, Genevieve, but then he meets Thomas who makes Aaron feels things he’s never felt before. But, Aaron lives in the Bronx, where going against the status quo is dangerous. When Thomas doesn’t return his feelings, Aaron considers undertaking a memory altering procedure by the Leteo Institute to get rid of these feelings and turn him straight.
(warning: mild spoilers below)
The themes in this book are incredibly important: homophobia, depression, loss, race, self-regret, romantic and platonic relationships, as well as mental health issues. Silvera tackles the big issues with finesse and acumen and doesn’t stray away from the uncomfortable. It deals with these issues in such a raw manner.
This book hurts. It hurts a lot. The reader does not get what they want, there is no happy ending, and you will cry. These themes are tied in with the everyday life of a typical teenage boy: comic books, video games, playing stupid games with friends and dating. These diverse themes gave an incredibly authentic and emotional tone to the book. Each disparate theme adds to the plot and connects to the others. The result is a smooth, seamless novel that completely envelops the reader.
The novel also deals with sexuality in a very complex way. This is not a coming out story, though it may look like one at the beginning of the book. More Happy Than Not delves deeper into Aaron’s journey; his sexuality is an important part of that journey, but only as a foundation to his character and what he experiences throughout the book.
I really enjoyed the characters, especially Aaron and Thomas. Each character was imperfect and individual which added a sense of realism to the reading experience. Some characters I loved, others I hated. They all have internal struggles they need to deal with in their own ways, which is what made them complicated and substantial. Thomas was my favourite character: he was sweet, funny, loving and real. It’s no surprise Aaron falls in love with him. Aaron was a great protagonist, you can’t help but like him and really feel for him. That being said, he is an unreliable narrator, but that is not his fault. His unreliableness is incredibly significant. Silvera has created wonderful characters here, characters you will remember long after you’ve finished the novel.
I can’t explain much of the novel in terms of plot, because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. Usually, I explain the ending in a book review, and my feelings about it, but I simply can’t here. The book has an incredible twist about two thirds of the way in that no one – I repeat, no one – will see coming. Not many books get past me when it comes to twists. Eight out of ten times I see them coming, but not here. And when the twist was revealed, I could not believe I didn’t pick it up because it had been led up to throughout the entire novel. Silvera peppered in so many little clues that the reader just takes for granted because they seem so mundane, and therefore, unimportant. That is the mark of a good writer, whose writing is so subtle you don’t realise the importance of it until much later.
More Happy Than Not was not a beautiful, wonderful or joyful novel. It was definitely an unforgettable one, which, in my opinion, is much better. After reading this book, there is no way you will be able to go about your daily life again. The characters have burned themselves into my memory and will always stay with me. If More Happy Than Not is any indication of debut author Adam Silvera’s skill, he has a long and very successful career ahead of him. I am dying to read his next novel History Is All You Left Me, set to be published in January in 2017. I will definitely be purchasing all his new novels in the future.
This book was a pretty powerful read. It had a great voice and touched on a lot of issues that are relevant today. It had a nice balance between the darker moments and the lighter moments. I would definitely say it wasn’t an easy or fast read but a very worthwhile read.
Aaron was such an interesting character who drew me into his world so quickly. I fell for his geekery, his love of comics and obsession over a fantasy series. I liked seeing the connection he made with Thomas and him opening up and their friendship definitely seemed to be a high in Aaron’s life. Aaron’s struggles were a huge driving point of the story: his struggle with his sexuality, his struggle about the procedure, his struggle with his dad’s suicide, his depression, figuring out who he is. It was a boy discovering who he was and having to deal with knowing the truth could mean losing it all.
The character interactions in the book were great. Aaron’s overworked mom trying to do her best to care for her boys, Aaron’s brother always there but seeming not interested in his life, the growing friendship of Aaron and Thomas, the relationship between Aaron and his girlfriend, Aaron and his neighborhood friends. It was interesting to see the different ways Aaron would interact with everyone and very telling about how open he would chose to be with each person.
The memory-wiping Leteo Institute was a little confusing at first since I wasn’t sure how it would work in Aaron’s situation but it got clearer as more was revealed. I thought it would play a bigger part in the book since it was the first thing mentioned in the synopsis but the story was more focused on Aaron’s growth, decision, and the aftermath. The whole concept did bring to mind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which I have seen this book compared to and really enjoyed. I didn’t even care that I could see some of the twists coming. I just wanted Aaron to be happy.
The book touched on a lot of important issues. Sexuality, depression, suicide, racism, poverty, homophobia, acceptance, and it did so without feeling like it was trying to cram too many issues into too little pages. It was the type of book a person could just read to read and enjoy, or to read and analyze(and enjoy). It was definitely a book to remember.
And that Scorpius Hawthorne demonic boy wizard series that kept getting mentioned in the book, that needs to be a real thing.
2. The realistic tone of the character's voice