Tuesday, September 8, 2015

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera - A Review



RELEASE DATE: June 2nd, 2015

FORMAT/PAGE COUNT: Kindle/304 pages




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? (From GOODREADS)

EXPECTATION: Fear? Anxiety? Excitement. I've been planning on reading this one since I first heard about it, a few months before it dropped. I am only now getting around to it. I knew it would cut like a knife. The synopsis told me this much.


This book sucker-punched me in the throat. It took every thought on homosexuality I ever had and made it a what-if. What if we could have that part of ourselves wiped out of our memory for good? What if we could remove it from who we are, what we are? What if we could escape that life? If we could, would we? I understood immediately the main character's desire to alter his memories and to wipe the existence of his sexuality from his mind. I understood it in a very real and heartbreaking way.

This book messed with my head. I wanted to simultaneously slap the main character across the head, root for him, and watch with anticipation to see if he is ultimately able to escape the imagined death sentence he finds himself in. I was all over the charts on this one...mostly because I think this is something a hell of a lot of LGBTQ teens struggle with. This is a must read. And not only for LGBTQ persons. If you want to see their internal struggle and turmoil, to understand them better--to walk a mile in their shoes--read this book!

The whole premise of More Happy Than Not is essentially about the main character, Aaron Soto, attempting to flee his homosexuality. But where we begin is not really the beginning. Because of the nature of this rollercoaster of a story, we are originally led to believe this is about Aaron coming to terms with the suicide of his father and then his own failed suicide attempt. But that's simply the surface of this amazingly executed tale of homophobia, depression, loss, poverty, friendship, and the awkward and horrific inner turmoil of not being comfortable in one's own skin...with the essence of one's selfness.

One of the first questions I formed as the story unraveled from the original suicide and loss thread, and we began to see the unfolding of Aaron's sexuality questioning while in the throes of a new friendship with a boy named Thomas, was HOW MANY PEOPLE NEED TO ACCEPT YOU BEFORE IT'S OKAY TO ACCEPT YOURSELF? Aaron knew, even as his feelings for Thomas grew, that his friends would not be okay with him liking boys. And there was already a growing strain between him and his friends, possibly as a result of his father's suicide and his own failed attempt...or possibly because of other circumstances not yet revealed to the reader. The reader may have a sense that there is more than meets the eye on this issue. Aaron struggles to come clean about his sexuality even to his mother and brother...even though his mother pointedly tells him she would love him no matter what.

In an effort to forego the struggle of dealing with his burgeoning sexuality, Aaron considers the Leteo Institute's memory altering procedure...maybe he can simply erase the fact that he is gay from his mind. It would answer all his prayers in one fell swoop. He could keep his girlfriend and be straight with her and carry on in a normal heterosexual existence.

Oh yeah, Aaron also has a girlfriend. Genevieve is a visual artist who is very much in love with him...to a point where it is dangerous. She wants him. Even when things start to unravel she still wants to hold on to him. As Thomas comes into his life, Genevieve is temporarily leaving it for a getaway at an art camp. His struggles over not wanting to hurt her upon her return by revealing his secret sexual desires are palpable. But his unnamed secret becomes even more complicated when an incredibly HUGE plot-twist interrupts the forward motion of this story with the expertise and precision of a sword. We, the reader, find that we have been kept in the dark about a few things.

The plot twist works well. At first, I felt a bit violated by the deception...but I almost immediately got over it. It turned out to be an extremely heartrending twist. I did not see it coming, and it served to show the sheer depths of Aaron's sexuality struggles. His struggle is so true and so real and so similar...it cut deep. I can't even begin to count the number of times I wished I could start over...erase everything and simply start over in a more friendly accepting environment. Somewhere, anywhere that accepts you for who you are. But in real life...you're always going to find haters. You will never escape judgement. This is why Aaron considers NOT to alter the opinion of those around him but to alter his own mind instead. But some things come at a price. Sometimes there are even more tragic things than accepting who you are even at the price of losing everything around you.

I found this story to be completely and utterly heartbreaking. But I also found it to be an oasis of hope. Perhaps the LGBTQ youth who read it will find a perverse comfort in it...if only in discovering they are not alone in their struggle at self-acceptance while simultaneously discovering who ultimately will not accept them. Sadly, many of them will far too easily imagine a world where they would erase their sexuality from their memory in order to have a more comfortable existence.

At one point, Aaron states, "I can't believe I was once that guy who carved a smile into his wrist because he couldn't find happiness, that guy who thought he would find it in death." But I can. I can believe it wholeheartedly. It's not easy. And Adam Silvera painted a perfect picture of the struggle. One can only hope that books like this one change people, make them more tolerant. But it's not the LGBTQ people who need to change. It's those who oppose them for simply being who they are...who they unalterably emphatically are. 

"I'm more happy than not. Don't forget me." ~ Aaron Soto, More Happy Than Not (Adam Silvera)

SIZE: 5 1/2

Find Adam Silvera online at his WEBSITE, on Twitter, and, on Instagram.