Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Review: More Happy Than Not

Title: More Happy Than Not
Author: Adam Silvera
Publisher: Soho Teen, 6-2-2015

"The Leteo Institute's revolutionary memory-relief procedure seems to 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 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."

More Happy Than Not was hands-down my most anticipated debut this year. Adam Silvera's first novel combines two of my favorite things: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. I'll be completely honest here and admit that I don't even know how to "review" this book. Much like Aristotle and Dante, it's difficult to explain why I was so affected by More Happy Than Not. Aaron lives in a place where it's dangerous to be himself, and has to deal with the added burdens of poverty and his father's suicide. There were moments when the harsh realities of Aaron's world made me feel slightly uncomfortable, but they served as moments for me to check my privilege and get a glimpse into what LGBTQ people have to experience. More than anything, this book was enlightening, and so damn powerful.

The cast of characters is a remarkable ensemble, every single person from our protag to MeCrazy feels real, and their conversations and interactions read like actual people would, not just ways to move the plot forward. The relationship between Aaron and Thomas develops so genuinely, and it was almost disarmingly heartwarming to witness Aaron find a true best friend. There comes a point in which certain things are revealed, and in that shocking moment of realization I had to stop reading, cry it out, and pull myself together. I pride myself on spotting plot twists and being unsurprised by big reveals, but More Happy Than Not caught me off guard (and I loved it).

More Happy Than Not brings into question some major themes: identity and memory most of all. The Leteo Institute allows people to repress certain memories so that they can live "better" lives. Aaron wants Leteo to make him forget that he's gay, but can you ever really forget who you are? Silvera brilliantly tackles this question, and while reading you can't help but wonder...what would I forget? If it forgot it, would I still be me? Or would I become a new, edited version of myself, forever split into pre- and post-forgetting?

Aaron Silvera's debut novel is a truly extraordinary read that brings sexuality, class, and race to the forefront of discussion. For a novel that confronts such heavy topics, More Happy Than Not is ultimately hopeful. Despite painful memories and self doubt, you have to make the choice to live your life, and realize that you can choose to be more happy than not (sorry, couldn't help myself).

Rating: 5 stars

Let me know...is there a memory you wouldn't mind letting Leteo erase?

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