Published by Soho Teen on June 2, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Science Fiction
In his twisty, gritty, profoundly moving debut—called “mandatory reading” by the New York Times—Adam Silvera brings to life a charged, dangerous near-future summer in the Bronx.
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?
After hearing a good amount of buzz for More Happy Than Not, I picked it up from the library without knowing much about the plot. I highly recommend going into this book without knowing too much, and my summary will be purposefully vague. More Happy Than Not follows teenager Aaron Soto. He lives in the Bronx, and when the book opens readers find out that his father recently committed suicide, and Aaron attempted suicide. Now we are following his life in his apartment complex, and seeing how Aaron is dealing with the life he’s been dealt.
More Happy Than Not is a contemporary novel with a science fiction twist. Aaron lives in our time, but there is a new medical procedure called Leteo that can alter our memories. If you get Leteo, you will be able to forget something in your life, and you’ll never know you even got the procedure. Aaron’s neighbor had Leteo before he moved away, and Aaron’s not sure if he believes the procedure even works. I really enjoyed this sci fi element in the book, as it really made things interesting.
As for my critiques of the novel, I will begin by saying that the first 100 or so pages were quite boring for me. There was no clear direction for the novel, and I even considered putting the book down without finishing it. That all changed at a certain point in the book. Things begin happening quickly, and I was sucked into the story. The slow beginning does make sense as the book continues, so I didn’t detract from my rating because of it. However, I tell you so that you can push through the beginning if you find it boring at first. Trust me – it’s worth it!
I also found that the ending of the novel was a bit rushed and not explained as fully as I would have liked. More Happy Than Not is a short novel under 300 pages, and I think expanding the ending a bit would have really helped the story. I also noticed some editing mistakes and grammar issues throughout the book, which will hopefully be fixed in later editions.
Nonetheless, I absolutely loved the story within More Happy Than Not. I know it might not seem that way based on this review, but I really don’t want to give anything away. Trust me when I say that Silvera creates a plot that is detailed and carefully constructed. This is the kind of book I want to read over and over to catch his hints for a later reveal along the way. More Happy Than Not makes an excellent book for a book club, because there are so many elements to be discussed, including memory, mental health, and whether we can change who we are.
I also wanted to quickly mention that I loved the setting of the book. I did live in the Bronx for a semester in college, so I was a bit familiar with where the book took place. However, I really enjoyed being taken inside Aaron’s community. His neighborhood functions in a really interesting way. I loved how Silvera incorporated all of the neighborhood games into the novel, and showed Aaron’s so-called friends as familial yet toxic at the same time.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed More Happy Than Not, and highly recommend it. This is Silvera’s debut novel, and I am impressed with how well his writing is already. I will be picking up his other books for sure, and I hope you’ll give this one a try. If you’ve already read it, please discuss it with me! There are many interesting conversations that may be had from reading this book.
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