Title: More Happy Than Not
Author: Adam Silvera
Publisher: Soho Press
Pub Date: June 2, 2015
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?
Attention everyone: If you are looking for one last book to round out your summer reading list, this might be the one! If you’ve been paying attention to the literary community lately, you’ll know that this book has generated a lot of buzz. More Happy Than Not is author Adam Silvera’s first novel, but you’d be hard pressed to guess that from reading it.
Reading More Happy Than Not was a breeze. I was sucked in almost immediately. Silvera uses short chapters, which is my reading kryptonite – I get stuck in a loop of “one more chapter, it’s only a few more pages,” until I’m so tired I can barely keep my eyes open. This book took me 2-3 days tops to rocket through. It’s a page-turner, one that just dares you to keep turning the pages. I genuinely liked Aaron and wanted to see what would happen to him next.
The official blurb likens it to Ari & Dante and Eternal Sunshine and I couldn’t agree more:
Part Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, part Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Adam Silvera’s extraordinary debut confronts race, class, and sexuality during one charged near-future summer in the Bronx.
“Eternal Sunshine for the now generation.”
And from Bustle:
“Silvera, like [Benjamin Alire Sáenz], is a beautiful writer. Aaron’s story is heart-wrenching, funny, inspirational, and eye-opening. This is a really special novel from an extremely gifted new writer.”
So I knew going in that I was going to read something similar to Eternal Sunshine and Aristotle and Dante (which I reviewed some time ago and loved). I wasn’t sure what a mix of those two pieces would look like… but I was excited either way. The connections to Eternal Sunshine were evident right away. The aspects similar to Ari & Dante didn’t come into play until later on, but when they did show up, the comparisons fit perfectly. And even though I was comparing More Happy Than Not to other works while I was reading it, I was exhilarated by how Silvera’s voice stakes out its own territory for the narrator, Aaron.
What I’m trying to say is that even though this is a debut novel, Silvera has no trouble finding his own unique voice. He finds the core of what he’s writing about, of the emotions Aaron feels, and stays right on the bulls-eye the entire time.
The novel takes place in a slightly more science-y version of our world. Aside from the scientific advancements that allow memory loss procedures to be practiced widely, this book could take place today. We may never be able to do the kinds of procedures that take place in Aaron’s world, but Adam Silvera expertly weaves speculation into the narrative: what if we could?
Silvera separates the book into five sections:
Part One: Happiness
Part Two: A Different Happiness
Part Zero: Unhappiness
Part Three: Less Happy Than Before
Part Four: More Happy Than Not
As you can see, the sections follow the ups and downs of a plot where a character struggles to remain true to him/herself. The beginning establishes the normal, then things change and the main character is tasked with getting him/herself back to normal. Of course Aaron doesn’t stay happy all the time, where would the story be if that were the case?
As the title and section headings suggest, most of the novel centers around Aaron and his struggle against depression. He’s recently lost a family member, and feels partially responsible. His life is not too bad. He doesn’t have much to complain about, or so he feels, so he experiences so much guilt when feelings of depression pop up. Unfortunately, that’s just the way depression works, and it takes some work for Aaron to accept that.
More Happy Than Not threw me quite a few curveballs, I must admit. When I thought I was being clever and predicting a turn in the plot, it would turn out to have many, many more complex layers. I’d get a short burst of satisfaction at guessing something correctly, only to have the entire story turned on its head in the next section. And the biggest plot twist was so incredible to me that it took me a good few chapters to actually realize what had happened. Silvera knows what he’s doing.
Ultimately, this is a novel about the importance of staying true to one’s self. Aaron must first learn how to listen to himself so he can see what ideas are at the core of his identity.
About the Author
Adam was born and raised in the Bronx and is tall for no reason. He was a bookseller before shifting to children’s publishing where he worked at a literary development company, a creative writing website for teens, and as a book reviewer of children’s and young adult novels. He lives in New York City.