“If the blind can find joy in music, and the deaf can discover it with colors, I will do my best to always find the sun in the darkness because my life isn’t one sad ending—it’s a series of endless happy beginnings.”
More Happy Than Not is a powerful and poignant rollercoaster ride of a novel. This book had been recommended to me by several people who all told me I would weep buckets of tears. I thought they were exaggerating. They were not.
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.
“I’ve become this happiness scavenger who picks away at the ugliness of the world, because if there’s happiness tucked away in my tragedies, I’ll find it no matter what.”
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.
“From the shapes cast by the green paper lantern, you would never know that there were two boys sitting closely to one another trying to find themselves. You would only see shadows hugging, indiscriminate.”
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.
“Don’t forget me.”
Buy the book here.