Trigger Warning: depression, suicide, self-harm, homophobia
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?
Let me start off by saying that More Happy Than Not has been near the top of my TBR list for a long, long time. I’ve read so many rave reviews about this novel and the majority of those reviews talk about how they were sad, happy, and everything in between whilst reading this book. Now, after reading More Happy Than Not, I can confirm that this story has an emotional impact that I can hardly begin to describe. I smiled, I laughed, and, at some points, I was to the point of tears. If I had to describe this novel, I would say that it is hard-hitting, incredibly diverse, raw, and, most importantly, extremely honest.
The rest of this review is spoiler-free.
If I had to sum this book up within a few words I would say that More Happy Than Not follows the main character, Aaron Soto, and his journey through self-discovery. And let me tell you, it isn’t a perfect journey nor is it a completely happy or positive one as this novel deals with heavy themes such as depression, suicide, and homophobia. I think that Silvera dealt with these topics in a way that was completely honest and sincere and he was able to balance out themes such as those with more light-hearted elements like romance, humor, and pop culture references that never failed to make me smile.
While the first half of this novel felt fairly slow, I noticed that the plot eventually picked up the pace and, at one point, I couldn’t set the book down. I grew really attached to Aaron’s story and as certain plot points were revealed I became completely engrossed within this novel. The complexities that this novel holds really unravel towards the second half of the story and I was caught off guard more than once by the direction of the plot and, soon enough, I was flipping through the pages as quickly as I could to see what was going to happen next.
The characters within this book were truly one of my favorite components within this novel. They’re all extremely diverse, including the main character, Aaron, who is a gay person of color. And these characters… they just felt so real. I could picture them each in my mind perfectly and I think Silvera did an amazing job with their descriptions, dialogue, and interactions with each other because it all flowed together so well and felt very genuine.
Adam Silvera’s writing style was a bit slow towards the beginning of this novel, but as I progressed further into the story I found that his words began to envelop me more and more. I loved the humor that was strung throughout the chapters and I think that the conversations that were featured were very realistic and it felt as if I was reading through actual dialect between real people. Silvera’s style of writing flowed nicely through every single sentence and I can’t wait to read more of his writing in the future.
Overall, I really enjoyed More Happy Than Not. It was definitely an impressive debut novel from an author who is highly likely to be added to my list of authors who I will automatically buy any new releases from. This is one of those books where you finish it, close the book, set it aside, and then you have to sit there for a few minutes just to process the story that you’ve read in order to wrap your head around the entirety of the plot and the themes that it holds. The main message that this book sends is an important one and the ending left me feeling nostalgic, solemn, and profoundly hopeful. I highly recommend this novel to anybody looking for a diverse contemporary story in which the author bravely discusses heavy topics in a meaningful and beautifully honest way.
“The boy with no direction taught me something unforgettable: happiness comes again if you let it.”
So, have you read More Happy Than Not? What did you think about it? Comment your spoiler-free thoughts below so we can discuss!