Note to future self: make another Top 10 LGBT Young Adult Novels I Recommend List in the future.
The idea of implanting memories and forgetting our sins is a concept of science fiction that’s been debated to death, from popular movies such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Total Recall and 50 First Dates to video games that embrace the idea such as Remember Me. But what if you were an uncertain, confused teenage boy who wanted to forget his sexuality? That is what debut author Adam Silvera has us discover in his first book, “More Happy Than Not”.
In the near future, a new procedure by the Leteo Institute allows anyone to suppress memories. And in this world, Aaron Soto is a sixteen year-old Puerto Rican boy living with his poor family in the Bronx. With the family still reeling from the suicide of his father under mysterious circumstances, all that Aaron has to ground himself is his girlfriend Genevieve and the group of friends he hangs out with in their neighborhood.
That is, until a new face named Thomas enters Aaron’s life, and our protagonist begins to develop feelings he hasn’t felt more in his entire life. Sadly, this doesn’t bode well as Aaron’s community favors male machismo and Thomas is straight as a pencil. As his deepening friendship with the new boy grows, the bond with Genevieve fades, his depression over his father’s death and his feelings become more and more chaotic, Aaron begins to wonder about the Leteo Institute and if it can suppress knowing one’s own sexuality.
Can Aaron go through with it though? Can he find happiness from his poor beginning as a straight guy? Can he honestly forget a part of himself and be happy living a façade? And can the author make me feel emptier inside after the final chapter? As in Volume 3 of RWBY territory?
Going into this colorful book, I never expected Adam Silvera to pull at my heartstrings so eloquently. For being a debut author he sure knew how to make even the hardened writer in me deeply care for characters I only get to meet and learn about in only three-hundred pages.
The style of the book is close-knit and modern, but diverse, colorful with language and eccentric, almost like the city in Durarara!!! All of these characters, from Me-Crazy to Brendan feels like the rough-and-tumble kids you hang with in the playground. All of them are either funny, huge assholes, psycho or all three at the same time, and you cannot get enough of them and their crazy antics. Indeed it is like living with a huge family, from the funny moments to the angry moments to the tragic moments.
Aaron and Thomas are a million flavors of likeably adorkable in “More Happy Than Not”, with Aaron being a toughened, but creative individual who wants to escape his neighborhood, his home life and himself while doing what is right. He can be very insecure and selfish sometimes (especially in the latter half of “More Happy Than Not”), but you do feel the turmoil in his point-of-view and feel sorry for Aaron, and want him to make the right decision in the end so he can be happy. Thomas is quite similar, but is confident in his sexuality while being really supportive to Aaron, understanding and even relating to his insecurity. This could’ve been a character I’d despise to the core—and while he does have a couple of selfish moment much like Aaron—but isn’t a straight jackass. He’s a film fanatic, a wandering jack-of-all-trades, and would defend Aaron if it meant staying his best friend.
Genevieve is also nice, much like Rafe’s chick friend from “Openly Straight”, but with a quirkiness that’d make you want to hang out with you. She isn’t just a gay character’s beard girlfriend, but a person suffering as much with Aaron too, and the way they work off of each other makes you believe they could work as a straight couple. And they did at first, until their sexualities reveal their true selves to each other. Even then, it is their friendship that began between the two that makes Genevieve as endearing to Aaron as it is with him and Thomas.
If I had any complaints—or rather pet peeves—it’d be one small one. It isn’t large, but it can distance some readers like me a bit from making this a masterpiece. There’s not much needed about the Leteo procedure until the last half of the novel. Don’t get me wrong; it isn’t a huge problem and is just one nitpick for me, but makes the first half of “More Happy Than Not” feel like a separate narrative. Of course, they do mention it quite a bit throughout the book, and there’s a scene where Thomas and Aaron pass by an anti-Leteo rally nearby, but that’s it. Honestly if you took out everything regarding the Leteo Institute in the first half of “More Happy Than Not” it wouldn’t change a thing.
After the second half of the book though…oh God, I cannot say. I know I’ve done some reviews with spoilers in the past, but so many things go down that I feel obligated not to spoil. Without giving too much away, it’s revealed that a couple of characters are not who they claim to be, and this leads to so many discussions that make you question everything around you. Character’s pasts are revealed, trust is questioned, and all while trying to figure out what is ethically right or wrong.
There’s especially this other character named Collin, who (without giving too much away) is a great example of Shakespearean tragedy in YA literature. He’s a character who, after you learn who he is and what he plays a role in regarding the entire story, makes you both despise and feel sorry for him. Sure he’s getting what he deserves after what happened and what he does, but there’s this sense of what could’ve been.
The last chapter especially hits you home as you fully realize the extent of each and every character’s choices, and how it’ll effect the rest of their lives. At the same time though, you feel this is left best where it is. What’s done is done, and all that’s left is to carve a path forward and find happiness in memory and everyone around you.
By the end of it all though, you feel like this is a warranted ending. The friendship between Aaron, Thomas and Genevieve comes to a point you feel is right, and you feel like all the characters are at a crossroads where you feel is perfect. Written with a modern yet idyllic grain of salt, drenched in social/ethical commentary and littered with happy yet tragic characters you want to offer a hug to, “More Happy Than Not” is a 21st century “Flowers for Algernon” dedicated to LGBT readers everywhere.
And from this, Adam Silvera cements himself as an author I will keep an eye out for. Now if you’ll please excuse me for a moment (or two weeks), I am going to drown my sorrows in ice cream and macadamia nut cookies! ; _ ;
You can purchase this great book here: https://amzn.to/2EAzLLC
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