“More Happy Than Not”


Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not reminds me of a Junot Diaz-type urban, “let me spit it to you” tale, mixed with some (but minimal) SCI-FI . The story is about Aaron, a teenager growing up in a Bronx neighborhood where tragic deaths, poverty, and drugs, leaves everyone feeling like they are lacking. Each character in Aaron’s neighborhood, from his gamer brother, Eric, to the neighborhood crazy kid, plays their “role” in their community- and they play it well. But Aaron realizes that they are all trapped in these roles. Trapped in their jobs, their broken families, and their crappy, too-small apartments. After the suicide of Aaron’s father, and his own subsequent suicide attempt, Aaron is just trying to make his own role (or more-so trying to find one) more bearable. His girlfriend Genevieve helps in his quest for happiness, until she goes away to Art Camp for three weeks. While she is gone Aaron becomes close friends with a mysterious boy named Thomas. Thomas is a self-proclaimed “quitter” of anything that he feels he doesn’t want to deal with anymore. From Thomas’s minimum-wage jobs and his half-written screenplays, to his girlfriends, he seems to prefer to move alone, ghosting through the lives of the people that he is surrounded with – because he doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere. Aaron’s friendship with Thomas makes him question every aspect of his life and is the only person with whom he shares his unpleasant past, and how he feels about it.  Silvera brings topics of race, class, and sexuality to the forefront, and, I don’t want to give too much away, but draws you in wonderfully with his unreliable narrator. This book makes you think that you know where the story is going, but surprises you at every corner.
Ahh, now for the “SCI-FI” part. There is an institution, the Leteo Institute that allows people to repress certain memories so that they can live “better” lives, and forget painful memories. Ever had an unpleasant experience that prevents you from living your life? Imagine if you could make it so that it never happened. Convenient, right? But, as Genevieve points out, “Leteo suppresses memories. It doesn’t erase them.” Suppression of one’s true self is a theme in this novel that everyone can relate to and reading it made me contemplate if altering our memories can really make our lives better. Do we deserve to have our difficult memories erased? Aren’t our memories and experiences what makes us human? As one protester of the procedure in the book points out, “Grief is natural. Guilt is deserved.” You will have to read the book to see how the Leteo procedure is woven into the lives of these characters, but don’t worry- this book is a page turner!


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