REVIEW: More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

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Title: More Happy Than Not
Author: Adam Silvera
Format: E-ARC
Publication: June 2nd 2015 by Soho Teen
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss (thank you Meredith Barnes, Soho Press and Edelweiss!)
Genre: Fiction—Coming of Age, Contemporary
Other classifications: LGBTQIA, Young Adult

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Synopsis

The Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-relief procedure seems too good to be true to Aaron Soto—miracle cure-alls don’t tend to pop up in the Bronx projects. Aaron could never forget how he’s grown up poor, how his friends aren’t there for him, or how his father committed suicide in their one-bedroom apartment. Aaron has the support of his patient girlfriend, if not necessarily his distant brother and overworked mother, but it’s not enough.

Then Thomas shows up. He has a sweet movie-watching setup on his roof, and he doesn’t mind Aaron’s obsession with a popular fantasy series. There are nicknames, inside jokes. Most importantly, Thomas doesn’t mind talking about Aaron’s past. But Aaron’s newfound happiness isn’t welcome on his block. Since he can’t stay away from Thomas or suddenly stop being gay, Aaron must turn to Leteo to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he is.

Review

I received a review copy from the publisher which in no way swayed my opinion about the work.

More Happy Than Not is a strong debut from YA newcomer Adam Silvera. It is as unrelenting as it is hopeful, as gut-wrenching as it is absorbing.

Set in a Bronx neighborhood that is a character of its own and with a bit of a speculative tinge, Aaron Soto’s story may seem ordinary, another of those teens navigating the firsts—first love, first kiss, first sex. But it’s not before long ’til Silvera starts tearing down expectations, busting one assumption after another. The plot twist sucker-punched me and, just when I thought he’s exhausted his arsenal, he delivers the final blow. He paints the extent to which being gay in a close-minded community may lead to all sorts of horror with severe, and often brutal, honesty. There were multiple instances I had to stop reading because his words cut deep.

“This is one of those times where you swear you have to be sleeping and living a nightmare because it’s so impossible that your life can only be a string of bad things until you’re completely abandoned.”

In More Happy Than Not, the author plays at one of the oldest societal debates: nature vs. nurture. Aaron firmly holds that his being a “dude-liker” is something he didn’t choose but rather something he had to deal with. It’s refreshing to view sexuality through this lens, especially in line with homophobia. And especially considering how this novel wins at diversity. Not only does it have a gay MC, it has a Puerto Rican gay MC. But that’s not all of it. In one scene, Thomas tells Aaron, “I was the only brown Scorpius Hawthorne” and it doesn’t feel forced. I think Silvera’s voice—unabashed and observant as it is—is a promising addition to an important conversation.

“It’s not like my heart is in running or anything like that, but at least I learned that you can’t always choose who you’re going to be. Sometimes you’re fast enough to run track. Sometimes you’re not.”

Then, you have the characterization. One thing that’s remarkable is the chemistry between the characters. They are complicated, thrown in further complicated positions, but Silvera successfully balances the complexity with relatability. He didn’t try to redeem the bad guys (for lack of a better term) and that’s a major score. And there’s family dysfunction. Aaron comes from a poor family (which, I cannot overstate this, is scarce in literature but is a reality) and it’s not an easy household.

“This is the most painfully confusing time in my life and he’s the first person who said all the right words to me and reminds me of the first days of summer where you leave home without jacket, and my favorite songs playing over and over.”

I want to point out, as well, how geeky the book is. There are several pop culture references—leaning heavily on comics—and you don’t need to know that the author is a potterhead to observe the winks and nods to the Harry Potter series. Plus, I really enjoyed moments when Aaron and Genevieve (I’m going to use “the girlfriend” as a descriptor but, trust me, you’d want to get to know her) would hang out or when Aaron and Thomas would and, this is me being nostalgic, I love how street games are a big part of the community Aaron lives in.

“Do you think there’s a chance you were someone really awful in a past life? Like Darth Vader? I feel like you can’t catch a break.”

With characters as unforgettable as the book is unflinching in its portrayal of confusion, love, homophobia, family, friendship and a lot more, Silvera is set to win many, many fans. He’s barely started, too. Readers who adore Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe will come upon another favorite.

4.5 out of 5

Author

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Adam Silvera 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.

Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr | Website

 Have I convinced you to pick up this title when it comes out (2 weeks from today!)? Are you a fan of heartrending coming-of-age stories? And will you take the Leteo procedure if you can? There’s an amazing pool of emerging new voices in the book industry, especially in YA, who are your recent favorites? Tell me in the comments below! I always want to hear from you! Also, while you’re at it, you may want to participate in The “More Happy Than Not” Tag?

You can also stalk follow me elsewhere! On Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Bloglovin.

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37 thoughts on “REVIEW: More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

  1. I’m not sure how I’ll take the heartrending moments. I guess I can take your tip and have breaks to help regain composure. And I am beyond ready for the geeky moments. I seriously can’t wait until June 2nd! Excellent and insightful review, Shelumiel!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I heard about this book before, and after reading your More Happy than Not tag, I was impatient to check out this review! As always, never disappointed, one more book to add to my TBR. Thanks again Shelumiel ! 😀 I especially love it when there is a lot of chemistry between characters, I think that’s one of the things that makes me keep a book in my mind for a long time! And so many interesting themes in this book…damn,I can’t wait! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve seen this author on Twitter a lot and consequently I have been really curious about his novel! It’s so great to hear that it’s as good as it sounds!

    Excellent review 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yaaay! The dude rocks and I’m excited for you to meet Aaron, Gen & Thomas! I hope the story resonates with you in some ways, even if you haven’t experienced the exact same things. Thanks for dropping by, Miggy!

      Like

  4. So basically you have caught me in the hype of this book. You’re REALLY good at that, for the record.

    I don’t think I’ll try this one out — mainly because this is contemporary, and just the last book you got me interested in, Simon Vs, it sounds fantastic, but probably just isn’t up my alley. I am having loads of fun writing the tag, though 🙂

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    1. THANK YOU, Alyssa! 🙂

      May I know what you don’t like in contemporaries? I’m nosy. Sorry. But yeah. MHTN really is fantastic. And oh. I’m looking forward to what you come up with in your tag!

      Like

  5. I was planning on going into this book completely blind ;P I hadn’t even read the synopsis (I still haven’t, I’m just reading early reviews lol) but I LOVED your review. In all honesty, GODDAMN I love those quotes! June 2nd isn’t far away yay 🙂

    WHO AM I KIDDING I REALLY WANT TO READ THIS BOOK LIKE NOW

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ahhh, I was wracking my brain trying to figure out where I’d heard of this guy! And then I realised: it’s on the Pub(lishing) Crawl website! SO YAY. I’ve read posts from him before and he’s quite epic and I toootally want to read his book. I hadn’t even heard of it before so THANK YOU. You basically just added another book to my Eiffel Tower sized TBR. It thanks you. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s funny how the internet works. Coz I’ve been seeing this title pop up here and there a couple of times now. But yeah. I know he’s part of Pub(lishing) Crawl and he reviews for Shelf Awareness but I haven’t actually read anything from him in those sites. So. But, oh, you should follow him on Twitter! He’s pretty epic there, too. As for the book, I’m interested to hear what you think of it! And you’re welcome.

      Like

  7. You already know that I’m going to pick up this novel when it FINALLY comes out.

    I definitely AM a fan of powerful novels. It doesn’t have to be coming-of-age, but if it punches me in the gut; it tends to stick for a while.

    You have to love debut authors. Especially the ones with “stronger” voices than others.
    New voices that I’m interested in:
    -Sara Raasch
    -Becky Albertalli
    -Victoria Aveyard
    -Adam Silvera (of course)
    -Rachel Wilson
    -Tamara Ireland Stone (she published a trilogy, but her new novel contains a powerful voice)
    -Rosamund Hodge
    -Last, but certainly not least, Susan Juby.

    Like

    1. Yes, and I’m so stoked for you! You have fun, Wesaun! And don’t forget to say hi for me. Right, gut-wrenching stories tend to stick for a long time. I cannot wait for you to meet Aaron, Gen and Thomas! And oh. I’ve yet to read Every Last Word, but I’ve heard good stuff about it.

      PS. Sorry re: Leteo procedure.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Third review I’ve read for this book today and I’m already well-convinced that it’s going to be an epic read! I just love how everyone has reviewed and responded to this. It really feels like it’s one of those LGBT books that strikes a little bit deeper and pinches your heart a little tighter. This is the kind that I am personally looking for – something more emotional that talks about the issues in a gut-wrenching way.

    Faye at The Social Potato

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    1. First, thank you for the visit, Faye! Yeah, the synopsis of this one really intrigued me the day I stumbled upon it. And I’m tremendously (more) happy (than not) to find out that it didn’t disappoint. Silvera doesn’t pull punches and I’m very much looking forward to History is All You Left Me.

      PS. I hope you pick this one up when it comes out and maybe tell me what you think after?

      Like

  9. Hello, you have an awesome blog and awesome review~ New blog visitor here. 😀 I really want to have a copy of this but maybe I’ll wait until I am not in my book buying ban anymore. Oh, yes. I like contemporary books. Some are swoon sorthy. Some are just great. Glad you liked this BTW. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh hi, Yani! Thank you! 🙂 I hope you pick this one up soon! Silvera really has a way of tugging at raw emotions inside you, at least, in my case. And speaking of contemporary, have you read Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda? It’s such a smile-inducing, fun book!

      Like

  10. I just stumbled across your blog, and my goodness I HAD to follow after I read your review! I love your writing style, like seriously, I went over to amazon mid-paragraph to add More Happy Than Not to my wishlist! I’ve seen sooo many readers raving about this book, but it flew completely under my radar. I’m a huge fan of LGBT, and stories that are dark, heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, etc. So I WILL be purchasing this soon. Like HOW DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS???

    Nice meeting you Miel! (Sorry I give everyone nicknames lmao)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh gosh, THANK YOU! This clearly makes me (More) Happy (Than Not)! Silvera’s debut comes out tomorrow and, judging from your comment, it’s fairly obvious this book’s on your wheelhouse. So you should really pick this one up soon! I mean. I’m crazy excited for people to meet Aaron, Genevieve and Thomas!

      PS. It’s okay, Miel is my nickname. 🙂

      Like

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