Review: 'More Happy Than Not' by Adam Silvera

Thursday, June 11, 2015

More Happy Than Not

Adam Silvera 

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. But Aaron can't forget how he's grown up poor or how his friends aren't always there for him. Like after 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's 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.

Adam Silvera's extraordinary debut novel offers a unique confrontation of race, class and sexuality during one charged near-future summer in the Bronx.

Here Be the Players
Aaron wasn't bad. You might think he's boring at first, but he gained depth as the story continued. It was revealed that he was gay. And he had so many problems because of it. So much happened. He had to accept it. But it was odd. He did seem a bit normal for the area. (The lower side. The poorer side of town. You get my meaning hopefully.) Played manhunt. Had a girlfriend. Did the do. He seemed so normal that everything just seemed so terrible. Perhaps, that was on purpose. He was a nerd of sorts. A comic book nerd. But his person revolved around the gay thing. It seemed like he was just the 'gay guy'. That was a bit confusing. He did have other personality traits. Why not mention that and lessen his 'gay guy' title? Not sure... It was interesting to see what happened to him. I didn't love his character, though, but he did have his good points. He was willing to admit his lies. But he wasn't great as I expected him to be. 
Thomas was interesting. Someone who can't decide. About anything. That's okay, though. You're only a teenager. It is understandable. What I did understand was why he had to lead poor Aaron on. Aw...poor Aaron. I sympathize with the poor guy. He didn't expect Thomas to do what he did. (Evasive maneuvering! Dodge and weave, boys!) I did like Thomas. He did many things. And he didn't decide. Which wasn't bad but wasn't good either. He was a good friend. I imagine he'd be a good boyfriend as well. Who knows?
Genevieve was interesting as well. An artist. She was amazing. She was loyal. She stayed with Aaron. Loyalty was a trait she had. She was a great girlfriend and friend. Smart. Funny. Quirky. She tried her best to help. And maybe that's what's important. 

The Adventure Begins (And Ends)

The beginning was a bit boring. Two guys becoming friends out of the blue. How was this different than other stories? You might be asking yourself that. It seemed so typical. Closeted gay guy likes seemingly straight guy. Whoops. Forgot to tell you seemingly straight guy is gay. But this story wasn't anything like that. It seemed so different. You start to wonder why Leteo was important and why it was in the blurb. You feel a bit for the relationships Aaron had. They were all great. The loving bond from girlfriend Genevieve. The funny and kind Thomas. The rough friendships he has with the kids on the block. Brendan the sorta best friend. Me-Crazy. (I liked Me-Crazy a bit. Just a bit. He was the whackjob people are worried about. Crazy and insane. Reckless. But he did push it a bit too far.)
Towards the middle, things got interesting. We had the feelings rising. The question of being gay. What's this? What am I feeling? And Aaron was worried about revealing things.

And got real. So soul-crushingly real. It started to hurt. We learned the procedure Aaron went through. The Before. The things that made him get the procedure. And the thing that made him remember. It made me gasp. I held my breath. I was worried for Aaron. I was worried in general. What is wrong with those people? What's wrong with the people who created Leteo? Leteo can destroy lives, but they can also help. Is the pro worth the con? Which outweighs which?

The Swoon-Gasp-Swoon Factor

It was truly dramatic. The fights. The Collin thing. The hiding. The quietness. Holding things back. It was the sort of drama that you don't expect. 
You expect the father to find out about his son and be angry.
Well. You got that and more.
I truly didn't expect the beating that Aaron got that unwound his memories. Whoa. And they said they were your friends? You need better friends, duded. 
This drama drew you in. What's going to happen? What not? Who will attack next? You clung to the pages. The story drew you in. You had to know.

Ka-Pow Power


Kiss Kiss Fall in Love

The's actually hard to place. Are we talking about Aaron's wants? Or Collin's which was real? Or Genevieve's which was fake? 
I didn't particularly like Collin. He was rude. His rejection was uncalled for. He was rough and touchy. Assuming things really. He didn't care for Aaron. I don't think so at least. He seemed to use Aaron for sex. To calm his urges.
Genevieve... Ah. She was good as a girlfriend. She tried to be kind. And help. Tried to make Aaron feel straight when feeling gay made him feel terrible. I thought they had a good bond. But Aaron was rude to her. She didn't deserve it. He could have let her down easy or something. I hoped they gained trust with each other again. And maybe they did in the end.
And Thomas. Such a good friendship. Romance was going to ruin it. You could tell. Thomas was too flighty. Unpredictable. You wouldn't know if he would accept Aaron as a boyfriend or not. He was a bit rude. What's wrong with a kiss? You're a teen. Let it be. You people are reckless! What's wrong with a kiss? 

Special Effects

It showed the rough side of town. The poorer side. 
I am a middle class person. Always have been. My parents aren't rich. They were never rich. My family made enough money, though. I still wanted the lavious 1% lifestyle as many do. But my life wasn't too bad. 
So it's a punch in the gut when I read this side of the story. The faulty plumbing. The sharing of rooms. The needs over the wants. Not even considering the wants anymore. The two jobs, maybe more.
It was a stab in the gut. The smack of reality.
I never realized how bad people have it.
I'm lucky. I know that. I've known it for a while. I never saw much poverty. My friends were rich private school kids or well-off public school ones. I grew up wailing about wanting the stuffed bunny, and then it's in my arms.
One distinct memory I had was one when I was around nine. There was a new toy out. And I wanted it. My half-birthday was coming up. Declaring the importance of one's half-birthday, I got my dad to purchase it for me. It was around $10-20. Now...I feel so bad.
I wander the streets of New York City and yearn to place a dollar in the guy's cup. Or put a granola bar there. Make some contribution. I don't. Why? I'm a shy person. Not the cute shy. The shy that will rage if you dare make me interview that person, what are you doing, staph. Yes. That person. I'm that person. So I got what I wanted as a kid. I needed to be pleased. Being an only child didn't help much either.
And this...this is someone's reality. Kicking beer cans. Grafitti. Kissing in the dark. One bedroom apartments. Even my aunt has two bedrooms! (One's been made into a closet.) And she lives in a city where rent is expensive with a capital E. 
I don't see the truth sometimes. I've been blindsided by everything I know. 
This story showed me the truth.

The End

The ending was good. Worthy. It fit the story. Especially the title. More happy than not. And that's what Aaron got. His happiness. Or, at least, more happiness than not. It was a good ending.
I did feel like Aaron finally became someone else. Someone that suited who he wanted to be. Accepting of his fate. Things happen. You have to accept it after a certain point. 

This story really made an impression. It started out a bit boring, but it ended on a high note. Something that changed and different. 


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