In his first published novel, Adam Silvera gives us a glimpse into a future where erasing pain and grief is as simple as setting up a visit to the Leteo Institute – or so Aaron Soto hopes. For sixteen-year-old Aaron, nothing seems to work in easing the pain of his father’s suicide. Falling out of love with his girlfriend, Genevieve, was definitely not on the agenda, either. However, when a new friend named Thomas quietly begins to upend Aaron’s world, Aaron must decide how and when he’s ready to come out as gay — that is, unless he wipes out his own memories first.
This was my first time reading Adam Silvera’s work. I made a mental note to check out his books after seeing Love, Simon (confession: I totally thought Adam wrote that book! That’s my bad, Becky Albertalli, hehe.) I always welcome the chance to read YA and NA works that focus on gay relationships and the struggles of growing up with grief and self doubt.
The Protagonist and Characters
As a whole, I feel that More Happy Than Not was a bit of a letdown. I wanted to get more fully into sixteen-year-old Aaron Soto’s inner life, but I always felt like there was a wall between me and him. What personal insights and struggles Aaron shares are largely told to us, rather than shown (e.g., in body language, feelings, personal quirks, etc.). I also had a hard time buying that the story took place in the future. It seemed more like a choice made for the sole purpose of having the Leteo Institute premise feel more believable. The memory procedure itself is a great concept, but one that I would have liked to see executed with more polish and speculation.
My saddest grievance is that Aaron’s struggle over his dad’s suicide is extremely rough and visceral, but not in a good way. Aaron’s loss was one I didn’t feel allowed to fully tap into. I understand that this may be a personal choice on behalf of the author, but I believe that it’s okay to let the reader fully experience your protagonist’s inner demons and losses, too. Adam did this beautifully by making Aaron’s fight with his sexuality very rocky and easy to empathize with.
The other characters largely serve as actors for stage direction, dialogue, and little else. Me-Crazy, Brendan, and even Collin didn’t particularly strike me as unique. I craved more personal development and arcs as far as Genevieve and Thomas went. Some of their dialogue felt very clunky to me, especially in the scene where Genevieve and Thomas confront Aaron at his job. I found myself thinking, ‘This isn’t how any young adults or teenagers I know personally really talk.’ However, a lot of that teenage angst and self-hatred is well captured. The family dynamics Aaron has with his mom and brother, Eric, are also genuine and hard hitting.
Overall, More Happy than Not was a fairly rough journey with some good commentary about the weight of a procedure that can take away memories, but not one’s identity. The book shined the most for me when it was just Aaron and Thomas talking about “Side A,” fortune cookies, and Aaron’s favorite series, Scorpius Hawthorne. That’s when everything painful and confusing about being a gay teen in the Bronx all came together beautifully, with no overly dramatic flare.
🌟 🌟 out of 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟