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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 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.
Oh, boy. I won’t.
More Happy Than Not didn’t turn out to be what I expected, and let me tell you, it was so much better than I thought it would be. Messed-up when you think about it, this containing
one of my biggest pet peeve make it plural : several of my biggest pet peeves – nah, I won’t tell which ones, I can be annoying like that. But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
There are books that makes you feel like a voyeur, as the characters seem so real that you get the impression to spy on them, somehow. More Happy Than Not definitely belongs to that category, and hooked me from the very first sentence.
“Sometimes your story is worth reading about because your life sucks,” I say. “And I don’t think your life sucks.”
How can I explain why? It just – spoke to me, because I found the characters weirdly relatable. Weirdly, because although my family always navigated on the artistic side of life (yeah, this is so the nice word for odd, sorry mum, love you) I never lived in such a hard way. Yet I can relate on so many levels that I couldn’t help but feel drawn into their stories – to feel involved in every fucking event they live.
This book is full of big issues – issues you better not drop in a book if you don’t intend to HANDLE them (including suicide, depression, and homophobia). Well, the fact is, they all were correctly dealt with, and frankly, I’m, kind of, maybe, for sure in awe of Adam Silvera for that. Not that everything is perfect and gets its HEA, NO. It’s not. It’s messed-up and weird and flawed – yet it’s incredible, because you know what? THAT’S HOW LIFE GOES.
“Memories : some can be sucker punching, others carry you forward; some stay with you forever, others you forget on your own.”
TRIGGER WARNING : Suicide
I know, I KNOW, my personal interludes appear pretty often lately, but I can’t help myself when it comes to subjects that have a particular resonance for me and oh, well. Don’t read it if you don’t care. Anyway. Aaron, the main character, has to deal with the consequences of both his father’s suicide and his own suicide attempt and expresses how difficult it is for people he loves to trust him again with his own life. In my opinion Adam Silvera captured perfectly how this kind of decisions can affect friendship and family relationships. The truth is, when I was 16 a person very close to me committed several suicidal attempts, and I’d want to say that I was supportive and understanding, I’d want to say that I understood why and how she could do this, I really want to. But sadly, I can’t. Sadly, I didn’t understand shit. Sadly, I was fucking pissed, because I love her and I couldn’t forgive her to give up on us – yes, because I couldn’t deal with the Guilt. This fucking guilt you feel when you realize that people you love and live with can suffer without even you noticing. I couldn’t deal with the guilt, so I was pissed, furious, mad, everything but what I should have been. But you know what? That’s how people react in real life. They aren’t perfect. They don’t always understand. It took us years to rebuild our relationship after that – it took me years to stop being a fucking brat and accept what she did. Although I’m not proud of it, that’s how it is, and I often have a hard time reading stories where characters try to commit suicide because to me, everything is way more complicated and fucked-up that it’s portrayed most of the time. All of that is to say that in my modest opinion, the way the author handled this subject here is realistic and really great.
END OF THE PERSONAL INTERLUDE
This book? This book caused the weirdest reaction to me : Indeed the day after starting it, I found myself thinking about Aaron, Thomas, Genevieve… like they were real. Like they were friends of mine. And this? This is the best thing I can say about a book.
Truth be told, every one of them is realistic and many of them are unlikeable. Despite the fact that I hated several of them
first of all Brendan. Talk about a joke of a friend, of course I LOVED how real and complex they were! To be frank, I can’t say that they didn’t bring memories of actual people I know or used to know, and this is fantastic. Moreover, the writing is perfect because in addition to giving to Aaron a believable, original and oh so endearing voice, it captured perfectly how confusing teenage can be, how difficult it is to resist peer pressure and speak for yourself and for people you love and admire. To fight for who you are and who you want to be. Growing up often goes hand in hand with fucking up (badly). Well, let’s be frank, adulthood too. Now, nothing is set in stone. Stand up and deal with it.
So, yeah. It was cringe-worthy, crude or even annoying at times, but I wouldn’t have changed one sentence.
Most of all I absolutely adored their interactions – sometimes heartbreaking, often smile-inducing, always realistic – they made me so happy, I can’t even.
(Later I learn that there’s even an abandoned musical in his closet about a robot that time-travels back to the Mesozoic era to study dinosaurs while singing about surviving without technology.)
To sum up :
There is porn. There is swearing. There is weed. There is despair. There is fear. There is love. There are comics and YES, cute geeks. There is sex. There are a lot of random stupid games they play to. There are fucking mistakes and maddening decisions. There is LIFE. This sounds true to me.
In a word, this book was a page-turner for me and guys, GUYS! MY FEELS ALL OVER THE PLACE.
Seriously – some parts punched me in the guts and made me sob, others made me want to hit something, yet I smiled so big I can’t even express how much love and attachment I feel for Aaron – despite his flaws, his wanderings through life reached out to my heart. That’s all I can say.
Oh well, I’ll say it. He fucking broke my heart.
“I don’t want you too either. Just remember that I love the hell out of you, okay?”
PS : More Happy Than Not is shelved as Science-Fiction and you might wonder why I didn’t address this subject. Actually, even if there are definitely scifi vibes going on at times, and some unexpected twists (HOLY COW), I mostly read it as a contemporary, because it’s where lies its strength in my opinion. But I have to admit that it scares me shitless. Trust me, you’ll get what I mean. Anyway, I can see why readers could find it unsettling and weird – Promise you’ll keep your mind open, okay?