100-Character Breakdown: A stunning, beautiful, and important debut with a genius, well-executed concept.
Genre: Young adult, LGBTQ, science fiction
Publisher: SoHo Teen (June 2015)
With a genius, well-executed concept, Adam Silvera’s debut More Happy Than Not is a stunning, beautiful, and important novel. After losing his father to suicide, sixteen-year-old Aaron Soto is struggling to recapture happiness. While many are using the Leteo Institute, a facility that can make people forget painful memories, Aaron has a smile-shaped scar on his wrist to remind him of his pain. Besides the memory of his father, he is still dealing with his family’s poverty, troubled friendships, and the death of a friend. He has his girlfriend Genevieve and his mom to support him. He has friends who he isn’t quite sure understand him. And then he meets Thomas, who seems to understand him more than anyone. When Aaron has to add confused feelings toward Thomas to his list of painful memories, he begins to think using the Leteo Institute’s procedure to forget is his only hope for happiness.
More Happy Than Not is incredibly well-constructed; the story builds and twists in the perfect places with strong plot development and character progression. The small science fiction element of the Leteo Institute adds something to the novel that allows the story to exude so much more feeling. Rather than coming across as a gimmick, the memory-altering facility is a centerpiece that intricately affects the characters, setting, and community. This book deals with several painful topics, and Silvera isn’t shy to tackle them head on. The exploration of pain is fluid. The book forges empathy in the reader; the full-force discussion of these issues creating a deeper, more realistic understanding. Nothing enhances this empathy more than Aaron’s vivid narrative. All of the characters are three-dimensional, but Aaron leaps off the page. With its exploration of pain, memory, and diversity, this novel is important in more ways than one. This is a book that absolutely deserves to be read.