[GUEST POST] More Happy Than Not - Adam Silvera

Today's post comes from the delightfully talented Keith Reynolds. Keith lives in Vancouver, BC, and has kindly taken the opportunity to review this book since I cannot. Follow him on Twitter (@slothra)! So without further ado, I give you Keith's review of More Happy Than Not.
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. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon)
I love this book. 

Silvera has an ability to capture moments which allow readers to enjoy the strangeness of the setting--a near-future Bronx--while relishing some familiarity. He hits the right notes to render Aaron’s summer of self-discovery with subtlety. Things like the scent of summer rain or freshly cut grass, More Happy Than Not will, for some, evoke distant memories, and more importantly for the majority, feelings of hope, yearning, and loss.

The light science fiction elements of the novel were intriguing especially since identity is such a strong theme of the book. How much of a person is in their memories, how much is their nature, and how much is something else entirely? The premise and plot worked beautifully together, slow-playing with readers' expectations, teasing without feeling melodramatic or artificial in the context of the setting, which is so real and tangible, you almost feel the humidity pressing down on your chest.

I particularly enjoyed the colloquial and boyish nature of Aaron and his friends as they play games, contrasted by the harsh realities they live in. Silvera explores a unique intersection of race, class, and sexuality, which is so underrepresented in the canon of queer literature. Amidst this exploration however, I would be remiss if I didn’t express my slight frustration with the relationship between internalized-homophobia and masculinity, which went largely unchallenged within the text. Perhaps it’s a largely subjective beef, but in harnessing the tropes of the closet the book became a little more formulaic at times, which is understandable given where the story is set. 

Most of Aaron’s interactions with his friends are typically punctuated with a “no homo.” This, in and of itself is understandable, books can’t be everything to everyone. But as queer literature continues, it’s my hope to see more interrogation of internalized homophobia, particularly how self-acceptance and coming out is an ongoing process. Silvera manages to show this in Aaron, but falls short when drawing the connection between Aaron and Thomas, who not only suffers in the closet but is also, in many ways, punished for it. Instead of redemption, Thomas is stigmatized, which I found to be a shame.

That being said, however, I still loved this book and wasn’t able to put it down! It’s an amazing read and I think you would be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t put it high on your TBR list for 2015. More Happy Than Not will certainly leave you feeling, well, more happy than not.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Black Chuck - Regan McDonell

Althea & Oliver - Cristina Moracho

A List of Cages - Robin Roe