“More Happy Than Not” by Adam Silvera

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When we first meet him, Aaron Soto is stumbling his way through a miserable adolescence in the Bronx. His family barely scrapes by on his mother’s income, and is still reeling from his father’s suicide, and Aaron’s own attempt at one. In the background of this near-future setting is the Leteo Institute, which offers a controversial “memory-relief procedure” that may come with unwelcome side effects. When Aaron’s girlfriend leaves town for art school, he starts spending time with Thomas, a profligate quitter who “lives his life…one misfired dream after the other.” Aaron starts to question his sexuality (and Thomas’) but concludes, after bullying from his old friends, that he can’t live with “Side A” showing. He gets a procedure at Leteo to try to live a normal life. Complications ensue, and unwanted memories arise, shedding new light on the novel’s earlier sections. While More Happy Than Not suffers from some epidemic young adult maladies, like a girlfriend who’s more quirk than human, this debut novel is a nonetheless compelling look into a troubled young man’s psyche as he learns to make peace with himself. Aaron doesn’t ascribe undue therapeutic value to suffering, but neither does he advocate erasing it: “Sometimes pain is so unmanageable that spending another day with it seems impossible. Other times pain acts as a compass to help you through the messier tunnels of growing up. But the pain can only help you find happiness if you can remember it.”

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera. Published in June by Soho Teen. 295 pages. $18.99

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