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A writer I know was recently discussing what makes a story great as opposed to merely good. Personally, I don’t think I’m qualified to make that distinction for anyone but myself—and in that case, for me I can tell a story is great when, once I’ve read the last page or the last line, I want to turn back to page one and start all over again.
Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not was like that for me. I finished reading it early this morning and wanted to start it all over again. I’ve felt that way about a handful of other books lately—A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz being the most notable.
In the months after his father’s suicide, it’s been tough for 16-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again–but he’s still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he’s slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely.
When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron’s crew notices, and they’re not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can’t deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can’t stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is.
Why does happiness have to be so hard?
The book combines three things I love: a YA story, a queer protagonist, and a world that is recognizable but slightly off-kilter from our own, where what you remember may not be what actually happened. The ending is, not a gut punch, but more like a hand squeezing your heart.
So, what are you reading?