More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

more happy than not

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?

(Content warning: Suicide)

More Happy Than Not was the kind of book that I picked up, and after reading a few chapters, I knew that I would love this book. And love it I did.

After finishing this book, I let out a deep breath of relief. Only after finishing this wonderful book did I realize that I had been, figuratively, holding in my breath for years, waiting for a book of such high calibre to present itself. The bittersweet thing is that this isn’t a new story; More Happy Than Not delves into the harsh reality that too many adolescents – and adults – endure daily. It tells of mental illness, sexuality, acceptance, race, the complexities of family, the throes of friendship, the oppression of poverty and how it pervades every area of one’s life, and the meaning and importance of happiness. More importantly, it portrays these complex themes with a subtlety that is unparalleled in execution. Silvera recognizes that all those themes cannot be examined in isolation, but are parts of a bigger, fuller picture. More Happy Than Not is a much needed book that tells a much needed story. And here it finally is.

More Happy Than Not tells the story of Aaron following his father’s suicide and his own attempt. Though surrounded by friends and his supportive girlfriend, Aaron struggles to make sense of happiness and life. When Aaron meets Thomas, a boy with elusive dreams on a never-ending pursuit of greatness, their shared interests create an undeniable connection. Although his friendship with Thomas brings him great joy, the more intense their relationship, the deeper Aaron falls within himself and parts of his past begin to surface. Enter the science-fiction element of this story – a solution seemingly presents itself to Aaron: the Leteo Institute and their memory alteration procedure, guaranteed to erase the parts of your life you want to forget.

Reading More Happy Than Not is like peeling back layer upon layers of reality. With its references to comic books and movies, the book is deceptively lighthearted. Whilst the presence of these beloved, familiar things may function as a means to balance the book of its harsher elements, it also serves to remind the reader that the characters are young teenagers who like simple things just like we do – they are, on the surface, not very different to us. As the book progresses, the story unfolds into a multifaceted, complex story of what it is like to live poor and gay in a small world where homosexuality isn’t accepted. More Happy Than Not is a necessary, unflinching look into homosexuality, societal pressure, poverty, and suicide.

More Happy Than Not features an excellent, diverse cast of characters, and has a heartfelt and heart-breaking exploration of relationships – particularly those in our confusing formative years. All of the characters were flawed, developing, learning, and confused, accurately representing the imperfections of youth and humanness.

Nah, you’re more like a work in progress. We all are.

And though some of these characters were ignorant, made terrible mistakes, or inflicted great pain on others, such characterization tactfully remind us of our own mistakes and grievances. Rather than elicit disgust or disdain, I unexpectedly found my capacity to empathize. Perhaps because, at one point, we were all ignorant of something, but what matters whether we choose to learn, grow, and be better people. Needless to say, Silvera’s excellent and complex characterizations deeply affected me.

Perhaps one of Silvera’s best achievements with More Happy Than Not is his honest, thoughtful exploration of happiness. Though this book may center on one boy’s pursuit of happiness, this pursuit is framed in the midst of a cold, cruel world. Happiness is given a complex, thought-provoking, and compelling analysis, and that happiness is not always as simple as ‘being happy’. Namely, happiness can be all you have when you have nothing, or may be necessary to one’s survival. This small fact is oft overlooked, particularly when the characters are poor or from the working class. More so, More Happy Than Not offers an examination of the importance of being true to one’s identity, and how that correlates with their happiness. To be confronted with this perspective – particularly one that is very different to my own – was an incredibly humbling experience, and a gentle but necessary reminder that we experience life differently and that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to society’s problems.

More Happy Than Not contains the full spectrum of what it means to be alive: love, happiness, joy, grief, doubt, heartbreak, hope – all the wonderful and terrible things meshed into one. The book may be frequently described as depressing and dark, and whilst the subject matter is indeed difficult, two better words I would use to describe this book are honest and hopeful. Accomplished by Silvera’s fantastic writing, the book paints an all-rounded, earnest, and sensitive picture of what it means to be young and fumbling while trying to find yourself in the world. A truly outstanding novel.

Rating: 4.5/5

Book Information
Book Name: More Happy Than Not
Author: Adam Silvera
Publisher: Soho Teen
Format: eBook

More Happy Than Not in:
Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon | My review on Goodreads

(Book trigger/content warning: self-harm, suicide, homophobia, death)


26 thoughts on “More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

  1. What a fantastic review! :) I have this book on my shelf but haven’t got round to picking it up yet, but you’ve made me really want to get to it next – it sounds amazing :)

  2. This book sounds truly amazing. I’ve heard lots of people talk about it, but no one has made me want to read it as much as you just have! Books about mental health are so important, and the fact that it’s paired with LGBT+ characters means I just have to read it. It sounds like a very emotional read, but it sounds like something I just have to get stuck into. Thank you so much for sharing, cw! This such an eloquent, beautifully written review, and your art is gorgeous too <3

    Denise | The Bibliolater

    • Hi Denise!
      It IS amazing, and genuinely lives up to its hype and praise. I believe MHTN deals with mental illness and its other factors in a really sensitive but honest way. It subverts some tropes, and I found it very satisfying, even if it was very emotional.

      You’re welcome! I hope you get an opportunity to read it; it’s fantastic and EEEP I’m loving the book all over again.

      And aww thank you! I appreciate your kind words.

  3. I also sighed in relief after reading your review. :P After doing the MHTN tag (a year ago maybe?) I was so ready to read it but never got the chance. But I am so, so happy to hear that this is Chooi approved! :D And you’re right, happiness is such a difficult entity to even understand in terms of feelings let alone forming it into words for readers to read. (Going on a tangent now…) Though A Little Life has been described as a depressing read it also embodies happiness really well. You really need to read that one soon. I think you’d love it, Chooi! ^.^

    • AHHH You must read it Summer!! HEHEHE Chooi approved! That’s so adorbs – I sort of love it?! I must read me some Summer-approved novels too! i.e. A Little Life, I’ve had my eye on it forever but its length is so daunting and intimidating!! But I 100% trust you – I DO have to read it!

      And yes, absolutely agree with what you said about happiness. I actually wrote a thesis on happiness, but if I start talking about it, I’ll never stop haha.

      Thanks Summer!! As always.

  4. Absolutely loved your breakdown in this novel! I haven’t really thought about picking this novel up before, but I loved what you wrote about happiness, what it means to be a teenager and the LGBT relationship in this one. I’ll definitely turn my mind to it when I’m looking for a thought-provoking read. Lovely review Summer!

    • Oh you absolutely MUST, Jeann! It’s fantastic, and honestly one of the most nuanced and well-rounded books I’ve read that tackles hard topics like poverty, sexuality, and mental illness. I 100% recommend!!

      And yasss it’s exploration of happiness is really, really good too. Gave me so much hope in a bittersweet way.

  5. 😍😍😍 I always love your reviews, cw!! 💖 “Deceptingly lighthearted” is definitely an accurate way to put this, but in the best light possible. I loved reading this and the book as well! I agree that the story is one of those stories everybody has to read. It was so impactful and beautifully-written and so is your review 😘

  6. I’ve heard so many things about how powerful and emotional this book is, so I am so glad to hear you liked it too! Definitely going to have to give it a try. :) Thanks for sharing and fabulous review! ❤

  7. Wonderful review! This book has been on my TBR for a long time and I was nervous to get into it because I want to like it so badly, BUT this review makes me want to pick it up right now! It sounds so great and absolutely amazing, I’m so excited to pick it up :)

  8. Holy crap cw, this review is absolutely perfection. Although I knocked down a star for the book (4 stars) just because it left my heart aching (not gonna lie, I sobbed like a BABY while reading it. Just… so many feels), I still overall loved the message it sends.

    The whole spectrum of concepts that the book explores just casts a beautiful rainbow (aha, rainbow get it?) that sucks the reader in. I love how Silvera explores these different difficulties in life, and the all-too-realistic consequences that come out of a character’s actions. Ugh, thinking about this book is making me clutch my heart again.

    Maybe it’s time for a reread (because I love hurting my heart this way).

    • Awww thanks Aila!! Yas, reading this is such an emotional journey, but one that is so worth it.

      HAHA I love it – a rainbow of feels. I really loved it too, and it was so real and honest? Like no dumbing down to appease the more privileged or more fortunate.

      Hehehe *hands you tissues* 😂

  9. This is such a fantastic review. <3 I completely agree with the words you used to describe this book, honest and hopeful. I started reading this book knowing it'll break my heart because everyone keeps telling me that it will. And it did. But in exchange of making my heart bleed, More Happy than Not also offers me hope. It gives me hope because it made me realized that although everyone is flawed, there's always something worth pursuing. I just love the message it sent to its readers.

  10. […] More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera – I loved this book and am taking the opportunity to rave about it again! Though More Happy Than Not explores many, many different themes, the one that stands out is his exploration of being gay in a poor community where homosexuality is misunderstood and not accepted. Aaron’s exploration of his own identity is excellently written and wonderfully done – a must read for everyone. (Goodreads, my review) […]

  11. Lovely review! This book sounds so great! More Happy Than Not has been on my TBR for a while and now I KNOW I really have to pick it up. It seems like such a great story and this review makes me won’t to flick my money away XD I NEED THE BOOK!

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