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?
Oh, but this book hurts. It hurts in the most profound, most beautiful way. The growing pains of being a teen is hard enough. Even more so when you put a troubled, abusive father into the mix and the constant fear of hostility and violence that comes from being gay in today’s society. Aaron Soto just couldn’t catch a break. He went from one upheaval to the next further leaving the readers breathless merely from imagining the kind of struggles this boy went through. But even though the reader is put through the wringer that was this book, More Happy Than Not is a gorgeous, remarkable novel that offers an insight to the fragility of one’s mind. Memories created cannot be manipulated no matter how much we’d like to forget about the bad stuff. But above all, it’s also about finding the best in the worst situations and forging on even if taking a step forward feels like you’re dragging the whole world behind you.
As in the case of many LGBTQIA YA books we’ve read, this book tackles self-acceptance. Something that unfortunately does not only affect the lives of many gay and lesbian teens but most of the teens in general. Heck, even I, a forty-year-old woman still struggle with this. At the beginning of the novel, we see Aaron as a mostly laid back teen who only cared about being a good son and a good boyfriend. But his seemingly ordinary life will change as soon as he meets Thomas.
This book also has a bit of Science Fiction mixed in (if you can believe it). On the surface, the technology is based on the idea that memories can be suppressed by going through a memory-bending procedure. And as Aaron goes through his heartbreak, he will consider going through with it if only to help him deal with the pain. As always, messing with the natural order of things is never a good thing. There are consequences – both good and bad. But in Aaron’s case, it’s probably the worst case scenario he’s been warned about.
More Happy Than Not teaches us to appreciate the hardships life throws our way. Because only then can we truly value the small bits of happiness that come from living. At the same time, this book makes me want to live in fear and denial that other kids can’t be this cruel to other kids. It’s a reality check I never want to deal with.