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Cover image for More happy than not
More happy than not
New York, NY : Soho Teen, [2015]
Physical Description:
295 pages ; 22 cm
After enduring his father's suicide, his own suicide attempt, broken friendships, and more in the Bronx projects, Aaron Soto, sixteen, is already considering the Leteo Institute's memory-alteration procedure when his new friendship with Thomas turns to unrequited love.
Reading Level:
Young Adult.

850 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader 5.5.

Reading Counts! 5.5.

Accelerated Reader/Renaissance Learning UG 5.5 12.0 174395.
Electronic Access:
URL http://9781616955601.jpg


Call Number
TEEN Silvera, A.

On Order



In his twisty, gritty, profoundly moving New York Times bestselling-debut--also called "mandatory reading" and selected as an Editors' Choice by the New York Times --Adam Silvera brings to life a charged, dangerous near-future summer in the Bronx.

In the months after his father's suicide, it's been tough for sixteen-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?

"Silvera managed to leave me smiling after totally breaking my heart. Unforgettable."
--Becky Albertalli, author of Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda

"Adam Silvera explores the inner workings of a painful world and he delivers this with heartfelt honesty and a courageous, confident hand . . . A mesmerizing, unforgettable tour de force."
--John Corey Whaley, National Book Award finalist and author of Where Things Come Back and Noggin

Author Notes

Adam Silvera was born and raised in the Bronx. He has worked as a bookseller, as a community manager at a literary development company, and as a reviewer of children's and young adult novels. His highly acclaimed debut novel, More Happy Than Not , was followed by History Is All You Left Me and the New York Times bestsellers They Both Die at the End and Infinity Son . He lives in Los Angeles and is tall for no reason.

Reviews 6

School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up-Debut author Silvera pulls readers into the gritty, (near-future) Bronx world of 16-year-old Puerto Rican, Aaron Soto, with a milieu of tight-knit, sometimes dysfunctional relationships. Aaron struggles to find happiness despite the presence of his mother, older brother, and girlfriend, as well as a set of childhood buddies and a new, intriguing friend, Thomas. He is haunted by painful physical and emotional scars: the memory of his father's suicide in their home, his own similar failed attempt with its resulting smiley face scar, not to mention his family's poverty and his personal angst at an increasingly strong attraction for Thomas. This first-person narrative raises ethical, societal, and personal questions about happiness, the ability to choose to eradicate difficult memories (through a scientific procedure), and gender identity. The protagonist is as honest with readers as he is able to be, and it is only after Aaron is brutally beaten by friends attempting to set him "straight," that he remembers the entirety of his life story through shocking, snapshotlike revelations. More surprising is the knowledge that his family and girlfriend have known his backstory all along. VERDICT A gripping read-Silvera skillfully weaves together many divergent young adult themes within an engrossing, intense narrative.-Ruth Quiroa, National Louis University, IL © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

Aaron Soto, 16, lives in the projects in a Bronx similar to the real one except for the existence of the Leteo Institute, a neighborhood facility where patients can have painful memories erased (the most fantastical element of this procedure perhaps being that it is covered by Aaron's insurance). If anyone deserves to have his past wiped clean, it's Aaron, who has experienced poverty, his father's suicide, and the violent death of friends in his short life. But what Aaron wants most to forget is that he's gay, especially because the boy he loves is no longer able to be with him, and because his own inability to fly under the radar has made him a target. Silvera's debut is vividly written and intricately plotted: a well-executed twist will cause readers to reassess what they thought they knew about Aaron's life. It's also beyond gritty-parts of it are actually hard to read. Silvera pulls no punches in this portrait of a boy struggling with who he is in the face of immense cultural and societal pressure to be somebody else. Ages 14-up. Agent: Brooks Sherman, Bent Agency. (June) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

Aaron Soto would love to forget many things: his father's suicide, his burgeoning but unrequited feelings for new friend Thomas, the casual violence he faces on a regular basis. With cutting-edge Leteo technology, he can. Speculative twists to an otherwise realistic coming-out story add allegorical undertones and narrative unreliability to this meditation on identity, memory, class, and consequences. (c) Copyright 2015. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

In a Bronx neighborhood of the near future, it's no secret that at least one person has taken advantage of the Leteo Institute's new medical procedure that promises "cutting-edge memory-relief." Reeling from his discovery of his father in a blood-filled bathtub, there are lots of things that Aaron Soto would like to forgetthe smile-shaped scar on his own wrist attests to that. Puerto Rican Aaron meets a boy named Thomas from a neighboring (and sometimes rival) project who shares his love of comic books and fantasy fiction. The two develop a friendship that makes Aaron wonder if he's a "dude-liker," leading to a breakup with his girlfriend. When Thomas doesn't reciprocate, Aaron considers the Leteo procedure for himself. This novel places a straightforward conceptwhat if you could erase unwanted memories?squarely within an honest depiction of the pains of navigating the teen years and upends all expectations for a plot resolution. Debut author Silvera has an ear for dialogue and authentic voices. He scatters references to his characters' various ethnicities in an unforced mannerof a midnight showing of a movie based on their favorite fantasy series, Thomas says "I was the only brown Scorpius Hawthorne." Thomas is the foil to Aaron's conviction that there's an easy way out in a multifaceted look at some of the more unsettling aspects of human relationships. A brilliantly conceived page-turner. (Speculative fiction. 13-17) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* A smiling scar marks the inside of 16-year-old Aaron Soto's wrist, both a souvenir of the time he tried to follow in his father's footsteps by checking out of life early and a reminder not to be such a dumbass again. Though his mom has become overprotective and the suicide attempt shambles beside him like an elephant into every room, Aaron is making a comeback, in no small part due to his group of friends and awesome girlfriend, Genevieve. When Gen takes a three-week summer trip, however, Aaron meets Thomas, from the neighboring housing project, and things start to unravel. Sensitive, attractive, and looking for direction, Thomas is unlike any of Aaron's tough-as-nails friends, and the two connect on a deep level. Aaron grapples with burgeoning feelings of homosexuality, which, heartbreakingly, are not reciprocated by the straight Thomas and are bone-shatteringly rejected by his friends, who try to beat being gay out of him. Emotionally and physically broken, Aaron turns to the nearby Leteo Institute, which offers a procedure to erase painful memories. If he can just forget he's gay, everything will be OK, right? First-novelist Silvera puts a fresh spin on what begins as a fairly standard, if well executed, story of a teen experiencing firsts first love, first sex, first loss and struggling with his identity and sexuality. Aaron's first-person narration is charmingly candid as he navigates these milestones and insecurities, making him both relatable and endearing. The book is flush with personal details, and the reader inhabits Aaron's world with ease. A fantasy and comic-book geek to the core, he often filters his own life through a comic lens threatening to Hulk out if someone spoils the end of a movie and wondering what Batman would do in certain situations. Game of Thrones references mingle with veiled Harry Potter allusions (Scorpius Hawthorne and the Convict of Abbadon, anyone?), which many teens will relish. Though some scenes verge on twee and dialogue occasionally strays into precociously-witty-teen territory, it never stays there long, nor does it become self-indulgent. These tender and philosophical moments stand in counterpoint to life in the tough Bronx neighborhood Aaron calls home. There is a borderline gang mentality at work here, where fierce neighborhood loyalty mingles with groupthink to create friends who are as likely to defend as pummel each other, if the code of conduct is challenged. And being a dude-liker is an offense punishable by extreme violence. This prejudice is illustrated with gut-wrenching brutality, and its effects are scarring, but Silvera tempers it with the genuine love and acceptance Aaron receives from a few important friends and family members. Dividing his book into parts by degree of happiness (Happiness, A Different Happiness, Unhappiness, Less Happy Than Before, More Happy Than Not), Silvera examines this state of being from multiple angles to reveal its complexity and dependency on outside forces and internal motive. Is being happy for the wrong reasons real happiness? Can forgetting problems or trauma actually fix your life? The ingenious use of the Leteo procedure allows Silvera to write two versions of Aaron (gay and straight), which proves a fascinating means of drawing attention to the flaw in taking shortcuts past life's major roadblocks. The process of reinvention hinges on memory, on surviving and understanding the sometimes unbearable why of being and that's what Aaron initially misses. Timing is everything in this story, and Silvera structures his novel beautifully, utilizing careful revelations from Aaron's past and consciousness to create plot tension and twists that turn the narrative on its ear. It is not a story of happy endings, but this complexity allows it to move in new, brave directions that are immeasurably more satisfying. Resting somewhere between Ned Vizzini's A Kind of Funny Story (2006) and John Corey Whaley's Noggin (2014), More Happy Than Not will resonate with teens tackling life's big questions. Thought-provoking and imaginative, Silvera's voice is a welcome addition to the YA scene.--Smith, Julia Copyright 2010 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

IF ONLY FOR the outsize cultural imprint left by "The Hunger Games," it is reasonable to argue that young adult fiction has done a far more aggressive job grappling with social inequality than much of what is rendered today in the name of literary fiction, a world where poor and working-class characters are so often visible merely at the periphery, if they are visible at all. The novel "Panic," for example, by the best-selling Y.A. author Lauren Oliver, is set in a small town so devoid of prospects that graduating seniors spend their time battling it out in a game whose grand prize is the unimaginable sum of $67,000. In Laurie Halse Anderson's "The Impossible Knife of Memory," a teenager returns home after several years on the road with her truckdriver father, an Iraq war veteran who suffers from PTSD. We are far, in other words, from the moneyed insularities of Exeter. To this list, we can now add "More Happy Than Not," a beautiful debut novel by Adam Silvera, a child of the Bronx who manages a delicate knitting of class politics through an ambitious narrative about sexual identity and connection that considers the heavy weight and constructive value of traumatic memory, as well. At the center of the story is a teenager named Aaron Soto, a lover of art and comic books, a seeker of friends, a funny and soulful product of the projects. Aaron lives in a one-bedroom apartment with his brother and their mother, who shuffles between two jobs, one at a hospital and another at a supermarket. The novel begins with the void left by Aaron's cruel, troubled father, who committed suicide in the family's bathtub, an act that burdens Aaron with an extreme and, of course, entirely unwarranted sense of guilt. We are, in other words, firmly on the ground of children's literature as a vast graveyard of caregiving. The book leaves vast portions of New York City at a remove, staying in Aaron's Bronx universe, which Silvera captures with a precision that feels at once dreamy and casually reportorial. Aaron has friends and acquaintances who are better off, but they are still living modestly, and it is the simplest sort of possession that awakens his awe and envy. Describing a friend's room, Aaron says it "smells like clean laundry and pencil shavings. ... His bed isn't made but it looks comfortable, unlike mine. My bed is basically one level better than a cot. He even has his own desk, whereas the only surface I can sketch on is a textbook on my lap." Even if its goal were merely to convey what it is like to grow up in urban poverty, Silvera's effort would be worth declaring mandatory reading for the sort of teenager who might view winter break without a trip to Chamonix as a meaningful deprivation. But the book serves as a powerful treatise on the complexities of coming out, as well, in a place where such an announcement is not reflexively met with loving embraces from nurturing, progressive adults. Struggling with his attraction to other boys, Aaron seeks the ministrations of a shady outfit called the Leteo Institute, which is in the business of expunging painful memories through a "revolutionary" procedure. If he can erase history, he wonders, can he also erase orientation? THAT EXPERIMENT, so obviously doomed, functions not only as a parable of odious and all-too-real current "conversion therapies." It's also an apt metaphor for all the interventions - academic, psychosocial, neuropsychological, pharmaceutical - that contemporary parents seek for their children in an age when aberration is so often a condition to be obliterated and normalcy a way of being that must be molded and massaged until it looks more like excellence. "More Happy Than Not" is, in the simplest interpretation, a novel of self-acceptance, a description that surely attaches to 90 percent of all young adult fiction ever written. But it also tells us something else: that misery, while it is always available to be romanticized (and, of course, romanticizing misery remains a default position for countless 15-year-olds), is at the same time something that cannot be disposed of. That sounds as if it might lead to trite messaging along the lines of "All that makes us suffer makes us stronger." But what Silvera is saying is different, and profound: Hardship should always be kept close, so that we know happiness when we find it. GINIA BELLAFANTE writes the Big City column for the Metropolitan section of The Times.