More Happy Than Not - 2015 Reading Challenge

Aaron Soto has a lot going for him, and a lot against him. While he's surrounded by a great group of friends and has a quirky artist girlfriend by his side, he's also still mourning the death of his father (who took his own life) and recovering from a stupid suicide attempt of his own. When his girlfriend leaves for a few weeks, Aaron meets a guy named Thomas and they start to hang out. Slowly, he starts to pull away from his childhood friends in favor of spending time with the new one. Things are starting to change for Aaron. His feelings for his girlfriend are disappearing, and he can't stop thinking about Thomas. Meanwhile, there are all these protests going on around his home because of a new institute called Leteo, which can apparently erase people's bad memories in order to give them a better life. When Aaron finally confesses his feelings to Thomas, the hurt and rejection that follow make him desperate to erase it all and start over. But what if erasing your memories doesn't really get rid of who you are?

A book set in high school

There is no better way to put yourself in someone else's shoes than by reading a book.

The main character in More Happy Than Notprobably couldn't be more different from me if he tried, except in one very important way -- he likes men.

That might be a little bit of a spoiler, but if you've heard anything about this book at all, you probably already know. That's because Adam Silvera's debut novel is not only a New York Times bestseller, but it's also being lauded as one of the most poignant, touching coming out stories in modern fiction, and I would have to say I agree.

If you can, set aside any prejudices you might have to read this book. No matter what you think about poverty, suicide, homosexuality, underage drinking, sex, and psychology -- set it all aside and read this book. There is so much inside it that is needed in our society today, messages that need to be conveyed, stories that must be told.

It deals with young love, confusion, heartache, finding out who you are, and my favorite -- the power of memories. I love reading books that mess with characters' minds and consider the possibilities of experimentation on the brain (after all, I wrote one). This does all of that, and deals with the pain and trauma of growing up in the most beautiful, relatable way.

Silvera writes about rejection in a way that I always wished I could after a crappy breakup. His character sees the world in much the same way I do when I'm heartbroken and feeling alone: ugly, broken, but still worth living in -- no matter how bad it gets.

“Sometimes pain is so unmanageable that the idea of spending another day with it seems impossible. Other times pain acts as a compass to help you get through the messier tunnels of growing up. But the pain can only help you find happiness if you can remember it.”

For everyone who thinks that your memories are the only things that make you who you are, maybe you're right. But Silvera poses the question: what if you're wrong? What if who you are, what you like, and what you want in life are all ingrained in you? What if things really wouldn't be easier if you could erase all the hurt in your past? If everything happens for a reason, then maybe we should accept the things that happen to us -- good and bad -- and learn from them in whatever way we can.

More Happy Than Not is bold, brash, and something completely different. For that reason alone, I highly recommend it -- but it's also written with such empathy, care, and life-affirming humor. It's a really special book. I hope you enjoy it.