More Happy Than Not
By Adam Silvera
Soho Teen, 2015. 295 pages. Young Adult
In sixteen-year-old Aaron Soto's near-future world, people can have painful memories erased by an outpatient procedure from the Leteo Institute, and Aaron has plenty of memories he'd like to run away from: Finding his father dead in a bathtub, the ache and struggle of poverty; the violence on the streets of the Bronx, where he's lived all his life; and most distressing of all, the memory of his own failed suicide attempt, which left him with a smile-shaped scar on one wrist.
But when Aaron meets a vibrant young man named Thomas, everything changes. Thomas understands Aaron on a level he never thought possible, and shares so many of Aaron's own passions: Fantasy fiction and television, comic books, and more. Their developing relationship forces Aaron to re-examine his assumptions about his own sexuality and the meaning of happiness; but when Thomas rejects him, Aaron must decide whether or not the Leteo procedure might be an option for him.
This book, while beautifully written, will rip your heart out. Silvera pulls zero punches with the subject matter, which can be gritty (especially when Aaron's friends try to "beat him straight"), and the most empathetic readers will probably find themselves needing tissues or cringing through the worst of what Aaron endures. However, this much-needed meditation takes a hard look at what it means to be yourself despite cultural pressures to fit in, while tackling big questions about life, relationships, and happiness. Absolutely fantastic.