More Happy than Not, by Adam Silvera (2015)

Grit Lit
More Happy than NotSixteen-year-old Aaron Soto just wants a little happiness, or at least respite from the life he lives with his overworked mother and cruelly silent brother in their one-bedroom Bronx apartment. He is also desperate to forget finding his father’s body in the tub, a memory so distressing it led to his own suicide attempt. He focuses his hopes on the promise of “memory relief” from the Leteo Institute, but his mother simply cannot afford the costly medical procedure. He finds solace in the arms of his girlfriend Genevieve and with his new friend Thomas, with whom he shares a passion for action comics and movies. When his friendship with Thomas deepens, Aaron is confused and grows even more convinced that Leteo offers his only hope. I loved this heart-wrenching debut novel. Expletive-laced dialogue is authentic to the New York setting, which provides a gritty backdrop of broken air conditioning, tiny flats and money problems, where a good babysitter is one you’ve never seen drinking. Aaron and his buddies play games like Suicide and Manhunt (like tag but once you are caught you join forces with the Hunter). It’s reminiscent of The Outsiders, but thankfully much funnier in spots, more like Grasshopper Jungle. I particularly enjoyed Aaron’s search for help when he realizes he and Genevieve are going to have sex, and his joyful boasting with his buddies afterward. The levity offers the reader balance to the violence that peppers these young lives. There’s an unexpected twist that I didn’t see coming, and while there’s no unnaturally neat resolution, it’s still a highly satisfying ending that feels real and honest. Highly recommended – I predict awards for this one.
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