More Happy Than Not, by Adam Silvera, is a novel telling the story of teenager Aaron Soto who loves art and comic books. Aaron lives in a one bedroom apartment with his brother and his mother in the Bronx. Aaron’s mother struggles to keep up two jobs, one at a hospital and the other at the supermarket. The novel opens up with Aaron feeling the void that was a result of his troubled father who ultimately took his own life in the family’s bathtub. Of course, this act leaves Aaron with an entirely unwarranted sense of guilt thinking it was his fault.
Although Aaron has friends who are living modestly, the simplest sort of possession awakens his awe and jealousy. Aaron described a friends room by saying, “[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 though Silvera’s goal in the novel is to convey what it is like to live in urban poverty, Silvera’s book should be mandatory for all teens because it will likely make you feel more grateful about what you have.
When simply in interpreted, More Happy Than Not is a novel about self-acceptance, a description that likely attaches to 90% of young adult novels. But it also portrays something quite unique: that misery, which is very commonly romanticized in literature (especially when romanticizing the sufferings of one who is fifteen years old like Aaron), is something that cannot be disposed of in our day to day lives. That statement seems as if it will lead to the clichéd message the our sufferings are what makes us stronger. But Silvera is saying something different and profound: hardships should always be remembered and kept close because it is those that makes us appreciate and understand the happiness when we find it. Overall, I would recommend this story to all teens and even adults because it will honestly make you appreciate even the simple things because for some people, those “simple things” like a family and a home, are considered a luxury and something out of reach.