Aaron Soto lives in the Bronx projects, crammed into a one-bedroom apartment with his mom and brother. Aaron’s still reeling since his dad committed suicide, so when he meets Thomas, their friendship lifts him up—until he realizes his feelings go beyond just being friends. But in Aaron’s scary, concrete world, there’s a trendy new scientific procedure that offers a fantastic possibility. The new Leteo procedure can wipe his memory clean: no more tragedy, no risk of beat-downs for being gay, no Thomas.
Author Adam Silvera is at his best when he’s taking readers through Aaron’s neighborhood. The bodegas and hangout spots feel real and like home, albeit one that can turn on you with frightening speed. The details of the Leteo procedure sometimes drag the story down a bit, but the ethical questions it raises are juicy ones: How much of your past are you willing to surrender for the relative safety of a fresh start? And what if who you are can’t so easily be erased?
More Happy Than Not wrestles with several big questions—at times it seems too many, and the book suffers for it. But the grittiness of the setting combined with sci-fi flourishes make the novel a sure bet for reluctant readers and a great pick for reading groups. This is not dystopian fiction; the sad world portrayed here is all too real and comes to eye-opening life on the page.