Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Black Bird Of The Gallows by Meg Kassel |a rich fantasy unfortunately marred by a trope-y romance

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3 stars

A simple but forgotten truth: Where harbingers of death appear, the morgues will soon be full.

Angie Dovage can tell there’s more to Reece Fernandez than just the tall, brooding athlete who has her classmates swooning, but she can’t imagine his presence signals a tragedy that will devastate her small town. When something supernatural tries to attack her, Angie is thrown into a battle between good and evil she never saw coming. Right in the center of it is Reece—and he’s not human.

What’s more, she knows something most don’t. That the secrets her town holds could kill them all. But that’s only half as dangerous as falling in love with a harbinger of death.

The natural response to the premise of Black Bird Of The Gallows would be to roll your eyes and mutter a half-hearted ‘pass’ because you’re too tired of the same paranormal romance plots being reused over and over again. However, looking at the praise this book was garnering so far ignited some hope in me, and while I didn’t hold candlelight vigils praying for this book not to be a Twilight repeat (looking back, I probably should have done that), I did let my expectations get high enough to be excited for this book. Well, fellow readers, I have been conned into a state of cOnFLict (the mix of upper case and lower case letters shows the stress this book has put on me). Once again.

I am conflicted over my feelings for BBOTG, but it’s easy to admit that discerning what I liked and what I did not like was a less painful process with this book. I loved the dark and moody atmosphere of Cadence, Pennsylvania (the setting of this book) and yes, small and somewhat mysterious towns are one of my fantasy weaknesses, and Kassel executed the vibe of them perfectly in this book. The world-building was also very original, I’m not used to harbingers of death the way I am used to vampires, werewolves, or fallen angels, but the mythology and history behind the harbingers and the beekeepers was completely new but well-done. I almost wish there was a sequel (fantasy standalones are quite rare) because the storytelling feels unfinished considering the amount of potential the world-building contains.

But, alas, I would only read that sequel if it was telling the story of a different set of characters. Angie Dovage is actually a very formidable heroine, she’s got a rough history and a complicated character due to it, and she’s also smart and admirably independent. Her best friends, Deno and Lacey, are a tad unnecessary until the very end, when they become considerably more significant and useful. Reece Fernandez is a goddamn bore to me, his chiseled jaw and sculpted abs aren’t as emphasized in this PNR, but regardless of the heavy descriptions and dialogue about his tortured soul, I really couldn’t attach an interesting personality to it.

It was my mistake not reciting a couple of mantras before preparing myself for the romance to hit, because man, was it painful. Practically instalove, and I was really holding out hope for something different because I heard such great things about this book. It’s clear Reece and Angie had an inherent attraction to one another but from the beginning, but the way they acted upon it and how quickly they got together felt wholly unnatural and forced. Their relationship has such a vague foundation, and while there are details later clarifying that foundation, it wasn’t enough to make their current romance believable. It’s upsetting, because the whole book is based on their relationship, and I just can’t put my faith in it.

This is just me, but I’m sure I would have been more content with BBOTG if there was a sequel to be released. With the introduction of certain characters, the intricacy of the world-building, and the amount of questions raised, there’s just too much unfinished work left to end it after one book. What about Rafette’s backstory? Hank’s backstory? What about Angie’s mom? All these questions are answered so quickly and swiftly like??  I think fantasy standalones just make me uncomfortable. They’re so unheard of.

In certain aspects, Black Bird Of The Gallows exceeds many standard PNR novels. The main character is actually competent and the world-building is existent. However, in other aspects, it simply sinks into the elements that make PNR so recognizable yet annoying, such as the ever present high school tropes and the unbelievable romance. I would recommend this to anyone who naturally loved the PNR genre, but don’t expect to find anything particularly special in the romance department.

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Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

November mini-reviews

Hey peeps! I’ve decided to ‘mini-review’ a couple of shorter books I’ve read this month. This is probably a good idea because I don’t want to talk on endlessly about books that I don’t have much to say about.

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Gem & Dixie by Sara Zarr (2.5 stars)

Gem & Dixie explores the story of two sisters living in a dysfunctional and financially disadvantaged household with their unstable mother. After their dad comes back into their life, the sisters unexpectedly embark on a journey across Seattle that sheds light on their family and their complicated relationship. I found this book to be simply average in all aspects. While it did have its moments, the writing and story felt flat most of the time and it was a chore to drag myself through it because I was disinterested most of the time. Gem and Dixie themselves aren’t incredibly fascinating individually, but I did appreciate how their relationship was written. However, it wasn’t enough to make me enjoy this book fully.

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18075234Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman (2.25 stars)

Challenger Deep follows the story of Caden Bosch, a boy suffering from mental illness and how it affects his delusions and what he experiences in the real world. The story is told from two narratives, one being real life and the other being a delusion of Caden, in which he is a part of a ship and crew that are traveling to the deepest part of the Earth, Challenger Deep. I feel sort of guilty for disliking this book, because Neal Shusterman (one of my favorite authors ever) is writing about a very serious and relevant topic. While I commend that aspect, the execution of it was simply not my thing. I normally don’t enjoy books told so abstractly which is why it was difficult to engage myself into the dual narratives. But, Shusterman’s ability to create something so different and though-provoking is always amazing.

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32860355Alex & Eliza by Melissa De La Cruz (3.75 stars)

Alex and Eliza follows the love story of Alexander Hamilton and Eliza Schuyler in the midst of the American Revolution. It seems that many have been attracted to this book because of Hamilton, the play but I’ve actually never seen it or listened to the songs (a grave sin, I know). I picked it up on a whim because I wanted a cute romance and I actually ended up liking the romance and many more elements. While the writing was a bit difficult to get into, I loved the atmosphere it evoked. The commentary and humor concerning the war and the social issues of the time was also entertaining. And of course, Alex and Eliza themselves were just lovable and their love story was swoon-worthy. I don’t use that word often but I can’t find a more accurate description than that.

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17623975Just One Day by Gayle Forman (3.75 stars)

Just One Day follows the story of Allyson Healy, as she meets Dutch actor Willem on a post-graduaction European tour before traveling with him to Paris on an impromptu trip. One day of freedom, risk, and getting lost on purpose with Willem changes Allyson’s life, and when she wakes up the next day to find him suddenly gone, she is shattered. The second half of the novel follows Allyson as she goes to college, creates new memories, and tries to find herself while searching for Willem. This book came as a pleasant surprise, and I loved how while it was marketed as a romance, it was actually about Allyson desperately trying to tap into the girl she was on that one day in Paris. It’s about her journey to self-discovery and I thought her character, and the rest of the characters and their relationships with one another, was very well-written.

Thanks for reading, guys! Leave a comment below with your thoughts 🙂

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

This Is What Happy Looks Like, by Jennifer E. Smith (review)

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2 1/2 stars

If fate sent you an email, would you answer?

When teenage movie star Graham Larkin accidentally sends small town girl Ellie O’Neill an email about his pet pig, the two seventeen-year-olds strike up a witty and unforgettable correspondence, discussing everything under the sun, except for their names or backgrounds.

Then Graham finds out that Ellie’s Maine hometown is the perfect location for his latest film, and he decides to take their relationship from online to in-person. But can a star as famous as Graham really start a relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? And why does Ellie want to avoid the media’s spotlight at all costs?

This Is What Happy Looks Like is my fourth Jennifer E. Smith novel and my last attempt to salvage my rocky relationship with her style. I’ve never strongly disliked Smith’s books but most of them have been deemed as ‘meh’ novels, which is much worse to me because I hate being in a limbo, not liking but not hating it either. I looked to This Is What Happy Looks Like to change that, but all it did was add to it. While I definitely liked the writing better this time around, the characters, pacing, and overall plot still fell glaringly flat.

Smith’s writing was always a sore point for me, while I did like her way with words, they didn’t keep me engaged and actually bored me to an extent. But, I was definitely more entertained by the writing in this novel, It felt much more defined and stable, contrary to the directionless and vague prose of The Geography Of You And Me and Hello, Goodbye, And Everything In Between. However, the writing couldn’t save the utter mind-numbing boredom the story gave me. Smith’s novels all have very different concepts but there’s always something missing that ties them together, and I just felt like I wasn’t reading anything new. While I appreciate the fact that the movie-star story line wasn’t campy and cliche, the pacing and plot were so stale and far too quick.

Also, unresolved plot points?? Ellie and her best friend Quinn end up in an ‘argument’ over freaking nothing at the beginning of the book and they don’t talk for most of the book until Quinn suddenly shows up again towards the end? What about Quinn and Devon? Where did that come from? What about Ellie and her dad? Graham and his parents? What about the emails? We were shown 5 of the emails and then … no more. These are important questions, people! There are so many subplots involved but they all either build to nothing or are completely ignored. I feel so unsatisfied by this, because these plot points seemed added in just for the hell of it but they aren’t correctly paced or told about at all.

The characters, save for Graham, couldn’t seem to characterize themselves as anything else than cardboard cutouts. Ellie has everything set up for a typical contemporary female lead: a single parent, some secret concerning her family, a relationship with a best friend that somehow loses its way throughout the story (usually due to ‘trust issues’ or some shit like that). While I liked her enough toward the beginning, I slowly started to lose interest as the story progressed because her characterization didn’t progress along with it. Again, nothing new. Graham, on the other hand, surprised me immensely and is actually my favorite part of the book. He felt human and totally real from page 1, and I love how Smith didn’t try to overemphasize his ‘regular’ side and ‘perfect celebrity’ side.

The romance was another element of the book that completely took me by surprise, and not in a good way. Ellie and Graham’s in-person meet took place early in the book, which ruled out any possibility for the tension building up to a possible relationship. There weren’t nearly enough emails showed to display their previous connection, and when they made the jump to form an in-person romantic relationship, it just felt too fast and unnatural. Plus, when they were together, Graham and Ellie had no chemistry! I didn’t find their romance to be believable at all, Hadley and Oliver from The Statistical Probability Of Love At First Sight were more believable together, which is saying something because I wasn’t the biggest fan of those two either.

I wish I liked this concept’s execution just as much as the concept itself, and while this pretty much marks the end of my complex relationship with Smith’s writing, I still have some hope remaining. Would recommend if you’re looking for a quick read and are a fan of Smith’s previous novels.

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Turtles All The Way Down, by John Green |mental illness exploration + classic John Green

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2 1/2 stars

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts. 

In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.

I don’t need to debrief you guys on my complicated history with John Green. I claim to either love or hate his books, but they’re all found on my ‘meh’ shelf, precisely because I understand the struggles behind his characters but don’t quite agree with how they are expressed. Turtles All The Way Down is no exception to this, while I commend Green for exploring mental illness, perhaps spending more time on further characterizing Aza as something other than her illness would have helped. Perhaps it would have stalled the book’s eventual descent into the regular philosophical, pretentious, unrealistic shit Green just seems to love.

Turtles All The Way Down mainly focuses on Aza’s OCD and anxiety issues clearly, and one can tell right off the bat that much research definitely went into crafting a realistic portrayal. Aza’s compulsions and constant thoughts were written pretty accurately, and I especially loved the inclusion of that little voice of doubt constantly creeping into Aza’s life. I also thought Daisy, her mother, and Davis seemed to handle her anxiety realistically, even if it wasn’t handled well. However, I felt as though Aza’s entire character was marked by her OCD and anxiety, making her a total caricature of her illness. Her narration consisted of nothing other than her ‘spiraling of thoughts’ and I honestly do not know anything about her personality apart from her anxiety and OCD.

Unfortunately, I found the other characters in the book to be replicas of every other teenager John Green has created in his novels. Daisy and David were likable at first but later just became annoying. While I did appreciate the small pockets of complexity the side characters showed, it wasn’t enough to make them memorable. They demonstrated the same amount of superficial complexity that all of Green’s characters show, precisely due to the same unbelievable, pretentious, overly philosophical thoughts and discussions they have. I like abstract concepts and the stuff they talk about in this book, but literally NOBODY extends that shit to the point where you’re talking about the universe, just randomly and bluntly. If someone started talking all this shit about the universe and astronomy out of nowhere, as a way to start a conversation, my ass would get the hell away. It’s just too artificial to me.

Regardless of all these character complaints, the book in general was just boring. Again, while I appreciate the tackling of an important subject here, Green’s habit of simply re-hashing his plots and characters kind of defeats the purpose of bringing a new, fresh idea to the table in a new book. I wasn’t surprised to see the completely random and pointless subplot of Davis’s missing billionaire father, which doesn’t contribute anything to the message of the story. I suppose it was a means to inject some life into the book, but you can’t revive something that wasn’t there in the first place. *shrugs*

After gathering my thoughts fully, it does perplex me how I haven’t rated Turtles All The Way Down a much lower rating. The truth is, the book had its special moments where I thought it actually had something going for it, but its eventual descent into John Green land where uber-intelligent teenagers randomly discuss oblivion and astronomy and introspection like it’s high school gossip, just ruined things for me. I can’t roll with it, and unless Green tries something new, I won’t be able to rate any of his books higher than three stars.

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Frostblood, by Elly Blake | Shadow And Bone meets Frozen

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3 stars

The frost king will burn.

Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a Fireblood who has concealed her powers of heat and flame from the cruel Frostblood ruling class her entire life. But when her mother is killed trying to protect her, and rebel Frostbloods demand her help to overthrow their bloodthirsty king, she agrees to come out of hiding, desperate to have her revenge.

Despite her unpredictable abilities, Ruby trains with the rebels and the infuriating—yet irresistible—Arcus, who seems to think of her as nothing more than a weapon. But before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to compete in the king’s tournaments that pit Fireblood prisoners against Frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her—and from the icy young man she has come to love.

I was reluctant to go into Frostblood because of the overflowing negative reviews, before realizing that it was rated such a way because of its repetitive plot, repetitive character writing, and other aspects of nearly every YA fantasy we have seen before. And yeah, I agree. However, much to my chagrin, I ended up liking it anyway due to my everlasting love for the Avatar universe (water, earth, fire, aiiiir) and its general engaging, entertaining nature. Plus, arena battles. You can never go wrong with arena battles.

When it comes to the world-building and plot, many readers have been comparing Frostblood to Red Queen and Red Rising, comparisons that I totally understand even if I’ve never read those two. I would consider Frostblood to be similar to Shadow and Bone, but its world-building and writing isn’t nearly as developed as the Grishaverse. Of course, I will always choose the Grishaverse over anything but I don’t know anything about the Frostblood world, besides a few stories about their mythology and their powers. Yes, there is background information sprinkled here and there, but it never comes full-circle to form a big picture. A map would have really, really, helped (seriously, can we make maps mandatory in all fantasy novels?). It’s a good thing I enjoy frost and fire powers (you can thank my Avatar obsession for that), because that’s the only thing that kept me afloat throughout the book, plot and world-building wise.

Concerning the characters, I would say Ruby, Arcus, and the Frost King (I forgot his name, dammit) are direct parallels to Alina, Mal, and the Darkling from the Shadow And Bone trilogy. Ruby has a fiery, passionate, and mischievous personality but I simply couldn’t come to love her, because she reminded me too much of Alina Starkov, who I adore infinitely more. However, she was enough to keep the book engaging and played a significant role in engaging me. Unfortunately, her boy toy (s) aren’t as great. Arcus is another carbon copy of every brooding, mysterious male love interest and the Frost King is a poor-man’s version of the Darkling. He’s so forgettable, I can’t even remember his name!

Obviously, these three form a very uninteresting love triangle but this doesn’t entirely come to light until the second half of the book. Ruby’s primary love interest is Arcus, and while I enjoyed their chemistry and relationship, I felt as though it progressed too quickly and predictably. It didn’t particularly bring anything new to the romance department, but I am looking to see it grow throughout the rest of the books. If I even decide to read the rest.

Judging by commentary, one would assume I hated this book. So why the 3 star rating? Well, arena battles are my shit. Ruby fighting the various warriors and creatures with her powers and weapons was so cool and entertaining. I’m already hella biased toward elemental powers so I enjoyed the action scenes. The story’s overall entertaining and addictive nature kept me going, but other than that, there isn’t much that is special about this book. However, I still might continue with the series with the hope that it will define itself by branching out on its own more.

-Haven

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

The Library Of Fates, by Aditi Khorana | a beautiful concept, an underwhelming execution

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1.75 stars (I’m aware that this is probably the most ridiculous rating I’ve ever given)

No one is entirely certain what brings the Emperor Sikander to Shalingar. Until now, the idyllic kingdom has been immune to his many violent conquests. To keep the visit friendly, Princess Amrita has offered herself as his bride, sacrificing everything—family, her childhood love, and her freedom—to save her people. But her offer isn’t enough.

The palace is soon under siege, and Amrita finds herself a fugitive, utterly alone but for an oracle named Thala, who was kept by Sikander as a slave and managed to escape amid the chaos. With nothing and no one else to turn to, Amrita and Thala are forced to rely on each other. But while Amrita feels responsible for her kingdom and sets out to warn her people, the newly free Thala has no such ties. She encourages Amrita to go on a quest to find the fabled Library of All Things, where it is possible for each of them to reverse their fates. To go back to before Sikander took everything from them.

Stripped of all that she loves, caught between her rosy past and an unknown future, will Amrita be able to restore what was lost, or does another life—and another love—await?

I had been scarily intent on getting my hands on The Library Of Fates ever since my eyes brushed over the striking cover, and while there are an increasing number of books coming out on Indian folklore, it’s still pretty rare to see one and I wasn’t going to miss The Library Of Fates for the world. But, I suppose I should have turned to The Star-Touched Queen to get my South Asian fill because this book managed to disappoint me in number of ways. A much too convenient progression of events and flat character writing contributed the most to my disappointment, but to see all this potential go to waste is the saddest of all.

The world-building is fairly okay, as I do have a feel for the two main kingdoms the story is set in, the small yet free Shalinger, and the grand but conservative Macedon. Unfortunately, I have no idea what the rest of this world looks like which is why it should be mandatory for every fantasy novel to include a map. I did enjoy the descriptions of the atmosphere, it felt South Indian as hell and I’m South Indian as hell, so it was damn cool to see my culture (in varations) on the page. It kind of made me want to watch one of those Hindi period dramas that have been trending recently, you know, the ones that Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone have been in? I swear those two are all I see these days in Hindi cinema, not that I’m complaining. I probably should have watched the Padmavati trailer a few times before attempting to visualize the beauty and richness of the Indian culture expressed in this book, but I felt it nonetheless.

The story is also ridden with mythological and folk tales naturally, which I appreciated as well. These stories aren’t real of course but the elements they contained felt very familiar, but sadly, the familiarity of the novel’s culture and atmosphere was the only thing keeping me afloat throughout the course of this book. The story and plot itself were highly convenient and calculated to the point in which I had predicted the whole ‘twist’ beforehand. Things came much too easily to Amrita, making the story completely devoid of any tension or excitement. The writing seemed incredibly juvenile, especially when it came to the more intense scenes, in which the prose failed to inject any sort of liveliness. I really like the concept behind the story and what message it is supposed to tell, but it never really came full circle to me because of the utter blandness, and worse, the lack of complexity, behind the plot and characters.

Typically, by this point if I think the plot is crappy and the writing is crappy, I can rely on the characters to pull me through the novel with mild interest, and books like these are mostly rated 3 stars if I’m in a good mood, maybe even a 3.25 (there’s a big difference between the two for me, don’t judge). Obviously, the characters did not come through. Amrita is blander than … the blandest thing you could think of. First off, I could not find any reason to root for her because her personality was incredibly lacking in complexity. I despise characters that are inherently good-natured and two-dimensional in such a way. Another aspect that has probably contributed to this was the fact that everything came so easily for her. Her whole journey is so calculated and unsurprising, I never got to experience Amrita actually growing and facing her challenges, and the times where she is mildly challenged, the writing never came through to show (show, not tell) the emotion behind her changing character.

Thala actually seems to be a more complex character, but due to faults in the crafting of her backstory and general lack of insight into it, she was lost on me as well. The side characters, namely Amrita’s love interests, Arjun and Varun, were even less complex, which obviously made the romance aspect incredibly dull. Perhaps my biggest disappointment involving the characters is the total lack of dynamic and energy between Thala and Amrita. While I did like how they ended up forging a deep friendship, I definitely wanted more entertainment from them both. It didn’t have to be comedic, they didn’t have to make out (but god knows I was secretly wishing for this), they just had to create a unique energy between them both that kept me excited and entertained.

For those who enjoy younger-sounding fantasies and are looking for some South Asian-based stories, this will be a perfect fit for you. Sadly, The Library Of Fates wasn’t for me but I am happy that Indian mythology is gaining more attention in the YA world.

-Haven

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

More Happy Than Not, by Adam Silvera | the most twisted emotional experience

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4.5 stars 

Adam Silvera’s extraordinary debut confronts race, class, and sexuality during one charged near-future summer in the Bronx.

Part Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, part Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Adam Silvera’s extraordinary debut confronts race, class, and sexuality during one charged near-future summer in the Bronx. 

The Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-relief procedure seems too good to be true to Aaron Soto – miracle cure-alls don’t tend to pop up in the Bronx projects. But Aaron can’t forget how he’s grown up poor or how his friends aren’t always there for him. Like after his father committed suicide in their one bedroom apartment. Aaron has the support of his patient girlfriend, if not necessarily his distant brother and overworked mother, but it’s not enough. 

Then Thomas shows up. He has a sweet movie-watching setup on his roof, and he doesn’t mind Aaron’s obsession with a popular fantasy series. There are nicknames, inside jokes. Most importantly, Thomas doesn’t mind talking about Aaron’s past. But Aaron’s newfound happiness isn’t welcome on his block. Since he’s can’t stay away from Thomas or suddenly stop being gay, Aaron must turn to Leteo to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he is.

Adam Silvera’s novels should come with warning labels on the covers, saying “only proceed further if you are ready to suffer constant bouts of sadness and depression throughout the book and after finishing it.” The only other Silvera novel I’ve read was History Is All You Left Me and I thought it was one of the most distressing books I’ve ever read, but More Happy Than Not seemed to be more than happy to top the list. This book took me through such an intense experience, it started off so unassuming (though I did know it was going to get worse) and then just turned into this twisted, distressing, emotional mind-fuck. But you know what? Even if it was incredibly sad and painful to read, More Happy Than Not is easily one of the best YA books ever written due to a number of reasons.

First off, the writing was absolutely gorgeous. And by gorgeous, I mean totally raw, honest, and heartbreaking without being too dramatic or cliche. There is actually a remarkable difference between the prose seen in this book and History Is All You Left Me, the latter was filled with extensive descriptions of settings and emotions, making every event taking place so much more intense. This was one of the few aspects of the book that hindered my reading experience, but the prose in More Happy Than Not largely differs from this, and I loved it. It’s so truthful and real, and Silvera shows life’s ugliness so effortlessly without adding extra commentary to spice up the drama. The violence, cursing, and pain was so heartbreaking to read but so well-written at the same time. I also loved the atmosphere Silvera created, the story is set in the Bronx and all the little things that extenuate its mood match perfectly with the characters and their relationships toward one another.

I’ve only read two Silvera books so far, but those new to his work should know that it will only get worse and worse for the characters as the story goes on. You think things are going well, and BAM. Violence. Tragedy. Heartbreak. These characters can never catch a fucking break, and its absolute ass for the reader because they’re all written so damn well. Aaron, Thomas, Genevieve, and all the other characters in the book are so relatable, honest, funny, and just real. I loved their relationships with each other and the numerous nerdy references they made throughout the novel. But, what I like most about Silvera’s characters is how they’re not afraid to get vulnerable. Aaron goes through most of this book feeling broken, frustrated, and helpless, and while I can’t relate to any of the horror he’s faced, his emotion bursts off the page and is so visceral, that I can clearly feel the hurt coursing through my heart. Thomas and Genevieve are equally flawed, well-developed characters, nothing about them or even the minor characters seem one-dimensional. All of the shades of their personality are shown in such realistic ways.

The amount of themes embedded in this book are crazy and expressed so subtly. Aaron not only struggles with accepting himself and his sexuality, but also has to deal with mental health issues stemming from his father’s death, his not-so-luxurious living and financial situation, and his scarred friends and neighborhood. Silvera tackles so many problems with such clarity and honesty, that it’s difficult to avoid the pain while watching these events unfold but also easy to connect and understand it. While the craziness takes some time to settle in, once it hits you, it is absolutely brutal. I can’t say much without spoiling, but the progression of the plot and story are so well-done that every piece of emotion sent your way is so deep-rooted.

More Happy Than Not is not an easy book to read by any means, but it is still absolutely necessary to read. There are few novels out there that can tell an emotional, raw story with such truthfulness and poignancy. But this is one of those rare books out there that will resonate with you and I urge you all to give it a try. You won’t forget it.

-Haven