Rating: 5 Cups of Coffee
In the months after his father's suicide, it's been tough for 16-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again--but he's still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he's slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely.
When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron's crew notices, and they're not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can't deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can't stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute's revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is.
Why does happiness have to be so hard?
"Memories: some can be sucker punching, others carry you forward, some stay with you forever, others you forget on your own."
I'm just going to take a moment and say that after finishing this book I wanted to jump inside it to protect Aaron from the world as if he were my baby. You'll probably feel the same after finishing this heartbreaking read. It's such a raw look into what it's like to be gay in an environment that values masculinity and strength above all else. Combine that with the sci-fi element of the Leteo Institute's memory-alteration procedure and you're left with this question: If you could forget the most painful moments of your life, would you?
"You can't really tell which ones you'll survive if you don't stay on the battlefield, bad times shooting at you like bullets. But if you're lucky, you'll have plenty of good times to shield you."
The premise alone was enough to get me excited about this book. After his father's suicide, Aaron Soto is trying to remember what happiness is like. He seems to be doing pretty well with the help of his girlfriend, Genevieve, and his crew, a ragtag group of boys who live in the same housing project. But after he meets Thomas all he wants to do is forget. Aaron can't deny his feelings for Thomas, so he goes to the Leteo Institute, a place where people go to have their most painful memories buried deep in their subconscious, to forget that he is gay.
"It's weirdly possessive and obsessive to like someone; you want to learn all of his stories before anyone else and sometimes you want to be the only one who knows at all."
Your heart will be breaking during every moment Aaron and Thomas spend together. Their friendship is built on trust and acceptance, both things that Aaron can't seem to find in his neighborhood crew. They care for each other deeply, and when Aaron's crew begins to notice you'll want to dive into the pages to protect Aaron as one would a kitten, or puppy, or duckling (you get it). When the happiness Aaron has worked so hard to build for himself starts to unravel, a sudden twist puts everything into perspective and leaves him wondering if he can ever really forget his true identity. Adam Silvera channels the painful realities of coming out and the complexity of human sexuality into a beautifully written story.
"Happiness shouldn't be this hard."
I'm warning you now: this book will leave you in big baby tears. But I think you know that a book is good when it is able to elicit that kind of emotional response. This book has everything I could ever want in a story: a diverse and beautifully written cast of characters, an important social message and, of course, a compelling plot. It's an amazing take on the difficult period of self-discovery teens go through and the heartbreak that comes with it. If you read one book all year, please let it be this one.