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I love speculative novels that pose interesting questions that apply to real life, and particularly ones that have no easy answers.  Is it worth sacrificing your identity if it also meant erasing your most painful memories? If you knew you had a day left to live, how would you spend it? These questions are the central ideas of the novels by the brilliant YA writer Adam Silvera.

 

More happy than not cover / the title in large blue block letters, imposed over a close up of a yellow smiley faceSeveral years ago I had the privilege of getting to know Adam when we both contributed to the same blog. Adam was on the cusp of publishing his first novel More Happy Than Not (which recently published a 5th anniversary edition). Since then, Adam has published several more books, and in all of them he tackles the heavy questions of love, loss, identity, and how we live. 

 

Comped to the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, More Happy Than Not follows 15-year-old Aaron Soto who is struggling with grief over his father’s suicide, and issues of identity, love, and self-acceptance. Adam is lucky in that he has a supportive mother and girlfriend, but his mom works two jobs and can’t be around all of the time, and while his girlfriend tries, he just can’t seem to make himself happy.

 

When his girlfriend goes away to art camp for a couple of weeks, he starts hanging out with new kid Thomas. When he’s with Thomas, he feels happy and safe, but Thomas’ constant presence is creating tension within his group of friends and his girlfriend, and the deeper his feelings grow, the more terrified he becomes.

 

Desperate to do something, he considers undergoing a controversial memory alteration procedure that claims to erase painful memories. If it works, maybe it can erase his grief, and help him get over being gay. But what if it also ends up erasing him?

 

It’s a wonderful work of speculative fiction, and it begs the question how far would you go to erase painful memories? Are our identities shaped by our memories, and in erasing those memories, we do effectively erase what makes us ourselves. Is that cost worth it to give us the happy ending we so desperately want, or is life, as Aaron concludes, “more happy than not?”

 

Ithey both die at the end cover / who figures in sahdown walking along a railing while behind them, a city scape is haloed by a full moonn his third novel They Both Die At the End , Silvera gives his readers another philosophical question to ponder: How would you spend your last day?

 

The novel focuses on two teenaged boys named Mateo and Rufus, who thanks to the company Death-Cast’s predictive technology, learn they have one day left to live. The tech isn’t so far advanced as to give them an exact time or cause of death, and there’s always the niggly question of whether death can be cheated.

 

Initially, the conservative Mateo planned to spend the day in his apartment, but on a whim decides to spend his last day actually living. He meets Rufus through the Last Friend App- an app designed to give Deckers (the dying) someone to hang out with on their last day. They decide to go full on Carpe Diem, and as the day progresses, their friendship turns into something deeper.

 

As I was reading, I found myself imagining what I would do in their shoes. Would I try to see all of my family and friends and say goodbye? Would I try some of the things I always wanted to do but was too afraid to, or would I play it safe and stay in bed reading or watching tv hoping to cheat fate?

 

What I found particularly interesting about the scenario is how knowing your death date can shape your choices. Throughout the day, Mateo and Rufus have numerous close calls where they think “this is the moment. This is how I die,” but being in that place at that time is 100% driven by the choices they made as a result of knowing that they will die before the day is up. If it was a day like any other, there are probably 100 choices that you might make that doesn’t put you in harm’s way, or maybe knowing doesn’t matter because fate is fixed and you were destined to die. The paperback edition is currently on the NYT besteller list, so now's a good time to add it to your collection if you don't already have it. 

 

The second book in Silvera's new Infinity Cycle fantasy series, called Infinity Reaper, released this past March, and both of those titles are definitely worth adding to your YA collection.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, our YouTube Channel, and now on Issuu. We also encourage you to subscribe to the LSC Weekly Update, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Happy Readings!

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