Given the choice, not many would actually choose to be gay, especially not in the South Bronx. But what if they could? What if there was a chance science could make them “forget” that part of their identity?
In Adam Silvera’s debut novel More Happy Than Not, these questions aren’t theoretical. Aaron Soto has the chance to change his sexual orientation through the Leteo Institute, which will help him forget memories he’s tired of dealing with.
With the notable exception of the Leteo Institute, Silvera admits that he ripped off his own life for More Happy Than Not. Both Silvera and Aaron grew up in the South Bronx in a one-bedroom apartment, and the boy Aaron falls in love with was “definitely inspired by one of my best friends,” said Silvera. The two even share the same initials.
Since so much of the book is inspired by real life events, parts of Aaron’s story were hard for Silvera to relive, “but I’m happy I did because it ultimately proved to be therapeutic.”
“The easiest part was separating my own story from Aaron’s, because, let’s face it, my story might feel like an interesting narrative for me, but it definitely doesn’t mean it’s automatically compelling fiction. Writing Aaron’s story was way more rewarding.”
While Aaron uses the memory relief procedure offered by the Leteo Institute to forget that he’s gay, Silvera hopes that readers who aren’t gay will be able to identify with Aaron and his struggles.
“I’m betting they will draw on whatever pain that’s unfortunately stricken them in the past and how much they wished they could erase it from their history. As appealing as this may be, our life moving forward would be one big lie.”
And though those of us outside the world of More Happy Than Not don’t currently have access to Lateo’s memory procedures, Silvera does have some advice for readers who may wish we did.
“Warning: It’s going to really, really suck the first time you have your heart broken. It might not even be because of romantic love, it might come from a family member abandoning you, someone you love dying, or your best friend betraying you. It’s going to feel very end of the world, and it sort of is. But trust that happiness can come again, even if it takes its sweet time creeping on you, and in the meantime, do your best to survive the pain by settling on being more happy than not. “
Silvera is currently working on two more YA novel, and is in the early stages of co-writing a YA book with Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda author Becky Albertalli. For more on Adam Silvera, visit his website or follow him on Twitter or Tumblr.