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Review: More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

morehappythannot The New York Times called Adam Silvera’s debut novel, More Happy Than Not, “mandatory reading,” and I’m inclined to agree. This novel turned everything I thought I knew about the young adult scene on its head, and I’ve been recommending it to everyone I meet. So if you see me in the next year or so and ask me what you should be reading, here’s your answer.

Aaron Soto is a sixteen-year-old boy living in the Bronx of the near future. He lives in a housing project with his mother and older brother, all three of them skirting around their grief and disbelief over Adam’s father’s suicide and Adam’s attempted suicide.  Why should they live with their feelings when there’s a procedure that wipes away your memories? The Leteo Institute offers a memory-wiping (“memory relief”) procedure for those who have gone through trauma. In Aaron’s own community, one friend underwent the procedure after his twin brother was killed, effectively wiping out all memories of his sibling’s existence and their shared childhood.

Aaron has a scar shaped like a smile on his wrist, but he doesn’t have much to be happy about: his father killed himself, his mother is overworked, and the neighborhood he lives in is poor. While the support of his girlfriend, Genevieve, is a comfort, it doesn’t always seem like enough. He’s never quite sure of how he’s supposed to act.

But then Thomas shows up, and Aaron’s whole world turns upside-down. Thomas is not like Aaron’s friends from his project; Thomas is sensitive, and funny, and likes the same comic books as Aaron. Aaron starts finding more and more  excuses to hang out with Thomas, until he realizes he’s falling for his new best friend. In a neighborhood where being gay is enough to get you jumped, Aaron struggles with this new realization. Maybe there’s hope for him, still, if he can just get his mom to agree to a Leteo procedure. But is the process of erasing memories enough to change a person?

“Memories: some can be sucker punching, others carry you forward; some stay with you forever, others you forget on your own. You can’t really know 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.”

You may think: “I’ve seen Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. This kind of seems like the same thing.” But aside from the idea of a memory-wiping procedure, More Happy Than Not is entirely unique. Its diverse cast of lovable (and not so lovable) characters, realistic, gritty setting, and surprising plot twists make this a story all its own. I wept, unabashedly, through the last third of the book, because the writing is so good and the characters are so easy to care for.

Have you read Silvera’s debut yet? I’d love to hear what you think! If you haven’t had the chance to pick it up yet — do it now. You won’t regret it.

Danielle Villano is the editor of BiblioSmiles, and she is really glad you’re here. Learn more on the About page.  Tweet @daniellevillano.

Review: Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler

underthelights I was given the opportunity to read Under the Lights, the second book in the Daylight Falls series, thanks to NetGalley and Spencer Hill Contemporary.

Dahlia Adler’s Under the Lights is set to release on June 30th, and it’s a must-read for contemporary fans who are looking for something a little different.

I should note that I did not read the first Daylight Falls novel, Behind the Scenes, but I had no trouble at all following the plot or feeling a connection to the characters. I do plan on reading the first novel, because I’d love some more time with Ally, and Liam, and Vanessa.

Where Behind the Scenes follows Ally and Liam’s story, Under the Lights focuses more on Hollywood bad boy Josh Chester and TV actress Vanessa Park (Ally’s best friend). The chapters alternate between Josh’s and Vanessa’s points of view.  Their voices were distinct, and their chapters played off very well against each other.

Josh is sarcastic, too handsome for his own good, and incredibly spoiled. When his mother threatens to take his beach house away from him unless he signs up to be on her new reality show, Josh must reevaluate his life choices and determine what’s really “worth it.”

Vanessa Park has a role on the popular teen show, Daylight Falls, but the cards are stacked against her as far as Hollywood’s concerned: she is an Asian American actor, and starring roles are often limited for women of color. Vanessa, like Josh, also struggles with her parents’ wishes; they want her to give up her dreams of being an actor and prepare for a more “stable” future.

Although Josh and Vanessa become close after Ally, their common link, leaves to go to school in New York City, I should mention right away that this is not a male/female romance-centric novel. In fact, you can tell from the cover: this is a F/F love story!

How exciting is that? Adler has given a main character role to a character who so often is only supporting, and as a reader I was truly able to understand the struggles Vanessa goes through in the course of the novel.

The romance aspect is incredibly sweet and sexy, but also very believable. So often in romantic plots, I feel like I have to suspend my disbelief in order to accept that certain characters can “defy the odds” and be together.. But these characters? They’re meant to be. I sort of wish they were real people, so I could fangirl over their “Celebrities: They’re Just Like Us!” paparazzi shots in the gossip magazines.

The dynamic between Josh and Vanessa is great, too; they have the great kind of sarcastic, bitchy banter that ultimately makes for a killer friendship. It’s nice to see how these characters change as individuals as the story moves forward, but it’s also nice to see how they change together, too.

Under the Lights is very much a book about identity and making choices. Whether it’s dealing with race, or sexuality, or general coming-of-age feelings, Adler presents each facet of the puzzle that is growing up with grace. Under the Lights is a celebration of the underdog, and it’s exciting to see under-represented characters stealing the spotlight.

Danielle Villano is the editor of BiblioSmiles, and she is really glad you’re here. Learn more on the About page.  Tweet @daniellevillano.

Cover Reveal: Cam Girl by Leah Raeder

I’m pleased to announce that BiblioSmiles is taking part in the cover reveal for Leah Raeder’s third novel, Cam Girl! Raeder’s writing is very near and dear to my heart (did you read my piece on her book, Unteachable, being my book soul mate? How about my review of Black Iris?), and I’m happy to have the opportunity to spread the word on her newest novel!  Cam Girl is set to publish on November 3, 2015, and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. Read about it below and check out the gorgeous, colorful cover!

Raeder_Cam Girl cover final

Vada Bergen is broke, the black sheep of her family, and moving a thousand miles away from home for grad school, but she’s got the two things she loves most: her art, and her best friend and soulmate, Ellis Carraway. Elle and Vada have a friendship so consuming it’s hard to tell where one girl ends and the other begins. It’s intense. It’s a little codependent. And nothing can tear them apart.

Until an accident on an icy winter road changes everything.

Vada is left deeply scarred, both emotionally and physically. Her once-promising art career is cut short. And Ellis pulls away, unwilling to talk about that night. Everything Vada loved is gone.

She’s got nothing left to lose.

So when she meets a smooth-talking lothario who offers to set her up as a cam girl, she can’t say no. All Vada has to do is spend a couple hours each night taking off her clothes on webcam, and the “tips” come pouring in.

It’s all just kinky fun till a client gets serious. “Blue” is mysterious, alluring, and more interested in Vada’s life than her body. Online, they open up to each other intimately. Blue helps her heal. And he pays well, but he wants her all to himself. No more cam shows. She agrees, because she’s starting to fall for him. And when he asks to meet, she says yes. Because she’s dying to know the real man behind the keyboard.

Even if one of his conditions is to bring Ellis. The girl who wants nothing to do with her anymore.

Now Vada must confront the past she’s been running from. A past full of devastating secrets—those of others, and those she’s been keeping from herself…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Leah Raeder is a writer and unabashed nerd. Aside from reading her brains out, she enjoys graphic design, video games, fine whiskey, and the art of self-deprecation. She lives with her very own manic pixie dream boy in Chicago. Visit her at LeahRaeder.com.

PRE-ORDER LINKS:

AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-a-MillionIndieBoundAppleBlioGoogleKobo

UK PRE-ORDER LINKS:

AmazonWaterstonesWHSmithAppleBarnes & NobleKobo

AUS PRE-ORDER LINKS:

BookworldBooktopiaAppleAmazon

Will you be picking up Leah Raeder’s Cam Girl? What do you think of that description? So compelling! And isn’t the cover just beautiful?

Many thanks to Atria Books for allowing me the opportunity to help spread the word!