Total Star Rating: 3.75 Stars
A mix of light and dark, Adam Silvera’s debut novel is surely to leave a lasting impact on anyone who decides to pick it up off a shelf and give it a go. It’s possibly one of the most unique YA novels I’ve ever read…hell, maybe even out of all literature? I can’t really go into full detail because that leads into such spoiler territory, and it’s all truly a part of the experience of reading this yourself. I can say that the story went in a certain direction that I must admit that I had never anticipated; it leaves you feeling off balance and you’re not entirely sure if it’s a good or bad thing. Again, this all makes more sense when you read it yourself
What It’s About:
The story begins by introducing readers to the protagonist, Aaron Soto; an average latino teen living in the Bronx. His brother is an anti-social gamer, his mom works multiple jobs to keep a roof over their heads. Aaron has a small group of guy friends along with an amazing girlfriend, Genevieve. All of that gets swept to the side when it’s revealed that he has a scar shaped like a smiley face after he attempted suicide shortly after his father killed himself.
The Lateo institute is also introduced, and it is brought up when Aaron and his friends talk about how one of their friends moved away after his twin brother was killed and used the company to erase their memories.
The story truly sets off when Aaron meets Thomas, an eccentric and unique guy who just moved into the neighborhood. With their newfound friendship, Thomas inadvertently makes Aaron begin to question everything, especially his secret developing feelings for another guy that is far away from being just platonic friends.
What I Liked:
- The Writing Style! Adam Silvera has a great writing style because he is able to mix the lighter happier moments evenly with the darker more sobering moments in such a way that really connects to someone who’s suffered the same way, but also has it make sense for those that haven’t. It was interesting to read some funny, regular teen moments amongst the characters when there was the dark shadow among the edges of a seemingly innocent point in the story.
- The Characters! Every character had a reason to be in the story, whether they were in one scene or they were one of the main cast. I don’t want to get into any specific details, but just know that it’s important to remember every name read within the story.
- The Darker & Heavier Themes! It’s a heavy book that dives into some pretty dark topics like depression, grief and suicide. Not a lot of people like to explore them, but really, mental health has become such an important topic lately and needs to be out there more in books so young people or anyone who’s going through them can feel heard and that they aren’t alone. Other themes include sexuality, love, friendship, grief, family and acceptance.
- The LGBTQ Representation! Knowing it’s a book about a young man who turns out to be gay, and even though he wishes he wasn’t, it’s still nice to have the representation being seen in the world and to keep making it an everyday, normalized thing.
What I Didn’t Like:
- The Ending…It wasn’t a terrible ending that I absolutely hated, and yes it’s more realistic In certain stories to not have the happiest of endings, but I still feel like maybe it was still unresolved? Like I wish more could’ve happened or for certain characters to step up and be a better or a different person? Or maybe I just wish it went into a different direction. There’s a twist that happens in the story that ultimately leads to it, and I’m still unsure how I feel about all of it.
- The Idea of Forgetting The Past In Order To Move Forward…In the last year, I’ve lost both my aunt and uncle in a car accident when an 18 year old boy ran a red light with a stolen car. He T-boned them, killing them instantly…it’s shaken up my family and no one has really the same since. I’ve lost others in my life too: my dog whom we had to put down, my grandpa, and even just losing friendships has been pretty hard to accept at some points. The pain is harder some days compared to others, and sometimes the desire to forget it all does sneak into your head with its siren song, making it feel like the easy way out in order to keep moving forward. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not the big picture Adam Silvera only paints in this story, just it is the route certain readers could take reading this book based off the decisions certain characters make. The friend who’s brother was killed had his memories warped in order to forget, but his parents never did the same because they believed you shouldn’t just try to forget about the ones you love. If they’re important to you, keep them in your memories, whether they’re good or bad. Pain and grief over losing people in our lives is the biggest drive that helps us grow as human beings, and while it hurts so much, we learn more about ourselves and adapt to the new world surrounding us with someone who is no longer around.
This story turned out to be so incredibly thought provoking. It was told through different perspectives of Aaron’s life through his eyes, and was told in an interesting way that occurs with a twist to answer a lot of questions that rise up as readers delve deeper into the story.
Like many other reviews probably say: this isn’t an easy, light hearted book to pick up and enjoy. It leaves readers with a feeling of confusion, remorse and a sobering sense of reality. Adam Silvera created a story that does its job of lingering in the reader’s thoughts after they’ve finished it.
Thanks for Reading!
— Nick Goodsell