With its urban setting and diverse characters, More Happy Than Not is a rare and poignant look at how a struggling gay kid from the Bronx deals with pain, grief, and the heartbreak of love. Like his protagonist, Silvera, 25, is gay, Bronx-born, and Puerto Rican (not to mention having the same initials), so there's an authenticity to his prose that isn't always the case with books about low-income, urban characters. Aaron is realistically depicted as a bundle of contradictions: His mother is employed but barely makes a livable wage as a hospital social worker; his friends include petty criminals and aspiring artists, dropouts and ambitious students. The sadness stemming from his father's suicide and his own attempt permeates everything Aaron does. Even his romantic relationship is somewhat based on gratitude to the one girl who stuck by his side while everyone else (even his crew) distanced themselves.
Aaron's story shifts into high gear once he starts hanging out with Thomas, who's sensitive, articulate, smart, and loves Steven Spielberg movies, comic books, and all the pop culture-touchstones that make for a believably fast fanboy friendship. Thomas doesn't act tough or keep himself separate like Brendan, Fat Dave, Skinny Dave, and Me-Crazy (the guys Aaron has known all his life). While Genevieve is away at art camp, Aaron begins to think about Thomas so often he questions whether he's straight, bi, or gay. If he's really gay, Aaron wonders if the Leteo procedure would be a way to "fix" him. Silvera explores the way the true you always comes through, even when you want to suppress that part of yourself. His writing explores the humor and heartache, the sense of hopelessness that can surround a kid in Aaron's circumstances. More Happy Than Not, as the title implies, is about a fragile boy finding a way through the darkness and into the light, where everything isn't sunshine and light but where happiness seems possible no matter whom you love or who loves you back.