Publisher: Soho Teen
Release Date: June 2015
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Plot: In the months after his father’s suicide, it’s been tough for 16-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again–but he’s still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he’s slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely.
When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron’s crew notices, and they’re not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can’t deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can’t stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is.
Why does happiness have to be so hard?
I don’t think I’ll be able to stress enough how important and different this book is.
Set in a near future New York in the Bronx, a boy realizes he’s gay in a world where that isn’t acceptable. In this place, there is no hope for him, and the only way to solve it is for him to bury it with the technology to wipe his memories.
This is a sci-fi way of basically saying how dangerous conversion therapy is, and how it does not work.
My heart bled for Aaron, who just wants to be happy. But where is happiness when you can barely afford to eat, have friends who you know can turn on you, in a neighborhood where shootings and stabbings are a weekly occurrence?
First of all, it was so refreshing to see a working-class character of colour. While POC are often portrayed as such, the characters were realistic, deep, and sympathetic (ok not all of them were). It wasn’t stereotypical, it was representation. The working-class aspect alone was diverse, because even within the community you still have some who are poorer than others, some who deal with it differently. Happiness is what you make of it, and in dark times, it’s hard to find. This was a story of true desperation, of a quick fix that just doesn’t work.
I’m sure it happens in the U.K too, but let’s focus on conversion therapy in the U.S. It’s really stupid, for one, layered with insecurities, desperation, isolation, and sometimes (but not all the time) religion. It’s deep rooted prejudice that makes a father send his son to a camp that makes him believe that what he feels is wrong. It’s a warped sense of what love is, because that’s all it is, it’s love. It’s not perversion or whatever the people in the documentaries call it (I told you in my last review I like watching docs about things I can’t understand, didn’t I?). The only way to deal with this is through education and compassion.
And hey, even if you still don’t ‘believe’ in homosexuality, whatever that means, your child should not be at the mercy of that opinion. Just…don’t send them to conversion camps. Don’t make them have therapy with an overpriced psychiatrist who’s literally spoon feeding you pseudo-science.
I loved this book. It’s sad, but it’s real. If you’re looking for a happy ending, it’s probably not here, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid it!