Y’all, I’ve come to realize I may have a serious problem. I’ve read a couple of highly, HIGHLY praised YA novels this year that I just…didn’t like, and I’m going to tell you why.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
This book is about two teenagers, Aristotle (Ari) and Dante, who both have a little trouble “fitting in.” Ari is angry about a lot of things, mostly focused around his older brother being in jail. Dante is simply living his life out loud. He has supportive parents and tries to pass on some of his confidence and energy to Ari. It’s a wonderful story about Latinx boys trying to discover themselves and their sexuality. So, why don’t I like this book?
- This book has such beautiful writing!
- What? This was what I was most excited about when I picked up this book. The writing in this book is by no means terrible, but it’s not any better than any other popular YA book. Some of the prose and dialogue actually seemed a little unrealistic when you got to know the characters. A lot of people criticize John Green for making teenagers sound unrealistic, but I think this book had more egregious offenses.
- The mood was fantastic.
- It was okay? Fantastic seems a bit strong. I don’t want to give anything in particular away, but I’m not even sure the ending made that much sense.
- There was such a great representation of Mexican-American culture and sexuality.
- There were barely a few mentions of the Latinx factor both characters possessed. Most of the mentions were in relation to speaking Spanish. I’m not sure if I’m asking too much, but I don’t think this is the book for someone to read if that’s what their looking for. However…
More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
If it wasn’t bad enough that I didn’t LOVE Alire Saenz’s work; it’s a CRIME that I didn’t love More Happy Than Not. Everyone had all the feels for this book. Everyone thought this book was amazing. This is #ownvoices perfection. Er..yes, yes. One really, really positive thing I did like about this book is I think it does give a pretty real glimpse at the inner city, person of color culture. It’s completely infused throughout the novel. You can’t pick this novel up and place it in suburbia; it just wouldn’t be the same.
- It’s so dark.
- It sort of was; I guess. It was so damn boring for so long. It literally pained me to get through the first 100 pages. I’m not entirely sure I can what the point of your book is if I struggle to simply turn the page. It’s definitely not a lighthearted book, but I’m not sure just because it’s not happy – makes it dark.
- It handles mental health very well.
- Does it though? In the book we know that Aaron’s father commits suicide. We also know that his mother isn’t handling it well. His brother is ignoring it, and he can’t talk to any of the people in his life about his feelings around his attempt NOR his own attempt. While I think this might be realistic of the urban setting, I’m not sure this is “very well.” At the end of the book I feel as though the message is sort of, life would be better if you just ignored things. There isn’t a medication or therapy positive notion in the book. I’m also not sure some of the more finer plot points represent self harm and suicide ideation…at all really. This wouldn’t be my recommendation for a mental health positive book.
I will say that I rated More Happy Than Not 3 stars, which means I thought it was okay. So I don’t have as much of an issue with it as I did with Alire Sanez’s book. But darn it, these two book should have been 4 star reads. Even though I don’t love them, like so many others do – I refuse to think the problem is with the books. The problem is definitely with me. We need more #ownvoices works, and I will continue to support them as much as I can. If you have a chance to pick either of these books up, please give them a whirl. And if you’ve read either of these, please leave a comment telling me how wrong I am.
Until Next Time World…
PS- sorry for the long post. I had 2 books and a lot to say!