I was sent this book as an ARC by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.
(maybe more like 4,5 stars)
A funny, sad and serious memoir, ‘How to Be Happy’ is David Burton’s story of his turbulent life at high school and beyond. Feeling out of place and convinced that he is not normal, David has a rocky start. He longs to have a girlfriend, but his first ‘date’ is a disaster. There’s the catastrophe of the school swimming carnival – David is not sporty – and friendships that take devastating turns. Then he finds some solace in drama classes with the creation of ‘Crazy Dave’, and he builds a life where everything is fine. But everything is not fine.
And, at the centre of it all, trying desperately to work it all out, is the real David.
‘How to Be Happy’ tackles depression, friendship, sexual identity, suicide, academic pressure, love and adolescent confusion. It’s a brave and honest account of one young man’s search for a happy, true and meaningful life that will resonate with readers young and old.
First off, let me start by saying that if this had been fiction instead of a memoir, probably my rating and my feelings towards this would be slightly different. But because the events in this are real, I don’t feel like it’s my place to judge or even comment on the author’s actions and thoughts, especially when he was a teen.
I really liked the way this was written. It was very straightforward and easy to read, even when the themes it featured were all but light and easy.
I’m not the best person to write a complete list of trigger warnings for this, but I feel like if one’s going to read this, it should be clear that self harm and suicidal thoughts/attempts are mentioned in this book.
The reason why this is not a full 5 stars for me is that the title might be a bit misleading. I never expected this to be a guide on how to be happy, but I feel like, given the title, the part that actually talked about happiness (or not) should have been slightly longer. Instead, it felt a little bit rushed, but it was certainly informative and it made for a good epilogue and offered valid pieces of advice.
Something that could bother someone is the lack of a definite label on the author’s sexuality. I don’t know if he now has found a label he can identify with, but all attempts of labelling himself in the book resulted in actually mislabelling. By the end of the book, he didn’t mention any sexuality-related terms anymore, and I feel like this could be confusing for someone reading this and expecting to find a set definition of the author/character’s sexuality. I understand if that’s how others feel, but as someone who believes that sexuality is (or can be, for some people) fluid, it actually felt refreshing to me to see how one can decide not to stick to any set rule or label if they feel like those don’t apply for them.
Keeping everything I said in mind, I’d certain recommend reading this book. It might surprise you just as much as it surprised me.