I’m not sure what I was expecting with this memoir, but what I got was a nostalgic, contemplative look at growing up.
As the book goes on, we’re taking through David Burton’s childhood, his teen years, and then his first years of adulthood. Continually, it made me think of my absolute favourite quote in the world, said by Sarah Green (John Green’s wonderful wife). And the quote goes:
Imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia.
It’s actually from Looking for Alaska, but it was originally said by Sarah Green. Anyway, that’s what I was reminded of – the fact that it was this really quiet but intense book, filled with musings on the future, and hope, and sadness, and moving forward.
There was also a lot of stuff about how people see you as a person that I found really interesting.
I think, to a certain extent, we all have masks on when we’re around other people – we manipulate ourselves to other people to fit into certain situations. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Dave’s personas that he uses are a way for him to cope. The thing about memoirs is that they’re so brutally honest and true, so that you kind of feel like a voyeur on someone else’s life (which you are, really).
I really enjoyed that about it.
My main complaint about this one was the distance I felt from it.
It reads like a recount, so that none of the moments had as much emotional impact as I think they could have. Again, that’s the form of a memoir and it’s not an objective criticism, it’s just something that, subjectively, I wasn’t a huge fan of.
Plus, there were really important elements (like Dave’s sexuality) that I felt weren’t really explored as well as they could have been – there were a lot of loose endings and I was left kind of confused.
I also think that this is a really important book.
As much as we need characters in YA who are diverse and go through lots of different things, we also need real role models – authors who are willing to talk about their experiences. It tackles lots of different issues – the importance of letting friends know what’s going on; family relationships; the pressures of school; sexuality…and it all felt really balanced.
Much as it’s weird for YA, there was some really practical, sensible advice when it came to mental illness. It was heart-breaking, yep, but hopeful as well. And I think that the hope is really important.
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.
~ Thanks to Text Publishing for the review copy! ~
What are your thoughts on memoirs? They also seem to hit really hard with me (I guess because they’re real people!). Any YA memoirs you’d recommend?