How to Be Happy: A memoir of love, sex, and teenage confusion by David Burton
Release Date: August 25, 2015
Publisher: Text Publishing
Themes: memoir, coming-of-age, sex, sexuality, growing up, mental health
My Rating: ★★
Goodreads Summary: 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.
I received this book as an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. I’m going to have a really hard time reviewing this one. But first, I want to say that this book has some MAJOR Trigger Warnings for – depression, suicide, attempted suicide, and self-harm.
I don’t really feel like it’s my place to judge a person’s life, and I’m not going to review this as though it were fiction. I’m not going to talk about my opinions on how the author lived his life, and as this is a memoir, that means this review is going to be pretty short, and probably not like most of my other reviews.
I had a pretty hard time reading this book. It just wasn’t for me. I prefer my memoirs to be light, occasionally funny, and relatable. This is not that book. This is a relatively non-analytical re-telling of Burton’s life that relates some incredibly difficult and hard times in his life. While I don’t mind this in fiction, something about reading a really depressing memoir just made me ask, “Why am I doing this to myself?” Honestly, I have enough depression in my own life, and I felt myself re-hashing all of my own life choices as I was reading. Similar to More Happy Than Not, while this book discusses some very important things, it just wasn’t an enjoyable reading experience for me.
On top of that, I wasn’t a huge fan of the writing style. Much of the memoir felt pretty choppy and disjointed, even though it followed a (mostly) chronological timeline. Plus, while this book definitely doesn’t claim in any way to actually be advice on “how to be happy”, I felt that a lot of Burton’s commentary got lost. There was a bunch of commentary right in the beginning and right at the end, and I wish it had been mixed a little bit more into the middle.
Overall, I can see how some people would enjoy this, and get a lot out of it, but I think I’m just not the right person. His story wasn’t relatable, and due to that it made it really hard to empathize with him and his writing.