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.
*Received by Netgalley for an early review. How to Be Happy will be released April 2017*
I’ve mentioned before that nonfiction is a genre I don’t reach for nearly as I should be. As a writer, I want to be read about anything and everything. 2017 has been my year of finally tackling things I’ve been wanting to for ages without stressing myself out about it.
So as 2016 was coming to a close, I finally went back onto Netgalley.com and scrolled through the list of ARCs that were available to read now. The cover of How to Be Happy instantly grabbed my attention. After reading the synopsis and newly jumping into adulthood, I thought this would be a perfect read for the new year.
And it was.
Working hard is a great and necessary thing, but there are elements that are always going to be out of our control, and failure is incredibly important and also temporary.
Burton was brutally honest throughout his novel, and I cannot describe my admiration for that enough. I write fiction novels, but all of my books are based off of deep emotions and struggles of my own, and that can be quite taxing. But to write exactly what you’ve been through in great detail? That’s a lot.
Therapy is a mirror. It’s a reflective surface that your inner-state bounces off. You go in, sit down, and look at yourself head on.
Burton suffered from paranoia, anxiety, and panic attacks, which is something I (and many others) can relate to. I’ve never gotten into depth about it, but I do have issues with anxiety and have experienced a panic attack in the past (and been on the brink of a few attacks). And oh my, when I was a kid, I was weirdly paranoid about the most obscure things. I was convinced someone would break into our house or we would be struck with a disease. I was deathly afraid of losing my family and death. Luckily, I’ve grown out of this, but I shouldn’t have been a child who was constantly stressed out by outlandish things.
When I read that Burton has these same thoughts as a child, I almost felt like I could have cried knowing that I wasn’t alone. Anxiety, along with many other mental illnesses, aren’t taken seriously. If you haven’t experienced it, you don’t understand the panic and the pain. The feeling like your next breath might be your last. It’s a taxing thing to be through both mentally and physically, but Burton didn’t hesitate in describing those details.
You cannot erase the marks you leave behind.
I always admire and appreciate anyone who chooses to write about difficult topics like this because it helps me and hundreds (or maybe even thousands) of others that we aren’t alone. And if we haven’t suffered from said illness, it helps us learn and understand it, which is so very important.
I hadn’t realised it before, but I had been lonely for most of my life. I had been too wound up in anxiety and negativity to truly connect with anyone. Running away from myself, from friendships, from my family, had left me alone and locked inside my own head for a long time.
But Burton doesn’t just touch upon the importance of understanding anxiety. He also describes his various confusions through his teenage years and all the way into his young-adulthood. He discusses his sexual confusion and his panic at how others would react. Confusion at what he wanted out of life and what he wanted to do.
Again, topics like these are so important for our society. People need to know that they’re not alone. That they should never feel odd or alien for experiencing different thoughts or opinions. We are all people. We are all humans made up of atoms and neurons. No two people are the same, and that’s beautiful.
Sometimes, unhappiness is near impossible to avoid. Bad things happen. And it’s important to be sad. It doesn’t make you weak.
How to Be Happy is such an inspirational read that I believe everyone—especially us young people—should read. It can be quite sad and emotional at times, but that’s life. This novel is very real to life and the perfect beginning to my first year of adulthood.
After Inauguration Day, I feel that this was a perfect time to finally post the review for How to Be Happy. Seriously. Give it a read through Netgalley or pre-order a copy ASAP. You need this book in your life.
What are your favorite non-fiction books? As always, be sure to leave any thoughts, comments, questions, or recommendations down below. I always appreciate it.