Adam Silvera: A Contemporary YA Genius
Adam Silvera is a New York Times bestselling author of several YA novels, mostly with LGBTQ+ themes. His books such as They Both Die at the End, More Happy Than Not, History is All You Left Me, and What If It’s Us with Becky Albertalli (author of Simon and the Homo Sapiens Agenda) have been received positively by fans and critics alike. But what is in his books which makes avid readers like me experience a plethora of emotions as the story progresses?
Silvera made his debut with the release of More Happy Than Not. It is the story of sixteen-year-old Aaron Soto, a boy who’s seeking for happiness after the death of his father and being in the loving hands of his supportive girlfriend, Genevieve. When she leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends his time with a newfound friend named Thomas. This friendship suddenly turns into something else, something more, and Aaron considers to undergo a procedure at Leteo Institute to remove his memories, even if it means forgetting who he is.
This premise alone already sounds emotional. His characters are layered well, and as the chapters progress, we see the characters progress as well. They feel real, and so we sympathize with them. Aaron’s feeling becomes stronger, which makes him question himself despite discovering that he is happy whenever he’s with Thomas. It builds up to an ending that readers would’ve half-expected, but still wanted to think that maybe, something different would happen. But alas, the ending has inevitably broken the hearts of readers across the globe, including mine.
Then Silvera follows his successful debut with History is All You Left Me, and it was just as gut-wrenching as his previous work. The book explores the present events of the life of the main character, Griffin, after his first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, and the past events that showed where they began and how things ended. Without Theo, Griffin has no clear picture of the future. To make matters worse, the only person he could talk to and understand his situation is Jackson, Theo’s current boyfriend. We see Griffin go down an endless spiral as a result of his destructive impulses and decisions, and the secrets he’s been hiding are all tearing him apart.
It’s a relatable read. Everyone might have, at one point in their life, imagined the future with their special someone, then everything comes crashing down when that person leaves. Griffin has no direction in his life because the future he built up for himself involves someone who cannot and never will be able to enter the picture of his future anymore. It leaves a lesson to the readers that we must not run away from our problems; we face them, we overcome them. And in that way, the future we wanted would be rebuilt in a way that is in accordance with our situation.
His third novel, They Both Die at the End, is much less emotional than the two aforementioned books, but it still left readers heartbroken. In a world where you receive a call to inform you on when you’re going to die, Mateo and Rufus spend their last day embarking on one great adventure. Within one day, the make the best out of their last moments on Earth.
The title already spoils everything, but that doesn’t stop readers from hoping that the end result would be different. No matter how surprising and heartbreaking the ending is, it still leaves a lasting mark to readers. Love isn’t defined by how long you’ve been together, or how long you’ve known each other. If love comes, it comes. You just have to roll with it and enjoy every second.
Teaming up with Becky Albertalli, popularly known for her novel Simon and the Homo Sapiens Agenda, which was adapted to film last year starring Nick Robinson, made fans excited about their collaboration. The duo conceived What If It’s Us, and completely showcases a new side for both authors but still felt as if they were in their zone. It’s a mixture of the drama we love from Silvera’s books, and the feel-good humor we adore from Albertalli.
I was able to attend their fan meeting and book signing event here in the Philippines. During the event, they talked about how What If It’s Us came to be and their future plans, as well as hinting on an adaptation (which many fans thought would be their story, but it turns out it was They Both Die at the End)! Both of them even expressed their love for our own mangoes!
One of the audience members mentioned that all of Silvera’s stories incorporated some kind of mental issue, and it made his stories more realistic and believable as teens nowadays experience these issues more prominently. Silvera then recounts his experiences on his mental health and how he’s come to overcome them through the years, and writing was an effective outlet for his thoughts. And being queer himself writing stories with queer characters, Silvera was able to be more comfortable with who he is and he’s happy that he has been able to reach millions of readers around the world with his stories.
That’s what makes Silvera distinct from his fellow contemporary YA authors. His characters reflect us. Their thoughts reflect our thoughts. Their actions reflect ours. Even if he implemented bits of science fiction in More Happy than Not, or fantasy in They Both Die at the End, we are able to relate to them in a way.
Aaron’s story teaches us that sometimes happiness is so hard to achieve.
Griffin’s story teaches us to overcome our demons and rewrite our history.
Mateo and Rufus teach us to grasp every moment and just let it be.
It’s hard to recover after closing his books because his endings leave us more crushed than not. Silvera knows how to pull at the strings of our hearts, punch us in the gut, and slap us across the face. No author has made me feel this way, and he succeeded in making us emotional in a way that leaves us satisfied. There may still be what-ifs, but the fate of his characters might be for the best.
About the author:
Ray Kenward is a freshman student currently taking up Bachelor of Arts in English Language Studies at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines – Sta. Mesa. He is a total bookworm, having been exposed to literature at the age of four. He was a fanfiction writer of different fandoms, a scriptwriter of school plays and a short film, a feature writer in high school, and a frustrated novelist at the moment. In his spare time, he likes to play with his four cats and watch documentaries about movies and video games.
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