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.
Honestly, the blurb explains this book better than I’m ever going to. Let’s try anyway.
It’s taken me a long time to digest this one. I’m roughly the same age as David, so a lot of my experiences (both personal and viewed) are reflected in this book, but the themes explored are so universal that everyone will get something out of it.
David has such a beautifully candid style, and there were several moments where I both laughed aloud and fought back tears (and sometimes at the same time!). While it is a wonderful and heartbreaking book, there is so much hope to be found, even in the darkest moments, and I loved that about it.
There were a few times where I wished there was more included about things like his home life, but at the same time, it’s a very introspective book, and the style of the writing doesn’t allow for much peripheral information, so it’s something I can easily forgive.
In all, there are some good things to be picked out regardless of whether you’ve struggled with sexuality/mental health issues, and while it’s not a definitive guide (or any kind of guide in the traditional sense of the word) on how to be happy, it IS a charming and challenging exploration of one path to happiness.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.