This book should be called How To Be Unhappy! How To Be Happy by David Burton is a memoir about his life as a teenager, which includes depression, anxiety, sexual orientation confusion and much more. I have received this book from NetGalley in exchange for a honest review.
How To Be Happy by David Burton
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.
Again a book with very mixed feelings. I started reading this book, not realizing it was a memoir (yeah I know it’s on the cover, blurb and title…) so it was very confusing for me. But when I realized it was really the life story of the writer, it made me feel really sad and depressed (I’ll get to why later).
I feel a bit bad about criticizing the story or the characters because they are real people and real things that happened, so I will try to focus on other things in this review.
The story is about David (of course), who is a teenager with parents who have dealt with depression and two brothers with Aspergers. We follow Dave as he grows up, goes to high school, gets his first girlfriend, explores his sexuality, goes to university and so on. We follow him until the “now”, in which he is about 27 years old. During that time a lot changes in his life, in good and bad ways. But usually bad.
To be honest, I really didn’t like Dave (sorry). He was kind of weird, very messed up and was pretending to be something he was not. He put a mask on his face to hide who he really was. Very often in the book he is pretending to be “Crazy Drama Dave” or “Gay Dave” etc, and all the time I just wanted to yell at him that he just needed to be Dave, nothing more. Dave is probably a great person, you don’t have to pretend! He also, at the age of 13 and later, really interested in sex. Which seemed really odd to me, but maybe that’s just because I’m so different from him. I couldn’t connect to Dave at all.
It was like a secret pact had been made by society, in someplace far away, that said, ‘This is what beautiful men look like, and this is how men behave.’ And because of this, I had always felt like I wasn’t beautiful, and I wasn’t behaving as a real man should.
Dave deals with anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, sexuality, loneliness, heartbreaks, and more teenage angst. These topics are all so important, but it made me feel so bad. Especially when he was talking about other people who cut themselves. I just wanted to step into the book and hug those people. I couldn’t stand them feeling this way and realizing that it all happened for real, didn’t make it much better.
Sometimes, unhappiness is near impossible to avoid. Bad things happen. And it’s important to be sad. It doesn’t make you weak.
This book isn’t a happy story of overcoming depression, it is bad, it is horrible and it is sad. Sometimes after rain, the sun doesn’t shine. I really admire David Burton, because he wrote a book about his life and it is so honest. The writing style is simple, effective but not really outstanding. However it felt like it was David talking to you, and therefore not really as a fictional book, which has his pros and his cons.
I am giving this book ★★☆ (2.5 out of 5 stars), and I have a hard time deciding on this rating. The book was brutally honest, but also depressing. I didn’t really like any of the characters a lot, but on the other hand the topics discussed are really important. I have learned a lot about a lot of this while reading this book, and if you are interested in reading a story from someone who has gone through all these things, I would definitely recommend this book.
If you are dealing with any of these issues (depression, etc), please get help or talk to someone, even if it is a stranger on the internet. You can always contact me. Don’t give up the fight, life will get better.