HappyHead: The Most Anticipated YA Debut of 2023: Book 1 of 2 bookcover

HappyHead: The Most Anticipated YA Debut of 2023: Book 1 of 2

Josh Silver

Squid Game meets They Both Die at the End in the first in a thrilling new YA series.

Nominated for the 2024 Carnegie Medal for writing

An Amazon best YA Book of the Year 2023 

We are in an epidemic. An epidemic of unhappiness. 

Friends, here is the good news: HappyHead has the answer.

When Seb is offered a place on a radical retreat designed to solve the national crisis of teenage unhappiness, he is determined to change how people see him and make his parents proud. But as he finds himself drawn to the enigmatic Finn, Seb starts to question the true nature of the challenges they must undergo. The deeper into the programme the boys get, the more disturbing the assessments become, until it’s clear there may be no escape…

‘Like Hunger Games but better.’ Sue Wallman, author of Lying About Last Summer

‘A truly thought-provoking thriller, channelling the menace of dystopian favourites such as Maze Runner and The Hunger Games.’ Observer

Latest reviews

Proclaimed as ‘like Hunger Games but better’, this debut novel is a fast, exciting read. Told through the perspective of Sebastian (Seb), a seventeen-year-old who experiences anxiety and similar issues for various reasons, we become part of the world he is sent to inhabit, a huge facility in the remote Scottish countryside where teenagers are sent to “become happy” in a new programme, ‘Happy Head’. Beneath the promising exterior lies a much darker background, however, one which puts its subjects in very real psychological, and mortal, danger. The text cleverly interweaves Seb’s inner monologue, making it at once personal and thought-provoking through his impressions about himself – both how he sees himself and how he sees others and the unfolding events of the plot – and how he feels, having hidden and having to hide being gay. We experience the potential power play of medics, therapists, parents, friends and acquaintances and come to understand the dangers of assumption and value-judgement about each other. A very well-written first novel which is left open for a sequel – I look forward to reading another installment, hopefully soon!

Fast paced thriller action that kept me gripped Characterisation strong for Seb and Finn. Their voices sound authentic and age-appropriate. Mental health themes treated with sensitivity. Relationship between Seb and Finn is well-drawn not clichéd and this worked well as a LGBTQ subplot to the main themes. Plot-wise, it felt a little too contrived at certain points in the second half but I still needed to keep reading. The cliffhanger ending left me frustrated until I realised a sequel is coming in March next year. I'll definitely be reading this.

Engaging dystopian YA with LGBT representation and themes relating to depression and anxiety. The main character's pov is well written with a dry sense of humour. Looking forward to the sequel.

The Reading Agency

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