How to be Happy: A Memoir of Love, Sex and Teenage Confusion by David Burton // Book Review


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 center 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.



This book surprised me. It was a “Read Now” on Netgalley and I clicked on it not expecting much. The description intrigued me and I knew that I needed to hear more.

When I went into this book I was unaware that it was a memoir (despite it saying so in the title) until I had read a good chunk of the book. Everything seemed so much more real after realizing that. Sometimes while reading it I got so invested in the story that I forgot that it all happened irl because it reads like a fiction novel.

The memoir went through most of David Burton’s life, high school in particular. His high school years were probably the hardest of his life, as many peoples are. This guy, he completely remade himself for school and it was negatively impacting him because he dealt with depression, anxiety and the suicide of friend(s).

I 100% relate to David when he say’s that drama was his favorite class. I might not be the best actor but I know that in drama class I am free to be whoever I want to be. Other places I am scared but in drama I have actual confidence. David was very similar to me when it came to drama because he felt free in that class also. (The semester just ended and that means drama is over. It’s making me really sad because I’m going to miss that class so much. It’s probably the only ‘safe space’ in my school)

I don’t know what I’m doing with my life and this book made me feel as if that’s okay. I should rephrase that – IT IS OKAY NOT TO KNOW WHAT YOU WANT TO DO WITH YOUR LIFE! I mean I have no clue what I want to do and that’s completely okay. Sure I may only be in tenth grade but I still feel the pressure to decide. As a teenager David didn’t even know what he wanted to do. He ended up doing stuff he never even considered in high school.

This boy, David he deals with all sorts of stuff. One of the things that I liked the most was that he was never sure of himself. He struggled with knowing his sexuality throughout his life. He thought he was straight but later realized that he was gay and after that everything got so much more confusing. I can relate because I’m bisexual but I’m still struggling because I don’t know if that’s the correct label for me. I don’t know and neither did David.

A big lesson that I learned from this book is that it’s okay not to know. You shouldn’t feel pressure to decide something right away (well maybe if you’re in twelfth grade and you need to apply to schools…).  The decision will still be there if you take a break for a while. More opportunities will arise and you don’t know what the future holds.

As a socially awkward girl I don’t talk to a lot of guys. This book helped me see the mind of one and I now know a tiny bit more. (That made me sound so innocent but it’s so true and I am very innocent) I wish I had more guy friends because I’ve got like two and they live across the country. The guy ‘friends’ I have here are more acquaintances and I rarely talk to them.


This book was surprisingly good. As I said, I wasn’t expecting much and the author is like non-existent online soo… I gave this book a 3.5/5 stars because sometimes it got a little boring and repetitive but not too often.


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