by Josh Silver

2 out of 5

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...

Seb has been selected to go to a remote Scottish retreat where teens will attempt an intense course in happiness. Except, not everything is as it seems.

I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Seb is just an ordinary teen. He lacks the confidence of others, and struggles with anxiety, but is a likeable chap. He has been selected for the first government-backed HappyHead course, and he's going to do his best to fit in and succeed.
The course starts simply enough, but soon the teens attending find themselves doing bizarre, and sometimes dangerous tests.
His new friend (and instant crush) Finn, rocked the HappyHead boat, and the two of them have to get to the bottom of what is really happening.

I really liked our main character, Seb. Quite a few people do - Seb is so desperate to please others, he has a subconscious habit of altering his personality to match what he thinks is expected of him. As such, he ends up being very successful in the eyes of the judges at Happy Head.
Which is quite a novelty for Seb, as he's a bit of a loaner, with only one good friend at home. Even his parents aren't his biggest supporters, always wanting him to do better and try harder.

The not-so-good.
I don't get it.
First, despite the review snippets on the cover, I did not find this "Dark and thrilling", nor was it "Like Hunger Games but better".
It's friggin' weird, but it wasn't dark or thrilling.
About 75% in, there's the "big reveal" which threatens to kill off some teens, but that's the only similarity I found with Hunger Games.

~contains spoilers~

I don't get it.
I don't get the premise. I don't get what HappyHead is, or what it's supposed to achieve.
I don't get how and why Seb and the other 99 teens are selected. Especially once the big reveal is revealed - it just seems like a very poor sampling choice for that particular aim.

I don't get why everyone is relaxed about having a chip implanted in their collar. I think this is based in the near future, but it doesn't sound like it's a normal thing.
I don't get once the chip is implanted, how useless it is. It just monitors the person's health and nutritional needs - Seb and Finn are able to have private discussions and run away from the main compound, without being overheard or scanned.

I don't get the course and the tests. They're friggin' random and I don't get how they help the Assessors, or the participants.
I don't get the adults running this course - some of them seem to think they're following Dr Stone's good version of HappyHead, but do Madame Manning's weird games that intentionally hurt the kids.
I mean, seriously?

I won't be continuing with the series.


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