Cover Image: Small Joys

Small Joys

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Did not finish.  I think the book is for a different audience than me.  I could not relate at all.  I gave it a 25% read, but could not continue.  There are too many other books out there.
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Small Joys is a quiet story about a Black gay college-aged male, Harley, who contemplates taking his life. His plan is interrupted by his new roommate Muddy, who is the complete opposite of Harley. In light of these differences, a profound friendship emerges between these two. It is through the power of this friendship that Harley begins to work through his anxiety and depression, as well as learn what it means to be loved. 

Books that are this character-centric are hit or miss for me. However, this DEBUT was an absolute hit. Harley's journey toward happiness is certainly turbulent, but it is written with such care. We all have that person in our life who brings out the best of us when we're around them. This takes that notion to the next level by highlighting how these types of bond can truly save lives. One of the most memorable quotes from this book is "Friendship didn’t insulate you from affliction, but it did make the path to some sort of recovery feel worthwhile and almost pleasant, it allowed you to experience the most wonderful things, even in the dark." We all need a Muddy in our lives, and I will be thinking about this incredible friendship for a long time.
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As I read this book I felt like it would make a great screenplay. Along the lines of Normal People, the story woven was character driven and heartfelt.
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For a book that started out so heavy and dark it was quite beautiful in its own way. This is a book about friendship, family and not fitting into your parent's expectations. I loved Harley's friends, he is one very fortunate young man to have them. I especially liked his new friendship with Muddy, everyone should have a friend like that in their corner. The book was uplifting in the way that I was cheering Harley on throughout. There are many serious topics covered like suicide, homophobia, racism and mental health issues but the author did it in an informative and sensitive manner and did not use them in a gratuitous way.

Muddy was another character I loved, the way he spoke about birds and his granddad (especially his dementia) really tugged at my heartstrings as my eighty-year-old mother loves watching the birds at her feeders in her yard. This is the type of book you think about long after you finish reading it. What a beautiful debut. Small Joys was a big joy to read.
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Thank you to Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine, Ballantine Books and NetGalley for an electronic Advance Readers Copy of this novel. 

Harley, a young gay black man, has dropped out of university and has gone home to his rural town in England to try to figure out his life. Depression, anxiety and a distant and homophobic father plague his life. Living with his friend Chelsea, his flatmate Muddy comes into his life and strikes up a tender friendship with him. For the first time in his life, Harley knows the power of having a found family and having support to be who he is. 

Small Joys is a touching debut novel by Elvin James Mensah. The writing is very delicate and muted and reflects Harley's personality. It's probably not for everyone as it can be depressing yet uplifting at times.
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this book approaches queerness and masculinity in a very interesting way. Harley is a Black gay man who has been suffering in depression and other mental health issues. his life story shows how cruel and toxic masculinity has done to, especially, Black men. one afternoon, he gets to meet a friend who later then shows him the “small joys” he can keep from life.

the story is both warm and heartbreaking. the writing flows very beautifully and I love the way Elvin seems to write it in a very honest way. I always appreciate a writing that allows men (or people, in general, but especially men) to be vulnerable, and Elvin ticks that box.
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A story of friendships and family and attitudes. A young man leaves college and moves in with friends and tries to get his life together.
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Small Joys is heavy, beautiful and feels really important. The beginning is very heavy but important. Can one person change your life? Harley is moving home to Rural England after dropping out college. He's miserable and wants to end his life but this attempt is interrupted by someone who changes everything. Muddy, his hew roommate is exactly what Harley needs at this time. He's outgoing, charming and confident. Muddy and Harley's friendship grows and together they find a life worth living. Life is complicated, messy and beautiful but worth it. I was moved by this  sweet story and I enjoyed my time with it. Small Joys is a heartfelt story of friendship and love.
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This was a heavy read, one that explores the topics of bullying and homophobia. The realistic way these topics were addressed and the characters made this a very fast and relatable read. I was surprised to find out this is a debut book, it was written so smoothly.
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Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Genre: Contemporary + LGBTQ

Small Joys is the debut novel of Elvin James Mensah which tells the story of an unusual friendship that ends up saving a young man's life. Harley, a homosexual black Ghanaian man who struggles with anxiety and depression, meets Muddy, a lively and extroverted flatmate who helps him discover happiness and a sense of belonging.

This is a slice-of-life story that is narrated from Harley’s point of view and involves the lives of five friends, Muddy, Chelsea, Noria, Harley, and Finlay. In the story, we get to see how these characters behave and interact with each other. Reading this book makes you feel like you are hanging out with a few friends. The more time you spend with these characters the more they will grow on you. I think the author has done a tremendous job developing these characters. They are all well-crafted and very realistic. 

Muddy is my favorite of all the characters. Because this individual is both kind and charming, I believe that a lot of readers will find themselves falling in love with him. He injects an incredible amount of vibrancy and coziness into the narrative. In addition to this, he ends up becoming the main character's pillar of support for all the right reasons. If you take pleasure in reading books that center on relationships and friendships that are characterized by positivity and support for one another, then you are going to take a lot of pleasure out of this one, just like I did.

Another advantage that should be pointed out here is that the author incorporates a diverse cast of characters into this tale, both in terms of color and gender as well as sexual orientation. While focusing on character growth is the primary objective of this work, it is important to note that the storyline does not include any kind of unexpected twists or anything like that. The narrative touches on some heavy topics, such as suicide attempts, mental illness, and depression; however, these are balanced out by the powerful bonds of friendship, love, and support that the characters share. The resolution will leave you feeling satisfied and happy. In my opinion, the book is deserving of the title it was given. It is full of small joys that will bring a smile to your face and a glow to your heart.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me the ARC of this book.
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I did not care for this book - but it’s getting great ratings from others.  The actual writing is very good. The topic of this story - it was difficult for me to read.
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This novel is a wonder. The charming cast of characters live and breathe on the page. The dialogue is exceptionally strong and absolutely contributes to the immersive quality of the story. I can't wait to read everything Mensah writes. What a talent.
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Thank you to the punisher and NetGalley for the ARC. 

Small Joys trigger warnings are suicide, homophobia, and bullying 

This book, I believe set in the 90s, is focused on Harley and his group of quirky friends, particularly this guy Muddy he just met and is his flat mate. It delves into how just being around Muddy changes his outlook on life. 

This book was an interesting and insightful book to read. My favorite character by far was Muddy, he was a lot of fun to learn more about and so sweet. I’m looking forward to the author’s next book.
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Small Joys is a touching story of the healing power of love and acceptance. Harley journeys from the isolation and deep loneliness of being rejected by both his father and the world , until he is embraced by a flawed but generous group of friends who help him navigate his way to joy and a better future.
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This book is unlike any book I’ve ever read—it’s an in-your-face journey of a Black gay man and his struggle for acceptance, but also involves a lot of bird watching?! The story takes place in the UK and focuses on our main character, Harley and his attempted suicide that was thwarted by his friend’s boyfriend. Harley is unsure what to make of his newfound friendship with Muddy because they’re very different. Muddy is straight, confident, and carefree. Muddy and Harley form a unique bond that I can tell you, every gay man wishes they could have with heterosexual men if they don’t have one already. However, this friendship isn’t without hurdles for the reader to uncover.

This book is not a romance. It’s a deep dive into mental health, self-acceptance, and friendship. This book talks about serious topics, but is done so in a very healthy and formative way. At times, this book is lighthearted and will put a smile on your face; but it can also have its moments of serious conflict that will leave you breathless. SMALL JOYS is a book I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
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Small Joys is a beautiful love letter to friendship and chosen family that feels tender and inviting from the first pages. 

We meet Harley after an extremely rough stretch of untreated anxiety and depression that lead him to drop out of his first semester of college. Lost, embarrassed, and defeated, he finds his way home to a friend's spare room. Rather than plan his next steps, Small Joys opens as Harley is attempting to end his own life. Luckily, a boisterously friendly birder stumbles upon Harley and is able to disrupt his plan, setting a terribly uncomfortable meet-cute between Harley and his new roommate, Muddy. 

Practically comedic-relief level opposites, Muddy and Harley's friendship blossoms through Mensah's debut into something unusual, beautiful, and strong. We slowly see Harley's walls lower as Muddy and their mutual friends challenge and support him. Unfortunately, no new friendship is a cure-all for a life of recurrent trauma. Despite his old friends and this wonderful new person in his life, Harley still finds himself facing his demons again and again. 

Brimming with family trauma, suicidal ideation, and struggles with everything from mental health to sexuality, and racial identity, Small Joys contains much more than its title alludes to without feeling unbearably heavy. It does a great job of normalizing the kind of struggles that often feel burdensome to share with others while reminding us that we—ourselves and our friends, our chosen family—are so much more resilient and capable than our anxieties make us think.
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Small Joys is a wonderful quiet novel about mental illness, found families, and loving oneself.  Harley is a black, English, gay man who has so far failed to launch. After being kicked out of his religious father’s house for his sexual orientation, and dropping out of uni due to depression, he finds himself sharing a flat with his friend Chelsea and her ex-boyfriend Muddy. What transpires between Muddy and Harley is a beautiful friendship where each is wholly and unequivocally accepted by the other for who they are, faults and all. 

Although slow at times, Small Joys is a heartwarming story filled with hope despite themes of depression, sexuality, and suicide ideation. The characters of Harley, Finlay, and Muddy are both broken and adorable and you can’t help but want to reach into the pages and give them all giant hugs. 

Highly recommended for fans of contemporary and LGBTQIA+ literature.

Thank you to Netgalley, Ballantine, and Elvin James Mensah for an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review.
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4.25 stars

Small Joys is itself a small joy granted in my life. Endearing, heartwarming, insightful, and teeming with subtle profundities, this debut novel is hands-down a dazzler. Told from the point-of-view of Harley, a depressed, gay, twenty-something black man, this slice-of-life bildungsroman centers around the few months of his life spend closest to his newest acquaintance, Muddy.

Muddy is my favorite character, easily. Muddy is charming, funny, and genuine; he exudes an almost holy quality, and not just because he becomes a literal savior to Harley. I want Muddy in my life more than I have ever wanted a fictional character before.

All of the characters are hyper-realistic, and their lives totally believable. The pacing is excellent and the plot lines well executed. Though the prose itself is nothing special (I hate typing that because I love the story so much), I found myself wanting more from this author--any simple story will do!

Quietly impactful, Small Joys is a delight of a novel, and Elvin James Mensah is a new voice in literature to keep an eye on.
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Small Joys is an impressive debut and a gut-wrenching novel we all can manage to relate to, even if we have very little in common with the protagonist, Harley.

Harley is a young, socially anxious, gay Black man who carries much baggage from his emotionally abusive father and lonely upbringing.

Hailing from rural England, Harley struggles to fit in, and after dropping out of university due to his anxiety and depression, he finds himself forging a new path under the “wing” of the quirky, kindhearted bird-watcher, Muddy, who becomes his roommate and support system.

Small Joys is not action-packed, but it will tug at your heartstrings as it takes a look at friendship, trust, and what it means to have a place in this world.

I found myself rooting for Harley and for the characters in his community/family, and I give it 4 stars.

Thank you, NetGalley, for the ARC.
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4.5 stars.

An unexpectedly compelling, compassionate book that completely swept me away. Small Joys is not plot-driven by any means (the synopsis is pretty much covered in the first 40%) but instead is a character study in which we follow Harley develop deep, lasting friendships while also learning to live with depression and anxiety. In many ways, this is a novel about personhood: who you are, who you want to be, and who you can be depending on the people you're in relationships with. I was thrilled to read a book about a queer character that doesn't put romance front and center, as Mensah instead prioritizes the value of friendship and, in my opinion, queerplatonic relationships, as we see with Harley and Muddy—who was not only asexual but likely aromantic, and I felt so seen by the way his sexuality was approached. The only things I wished we'd gotten more of were Harley's time at university and where his interest in music journalism stemmed from, and how he met Noria, the only other Black person in their friend group. Overall, this was a quiet, introspective novel that will stick we me as an aroace reader.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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