Cover Image: Small Joys

Small Joys

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Content Warnings: Suicide attempts, suicidal ideations, depression, anxiety, toxic relationships, domestic abuse, child abuse, sexual content, racism, homophobia, and hate crimes.

Small Joys is one of those novels that deals with some heavy topics, takes you through so many emotions, but in the end you're left with warm feelings and hope for a brighter future.

What I really enjoyed about this book was there was no clear direction...it's like we just popped into one summer of someone's journey of self discovery. We get to see someone who hits their lowest slowly begin the journey towards finding love for themselves and finding their place in the world around them.

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Small joys was a great debut novel - and not really what I was expecting.. It tells of the developing friendship between Harley and Muddy, as they navigate the difficult waters of early adulthood.

Harley dropped out of college and moved in to a flat with friend Chelsea. Muddy is a new roommate who very quickly understands that Harley has secrets, and really needs a friend.

This is a touching story of a small group of young people, Harley, Muddy, Chelsea, Noria and Finlay and their difficulties with families, romantic relationships and with their path in life. Harley in particular has a very fractious relationship with his father, and has struggled with mental health issues for a while. Muddy is ever the optimist, determined to help Harley find love and joy.

This was a relatively slow moving and gentle book, with a very 'real' feel to the relationships described.

A good read.

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Beautiful story. Likable characters - I’d go birding with Muddy any time. Once I was through a tough opening chapter, it was a breeze of a read. Some triggering topics, but they were explained well and handled gently. My only complaint is that I want to know how everyone is doing now! 4 stars for a very lovely debut novel.

Thank you to NetGalley for allowing me to read and review (my first) this wonderful book!

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A heartwarming story about the friends who get us through our darkest times. It took a while to get used to the British slang (and I had to look up some of it!), but once that was accomplished, the dialogue was fast, smart, and witty. Loved all of the mid-2000s music references. Some of the characters felt a little too selfless, perhaps an idealized version of friendship for plot purposes. Overall, it was a beautiful, uplifting book.

Thank you to NetGallery and Random House for an ARC in exchange for an unbiased review.

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Worth the slow start, this is a quirky, but sweet book about how the constants of friendship, love, and support can help you find the space to turn a corner and live for yourself.

With a cast of characters that seem strange at first, a romantic interest named Muddy, a “rich” best friend who only wants to talk about herself, and her attractive, but shallow new boyfriend, this book was hard for me to get into. Set in 2005, a huge part of this book is how the characters use music to relate to each other early on in their friendships, which was a miss for me since I’m not a fan of rap. But as they all start to fall in and develop deeper relationships, I appreciated that their connections were genuine and the characters deepened to be more multifaceted. I particularly enjoyed the birding excursions, and the sharing of hobbies that happened between the friends.

Harley is struggling with anxiety and depression and has just dropped out of school. He is about to take his own life, when he first encounters Muddy, an avid birder out for a quick walk in the woods by his new place. While not making a a fuss about it in the moment, from this point on, Muddy takes an intense interest in helping Harley out, being supportive, making him feel included in their group of friends, and sharing his infectious joy with him whenever possible. As a gay black man, Harley has struggled a lot with his identity and his estranged relationship with his religious African father, and so his friendship with a black woman, Noria, and new additions, straight white men Finn and Muddy, is healing for him. But what he feels for Muddy is stronger than friendship, and he worries about the complexities of falling in love with a friend, particularly a straight one.

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Unfortunately this book was a dnf for me. But it has nothing to do with the story or anything. I just didn’t vibe with the writing style but I know so many people will really enjoy this. The characters are interesting and I think it can really tug at your heart strings. I don’t know anything about the author but this felt very self insert to me so I know this book means a lot to them. I hope it finds its audience because I would love to check back in on this author in the future to see what they are coming out with.

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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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