The Happiness Quest – Richard Yaxley – Omnibus Books – Published 1 August 2018
Tillie Bassett is sad, and she doesn’t understand why. Her parents and friends suggest very different, allegedly helpful, remedies. But it is the suggestion of her counsellor, Gilbert the Goldfish, that the answer may lie in finding the nature of happiness.
As Tillie embarks upon her project she discovers that, when it comes to family and friends, nothing is quite as it seems. Secrets are uncovered, old tensions resurface, relationships tangle and untangle, and Tillie realises that everyone struggles balancing sadness and happiness, and living truthfully.
Surprising, unexpected. The Happiness Quest caught my eye with its bright yellow cover. The story inside – unique, slightly disjointed and searching – was not what I expected. Yet, ultimately, it’s hard not to like this quirky story about family, accepting yourself, and, yes, finding happiness.
Tillie’s sad. She’s not sure why, doesn’t really have a reason and anyone’s attempts to help – from yoga, sleeping tablets and mindfulness to ‘its time to move on and shake it off’ – aren’t really helping. Until Tillie and her mum find the Happiness Clinic where Tillie is encouraged to start a quest to find out what happiness is. As she asks her friends and family what happiness means to them, she is surprised by their responses and how, maybe, it’s starting to help her discover what happiness means to her.
The Happiness Quest is a short novel, just 180-ish pages. From the first page it’s easy to see that Richard Yaxley has a distinct and unique writing style. The first page of The Happiness Quest has maybe two sentences. And this trend of long, flowing and yet slightly disjointed sentences continues throughout the story. Introspective and intellectual, The Happiness Quest feels very meta, and it actually takes quite a bit of concentrated reading to slip into the flow of the storytelling. Not a lot of dialogue and some dialogue and scenes recapped in short, punchy writing, the writing is certainly unique.
Tillie is an interesting character and I loved the overall message of it being okay to be sad. But that it’s also okay to look for the happy in life. This is not a funny book. Quirky, but not funny. Tillie is a serious person and there are some serious topics covered in this book, from depression to school shooting, alcoholism and family breakdown. Also, can I just say I was very disappointed to discover that Tillie’s counsellor is not actually a goldfish – he just looks like a goldfish. Totally crushed. The Happiness Quest focuses a lot on family, and there’s also a bit of romance that kind of sneaks up on you. But overall, this book is about Tillie’s journey of self discovery and self acceptance.
Category: Young adult fiction
Themes: Depression, sadness, family, therapy, mother-daughter relationships, friendship.
Reading age guide: Ages 12 and up.
Advisory: References to depression.
Published: 1 August 2018 by Omnibus Books
Format: Paperback. 192 pages.