The Riverdale Pilot Episode is the CW at its Finest

archiecomicsspectacular_friendsforever-0I’ve read a few issues of the beloved Archie comic book series when I was a kid. I’ve watched a number of its filmic incarnations. I’m not its biggest fan, but boy did I love the characters and the shenanigans they would encounter.

Riverdale is not the Archie I grew up patronizing. However, it is the CW show I fawned over in my youth.

In recent years, the CW has changed from being the teen-centric network it used to be, to the paranormal-obsessed, novel and comic book adapters it is now.Most of its programming nowadays involve comic book superheroes, translated for the small screen. It’s all part of their rebranding.  The only exceptions to this rule are Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Jane the Virgin, two shows that bank on wit and humor.

the-essential-ranking-of-all-52-characters-from-o-1-30233-1393170409-1_bigRiverdale banks on what the classic CW teen shows like The O.C.One Tree Hill, and Gossip Girl were all about.

ADOLESCENCE! HIGH SCHOOL! FAMILY! TIGHT-KNIT COMMUNITIES! And — last but not the least! — DRAMA! Lots and lots of it, with a splash of mystery to reel in even more interest, and completely set it apart from the Archie comic book series.

Let’s now look at what I thought was an amazing pilot episode.

The episode began with the establishment of the main mystery of the season, the death of Cheryl Blossom’s twin brother, Jason. The opening sequence does well in setting up the latest version of Riverdale. It’s a small town, and there’s so much more to it than what meets the eye.

The episode then went on to introduce us the latest interpretations of our beloved Archie characters. There’s the main three – Archie Andrews, Betty Cooper, and Veronica Lodge.

Veronica walks into Riverdale with her dethroned, socialite mother after her father gets into legal trouble. Betty comes back to town from an internship, yearning for the affection of her best friend, the boy-next-door, Archie. And Archie? Well, he’s got a lot on his plate.

In less than an hour, the Riverdale pilot was able to establish so well these three main characters. We were able to delve into who they were, their parents, and how they interact with one another. It was quite a doozy. We were served a story with such an organic narrative that twist after twist hit us straight in our faces, but it felt right.

Archie has a complicated relationship with his music teacher. Veronica easily finds a friend in Betty Cooper. And Betty? I don’t know, but it was her plight that hit me the hardest. Maybe because it rings home. An unrequited love for her best friend? It’s always a tearjerker.

Although the episode started with a narrator, the narrator doesn’t reveal himself until toward the end of the hour. The funnyman we’ve come to know in the comics is now a brooding writer in the latest interpretation of Archie. Jughead Jones sits in the diner at night, writing down his novel based on their town and the death of Jason Blossom.

I don’t know about you guys, but I am already hooked. I don’t know what to feel about the student-teacher relationship just yet (it’s nothing new, but still) but I’ll get there. I can’t wait for the next episode.

La La Land — a film for the hopeful

I remember being so excited to catch Les Miserables back in 2012, but having to wait until 2013 to watch it in the movie house because in the Philippines, only Metro Manila Film Festival entries play on the theaters during Christmastime. I had a similar experience with Damien Chazelle’s La La Land.

The hype around the flick began way before December, and by January, I just had to watch it. The moment it hit Philippine cinemas, I begged my best friend to take me with him. And there we were.

For those who don’t know me, I am quite the fan of musicals. Really. Everything from Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera, to Next to Normal. Also, I spent a semester abroad in the City of Angels, no less. And so, La La Land really hit a soft spot in me. Let’s not even start talking about how much I resonated to the plight of these two creatives. Let’s do that later.

Whenever I make reviews, I just spill out all my thoughts on a certain film or book. I’ll try to make this one as systematic as possible. We’ve began with the hype around it, as well as my personal connection to it. Let’s now delve to how it fared in my eyes.

Perhaps all the hype around it, and how excited I was for the film, did not fully contribute to my enjoyment of it later on. It was just okay. I came in the cinema with a pack of tissues in hand, more than ready to cry my eyes out. I didn’t.

The film started with a shot of the many freeways in Los Angeles. I remember being one of those freeways before. Traffic was at a standstill, and then suddenly, everyone bursts into song.

I don’t know what to feel about this opening sequence. I tried so hard to listen to the lyrics of the song being played (Another Day of Sun), but aside from setting the tone, it doesn’t really serve much purpose. The song basically says… this is Los Angeles, it’s hot. Its reminiscent of many other ensemble performances in musicals, ones that do not even include the star players. For some reason, I can’t think of any other example aside from the opening song of 2012’s Frozen, Frozen Heart. The men were cutting ice while singing this folk song. That was basically it. It was telling the audience what story to expect, instead of actually contributing to the story. Out of the many songs in the film, maybe only one was able to really make an impact and be a story in itself, and it wouldn’t come in until later.

By the end of the first song and dance number though, we are finally introduced to Mia and Sebastian, who are coincidentally one after another, bumper to bumper on a Los Angeles freeway. With the little quirks and nuances Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling gave off in these first few minutes, we got a taste of who they were as people.

I was totally caught off-guard the moment that it hit me, La La Land is set today. 2016, perhaps. I never would have guessed based off all of the trailers I watched. And I watched a lot of them.

You wouldn’t feel it with how these characters live, though. Aside from being a way to know whether or not they got the callback, technology played a very little part in their lives. And so, it hit me. This is set in 2016, but it’s not set in Los Angeles. It’s set in La La Land, which is sort of Los Angeles, but not really.

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I had so many feelings every time a Los Angeles landmark would make an appearance. Griffith Park? I love that place. There’s no chance in hell they’ll be able to sneak in there after hours. And as far I know, Angel’s Knoll hasn’t been operational in years. But I’m just nitpicking.

Los Angeles may have been the backdrop, and La La Land may have been its title, but its not that essential to the story. The story was still all about Mia and Sebastian. And if you ask me, it could have been set anywhere.

There is nothing new about their story. I mean, really. A struggling actress? A struggling musician? We’ve all seen that before. How I wish we could have delved deeper into their craft and psyche like Whiplash and Black Swan did before them.

La La Land has been billed as a film for the romantics. Maybe it is. Well, it definitely is for the general romantics. Not the love-obsessed, but the hopeful. It’s a story about hope, and you’ll feel with Mia as she’s faced with rejection after rejection, and failure after failure. You’ll feel with Sebastian too as he steers further away from his dream to live a more stable life. You’ll feel for both of them because they’re dreamers. What ever happened to your dreams?

I will borrow a few words from one of the true filmic love letters to Los Angeles, (500) Days of Summer, in describing the other romantic aspect of La La Land. It’s not a love story. Okay, they meet, they fall in love, but it isn’t about them. It’s about their dreams. They just happen to be in love and in a relationship while they’re struggling with the idea of their dreams.

I admit, I spoiled myself earlier on and read the Wikipedia summary. I knew they weren’t going to end up together. It didn’t make the revelation of it hurt less, but I didn’t really care. It wasn’t about them. Whether or not they did end up together did not and would not have contributed to the story. It would just be an epilogue, and it served that purpose.

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Of course, it was heartbreaking watching Mia enter Sebastian’s club to find the logo she designed for him many years back in neon lights. The fantasy sequence as Sebastian played the piano and imagined what their lives could have been like if they held on to each other hurt like it supposed to, but their smiles and nods at the end as Mia left the club made it clear – they were where they were supposed to be, and that was enough for them. That was also enough for me as a viewer.

I was expecting so much more, but at the end of the day, La La Land is a sweet film. It will make you feel things, most definitely. But is it worth the hype? Not really. Will it win an Oscar? It might. But I think there are many other films that go deeper and harder than La La Land, and I’m looking forward to these films bagging their well-deserved golden statuettes at this year’s Academy Awards.

#MMFF2016: Seklusyon – a Horror Flick That Makes You Think

Just when I thought it was too late to catch anymore #MMFF2016 films, the festival extends just a little, and there I am in the cinema with the first friend I could find. Our friends raved about Seklusyon on an out-of-town trip, and a girlfriend and I felt bad for not having watched it yet. And so, we did.

It’s a weird feeling to watch a horror flick during the Metro Manila Film Fest (MMFF) that’s not Shake, Rattle & Roll. That horror film series has been on for so long, it’s almost as old as I am. Almost.

In line with the new guidelines that set forth this year’s MMFF, it was only Seklusyon that made the cut for this year’s horror lineup. It sits pretty among romantic comedies and films far from what it is. Is it worth it? Well, let’s see.

Having watched a number of Shake, Rattle & Roll films myself, I was expecting to get myself scared like crazy with Seklusyon. It has been a long time since any horror film has actually been scary during the MMFF, and so I just assumed that Seklusyon would do the trick.

Don’t come into the cinema like I did that afternoon. My friend and I were holding each other, wondering how we’d get to sleep that night. I slept like a baby. Seklusyon was not scary at all. For my standards, at least. I’m pretty much devoid of feelings at this point.

It was not scary, so don’t come into the cinema expecting for a jump-scare extravaganza. That’s not going to happen. But, I assure you, Seklusyon will make you think.

It was a relatively short film, less than an hour and a half. Its story goes this way. Miguel (Ronnie Alonte) is a priest about to be ordained. Before he can be ordained though, he has to undergo seven days of seclusion (thus, the title) at a faraway retreat house with three other would-be priests. This is because it is believed that temptation is at its strongest right before a man enters priesthood.

On the flipside of things, there was a returning priest, Father Ricardo, (Neil Ryan Sese) who was sent to investigate the miracles being performed by the child healer, Anghela (Rhed Bustamante). She could cure any illness or injury, and thus has created quite a following for herself. The priest was skeptical of her, even more so when her parents died and she was left in the arms of a suspicious nun, Madre Cecilia (Phoebe Walker).

By some twist of fate, Anghela and Madre Cecilia ended up in the same retreat house Miguel and his fellow would-be priests were residing, and that was when chaos ensued. The dark pasts of each of these young men were slowly uncovered, and so was the truth about the child.

It was repeated all throughout the film that Anghela was God’s gift to us, but in reality, she was a false prophet. How she controlled the people around her with her allure and power was what was really mesmerizing about the film. We, like the players in the horror flick, are so easily controlled, it led me to question the state of our religion nowadays.

There are so many questions that Seklusyon left unanswered, and those may have been what ruined the film for me. I was so invested in the story of Madre Cecilia, but I only got to catch glimpses of it through Father Ricardo’s research.

I am so used to just laughing at horror films (even foreign ones) because that’s what they usually illicit from me. I expect the moments that attempt to shock me, and so I just laugh them off when they do arrive. I did not have those moments in Seklusyon, although I really yearned for them. Instead, I had questions.

Seklusyon is a good film. I will not go on to say that it’s great. It could have been, but it didn’t exert enough effort to get there. But, it is quite refreshing to see another kind of horror film in the Philippine arena. Horror films are often rooted in the things we fear, and the things we want. I love that Seklusyon made the conscious effort to delve into those things. Had it took enough time to fill in the holes it left open, it could’ve been great.

ilawod

I have nothing but props for its director, Erik Matti, who keeps on delivering hard-hitting films despite the overly commercial playing field recent Philippine cinema has been known for. Thus, I’m curious about Dan Villegas’ Ilawod, the next horror film being built up. It looks like the Philippine horror scene is growing and no longer merely relying on the shock and ‘takot’ factor that has kept it alive for years.

#MMFF2016: Vince & Kath & James, and the Romantic Comedy that Works

The Vince and Kath text-serye took the internet by storm earlier last year. I unwittingly went along with the ride. At first, I dismissed it as something so cliché it was unbelievable. But then again, I almost – almost! – read through the entire thing.

In this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival, the only big budget film to make the list is Star Cinema’s adaptation of this viral text-serye, Vince & Kath & James (VKJ). After Saving Sally, it was next on my list of must-watch films for this year’s festival. And so, I made time for the flick this afternoon.

shes-dating-the-gangster-official-posterIt really has been a long while since mainstream Philippine cinema has focused on the nostalgic and heartbreaking era of adolescence. I’m pretty sure She’s Dating the Gangster (which also hailed from a story that went viral online) was the last good one, and youth wasn’t even really the focus of that.

Neither was it the focus in VKJ, but damn can you feel it.

Star Cinema is known for its inescapable formula. Throw two attractive leads together. Build up their chemistry. Shower them with family issues, conflict. Make them up. Almost all Star Cinema productions have those elements squished in them. VKJ is not different.

Vince (Joshua Garcia) is a hardworking engineering student with a penchant for writing. He’s been hopelessly in love with his classmate, Kath (Julia Barretto). But, as Filipino as he is, he has no guts to say it. Instead, he operates a blog called #DaVinciQuotes, and relentlessly text messages her until she agrees to meet up with him. The latter one of his tactics was complicated with the involvement of James (Ronnie Alonte), his cousin, and basically his adoptive brother, whose family took him in when his mother refused to care for him. James, the star basketball player of their university, became attracted to Kath. And so, he asked for his ever-reliable, and perennially indebted cousin for help. Woo her through messages until she agrees to meet up with him, and then he’ll take care of the rest.

We all know that Vince and Kath are going to end up together, and watching them get there was a nice ride to tag along to. Watching them as interns having fun and bickering truly will truly illicit the same comment a co-worker of theirs spurted out, “Ganyang-ganyan nagkatuluyan ang lolo at lola ko.” (That’s exactly how my grandparents ended up together.)

There’s a reason why there is a tried and tested formula for romantic comedies, emaxresdefaultspecially ones involving the younger generation. It’s because it works, and VKJ proves that. And I just love how VKJ paid homage to what’s possibly the greatest romantic comedy Star Cinema has churned out in its decades of existence, Olivia Lamasan’s Got 2 Believe starring Julia’s aunt Claudine Barretto, and the late, great Rico Yan. I love how that heartbreaking moment of when Lorenz (Rico Yan) sees Toni (Claudine Barretto) waltz inside the surprise he had waiting for her only to be eclipsed by Perry (Dominic Ochoa) was alluded to by Vince, Kath, and James in a similar fashion.

 

What I didn’t like about VKJ was the family issues that plagued its heroes. I just couldn’t believe the insanity of their situation. Vince was living with his aunt and her family because his mother’s new husband cannot accept him. It happens everyday, but I just didn’t find it real. I ultimately found, though, that these back stories are absolutely essential. Kath would not have truly softened up to Vince had she not witnessed the fiasco that was his mother rejecting him. Kath would never have opened up her eyes to how much Vince cared for her had she not ran away upon her father’s return.

It was a good film, and perhaps that’s the reason they had let it join the ranks of this year’s MMFF. It was honest, as how movies should be. I fell in love with Joshua Garcia in the few minutes that I watched him portray a character on the screen. He reminded me so much of John Lloyd Cruz, and how earnest his characters would always be.

Two out of eight down for this year’s MMFF, and I don’t know if I still have the chance to catch anymore of them. Again, VKJ would not win any awards (and I believe it didn’t?), but it was a good watch. It made you feel good without killing your brain cells. It made you remember what it was like to be young and to feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, but still ultimately be very infatuated with your crush as though everything will cease to end if they did not look your way.

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Perhaps this is the start for Star Cinema. Maybe they’re going back to these kinds of movies – honest, heartbreaking, real. I sure hope so.

#MMFF2016: Let’s Take a Chance on Saving Sally.

I haven’t made an effort to watch any of the entries to the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) lineup in the past few years. In between all the cash cows and the award baits, I just didn’t want to. I tried once with my dad, and I can’t even remember what that year was, nor what the film was about. This year – 2016! – there’s a different story.

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To say that this year’s MMFF lineup is controversial would be an understatement. Big companies and the masses they pull on a string made quite an uproar on the change of criteria the MTRCB used to screen the MMFF entries for this year. On the other hand, independent filmmakers and their supporters yelled out hooray.

I’m part of the latter group. I take the controversy this year’s festival brought as a good thing. Finally! Finally, we are moving forward.

The independent film scene has been booming over the years. And yet, mainstream Filipino cinema is still constrained to worn-out love stories and brainless comedies. For the first time in decades, there is a documentary in the festival’s lineup! I haven’t seen it, but I will when I have the time.

How I envy those who still treat these days as holiday vacation. I’m back to work (I never left!) and am left with only one alternative – sneak in a film before I have to go to the office.

Thank goodness for my close proximity to a local mall. I was able to catch the first showing of Saving Sally today. It’s on the top of my MMFF must-watch list, and I’m glad I took the time to see it.

My problem with the past MMFF’s was the entries they were showing were either cash cows with no plot, or immensely dark and serious films they snuck in just to say that the entire festival was not just a payday for the country’s already established media corporations. And Shake, Rattle & Roll. You can’t have an MMFF without a Shake, Rattle & Roll. I’ve lost count how many there have been.

I’m not going to bash on these films. They all have their merits, but they lack something that I believe all works of art should have. Heart.

Art is best when it tells a story. When it simply tells a story. There are no other agendas. They are not after the paycheck, nor the recognition. They just want to share something.

It was said that Saving Sally was made within the span of more than a decade. It had to be reshot, recast and redone over and over again, and I just have to say – all of their hard work was surely worth it.

From the very start, the film made audiences aware that it was a very typical love story unfolding in front of them. In this day and age, it is impossible to do away with stereotypes and clichés. Although I refuse to believe it, in one way or another, every story’s already been told. The only way to go about is to tell a story differently.

What I was reminded of when the animation began to blend in with the live action was the early days of Walt Disney when he put together cartoons and people. We weren’t exactly brought to a different world, but we were allowed to see the world differently.

Basically, Marty and Sally are the classic pair of best friends. They’re weird in their own ways, they have a secret language going between them, and Marty’s in love with Sally. Like most halves of a best-friend-in-love-with-his-or-her-best-friend pair, Marty’s too chicken to admit it. In Filipino, we call that word torpe.

And yet, he does everything for her. When she gets a boyfriend – just when he was about to admit his feelings for her! – he serves as their messenger to get past her ultra-strict parents. Again, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. It’s maybe something we’ve even seen for ourselves. Admit it, we’ve all been there.

And that’s the thing. When we go through challenges and difficulties in life, it feels like such a grand spectacle to all of us, but what we go through are mostly mundane everyday tribulations. Remember that boy you liked in high school? Just one wrong word from him, and you felt like the whole world was ending.

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That was how Marty made us feel all throughout the film, and he did it so flawlessly with his illustrations and the animations the filmmakers supplied us with. I loved it.

Here I go with what I didn’t like about the film, though.

When Marty was drunk in N(D/Pr)ick’s car, he called him out for dancing with another girl at a club. Maybe it was just TJ Trinidad’s acting, but I really believed N(D/Pr)ick when he said he would never do that to Sally. I wanted it to go to that direction. I prayed to the heavens that they would eventually fall out because the age difference wasn’t working for them. But no, Marty’s interpretation of N(D/Pr)ick was accurate. He was a dick, and a prick.

Adding in Sally’s abusive parents added another layer to her character. However, they didn’t do much with her parents. Why were they abusive? They can’t just be abusive. There has to be a reason. For the purposes of this story, though, they were just abusive. Perhaps its something the filmmakers could no longer delve into with the timeframe that they had, but the deeper layer it added was a particularly thin one given that the abuse she suffers is not rooted in something realer than what it was.

I loved how Marty’s unwitting confession played out. They went to college. Lost touch. Found new people to be around, new people to love. It was so real. It felt so real, watching them live lives separate from one another’s. THAT’S HOW LIFE IS. I don’t even notice when people who used to mean so much to me pass by anymore. It’s not because they don’t mean anything to me anymore, it’s just that I have a different life now, and so do they. I simply passed them by, as life has passed and is passing all of us by.

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I’m not the biggest fan of when they got back together, but a film like this had to have a happy, satisfying ending. It was. The rocket? I loved that. I knew Sally wasn’t a damsel in distress! I’ll spare this post from my misgivings about the title. At the end of a day, it was a nice way to end their story.

It is the small things in life that makes it worthwhile. That smile from the woman you love? A heartwarming moment with your parents? These are priceless. In the same vein, it was the small things that really made this film. It was these as well that made me love it.

I would definitely love to go to Sandara Park one day. I loved that reference the filmmakers snuck in. I loved the almost faceless but very alive monsters that roamed the city along with Marty and Sally, though I do wish they had more purpose. (Only one character had a human and monster form. What is the distinction? Why was one security guard in human form? Why was everyone else cartoon monsters?)

I loved this film. It made me remember what it was like to be young and in love, to be hopeful. It made me feel all fuzzy inside.

Saving Sally will not win any major awards, but it’s got a special place in my heart, as well as the hearts of many other satisfied viewers just like me. I encourage everyone to give this – and all the other MMFF entries this year – a chance. Let’s make mainstream Filipino cinema great again. Let’s make it real, honest. Let’s make it touch lives for more than just a few laughs. Next up on my to-watch list, Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank 2: #ForeversNotEnough.

A Review on Colleen Hoover’s Maybe Someday

I think Maybe Someday (MS) is the first real New Adult novel I’ve read. I’ve read really adult novels (not the kinky kind!). Damn, Revolutionary Road was heavy. I’ve also read young adult novels, because duh. If we define New Adult novels by merely the timeframe in which these take place, this would not be my first. Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl and Sandy Hall’s A Little Something Different would have gone first. Those were so fluffy, though. This was real.

This is my first Colleen Hoover novel. I haven’t really heard of her, but while I was browsing goodreads.com to find my next read, I came across Maybe Someday and liked the summary it provided. And so I thought, why not?

The story is about a girl named Sydney who finds herself practically homeless after finding out the truth between her roommate and boyfriend of two years. The guitar-playing boy she used to watch from their balcony takes her in with the condition that she helps him write lyrics for his band. He happens to be deaf, but so what?

From reading the synopsis alone, I did not think that Ridge would be deaf. Based on the first few chapters, I didn’t think he was deaf. And so, I was pleasantly surprised when it was later revealed to me that yup, he was.

I don’t know much about deaf culture. Most of it, I learned from Nyle DiMarco of America’s Next Top Model Cycle 22, and the groundbreaking ABC Family series, Switched at Birth (SAB). I love Switched at Birth. And so, because of how well Maybe Someday dealt with Ridge’s deafness, I loved it too.

Emmett Bledsoe from SAB – and the real deaf actor who plays him, Sean Berdy – is a master of the drums. How can that be when he can’t hear, you may ask. Well, he’s deaf. And so, he relies on the vibrations of the drums to tell him the beat he should be playing, the rhythm he should be following. Ridge plays the guitar in a similar way. These two characters are just living (fictional, but living) proof that you can’t really ‘dis abilities.

With that being said, I still had my problems with Ridge. In all honesty, I loved him. How could you not love someone who was that perfect? And there goes the very reason why I had my problems with him. He was too perfect. Throw in a tragic back story that would just make you love him even more.

I’ve read too many YA novels with boys who are just too perfect to be real. That’s precisely why they were in the novels and not in real life. I know, I must be skeptical. But still. What was Ridge’s fault? He was confused by his feelings for Sydney and his long-term girlfriend, Maggie?

I fell in love with SAB partly because of Bay (Vanessa Marano) and Emmett’s love story. I was expecting a Daphne (Katie Leclerc) and Emmett romance to blossom, but how naturally Bay and Emmett fell into each other was just too breathtaking for words. Of course, Emmett being deaf, and Bay not knowing any sign language at the beginning of their relationship was also a plus. It was amazing watching them learn how to communicate with one another.

Ridge in MS didn’t have verbal words to say, and so he relied on text messages, notes, laptops. I just have to wonder if any guy – or person even, in this day and age – would write as lengthily as Ridge (and also Sydney!) does. They both do it so fast, I couldn’t really believe it. Or maybe I’m just nitpicking.

But that was how they communicated. Poetically.

The romance between Ridge and Sydney felt slow at first, and then it became too quick for words. They’re attracted to each other, we get it. They connected over music and lyrics. Each songwriting session was nothing less than physical and emotional tension fighting each other.

Ridge and Sydney could have started a relationship the moment they laid eyes on each other. But then again, there won’t be any MS. What makes MS is the presence of Maggie, Ridge’s long-time girlfriend who has a secret of her own.

It felt so much like a Nicholas Sparks move to throw Maggie’s illness at the readers, but it was essential. I loved their love story even more than I did Ridge and Sydney’s. And so, I better understood why they had to break up in the end. I got where Maggie was coming from. I wouldn’t have wanted to be with Ridge either, no matter how much either of us loved each other.

The push-and-pull between Ridge and Sydney got tiring after a while. Just be together, please. Watching (reading!) you guys fight your urge got really annoying. But okay, they’re adults. They can’t just jump into a relationship because they feel like it. It doesn’t work that way. Such is life.

Spoiler alert! They do get together in the end, though. And it was satisfying, in every sense of the word. I watched Sydney pull a Bay and (FINALLY) learn sign language after the months she spent away from Ridge. In the end, Ridge something that Emmett never did for Bay in SAB. He spoke again. I don’t know if I would have done that for a girl I barely knew. I don’t think I would have even shared as much as I did to a girl I barely knew. But then again (and again and again and again), this is fiction.

I definitely recommend reading this novel! I would give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars. After having read the entire thing, I immediately tried to search for the songs that were featured in it, and thank God an angel named Griffin Peterson transposed it from lyrics in a novel to real music that you can watch on YouTube. I’ll leave some of it here for you to enjoy.

Maybe Someday

I’m In Trouble

Let It Begin

 

Why I Read This Book — a review on Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

It’s no longer only a matter of what you’re saying. It’s a matter of how you’re saying it.

 

Now that I have a lot of time on my hands, I’ve been doing a lot of reading. It’s the kind of reading I haven’t been able to do in such a long time (it’s a long story). It’s the kind of reading I enjoy. High school! Romance! Discovering yourself!

I’m technically no longer within the ‘young adult’ age bracket, but it’s always been my favorite genre back when I had a lot of time on my hands. And – don’t get mad! – I’m actually reading more of it during this time to improve on my own writing (another long story!). It’s been surprising me how fast I’ve been going through all of them. And, because of that, I thought – why not write reviews about them? Oh, you know you have a lot of feelings.

Well, I do. So bear with me.

I just put down Daniel Handler’s Why We Broke Up. I started reading it Friday night in the bookstore. And then, I started reading it every spare moment I had. On the commute to work, while waiting for my friends, on the loo…

So here are my thoughts about Daniel Handler’s Why We Broke Up (WWBU).

I’ve been looking at the hard copy of WWBU on bookstands for AGES. Now, I’ve finally been able to take it home.

danielhandler18thannuallatimesfestivaloiy77v0tkullI caught Daniel Handler at the 2014 LA Times’ Festival of Books, and I fangirled over him so hard even though I never read A Series of Unfortunate Events (I’m sorry!). I’m an aspiring writer. He was like a god to me.

If his name hadn’t been on the cover, I would’ve never thought that Daniel Handler – this big, fuzzy guy I saw on the stage – wrote this book, and I mean it in the best way possible.

The story is about Min Green, Ed Slaterton, and – you guessed it – why they broke up. The premise of it goes a little like this. Min has dropped a box filled with memorabilia from her relationship with Ed on his doorstep. Each of these has notes on them, explaining why they broke up.

9780316127257-whywebrokeup_zoomThe story is told from Min’s point of view. Her voice is very much like that of a teenager. Albeit, a slightly obsessed one. Visually, it wouldn’t be pleasing to read run-on sentences and a lot of repeated words, but that’s how a teenager thinks. As a teenager, I never thought so articulately like the protagonists of my favorite YA novels. And so, to read a story from Min’s point of view was quite refreshing to me.

There have been a lot of YA novels who have tried to piece together the answer to a question by presenting its readers with evidence to unpack. Right off the top of my head, I remember Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why. With that being said, the premise wasn’t entirely new.

The story isn’t new either. Min’s this ‘different’ kind of girl who falls into a relationship with the stereotypical jock with a soft side. The last YA novel I read – literally just days before I picked up WWBU – had the same plotline. (It’s To All the Boys I Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han by the way, which I both loved) And I’ve read a dozen more YA novels with the same idea.

With so much already being said, it’s no longer only a matter of what you’re saying. It’s a matter of how you’re saying it.

I enjoyed WWBU because I’m a sucker for these kinds of stories. I loved Min. I loved how she really wasn’t that different, and she really was just trying to find her place in this world. I knew from the very start that Al had feelings of her. It was obvious. It was a cliché. It was a trope. But that didn’t stop me from trying to bottle in all the feelings I had when Al tried to tell Min that.

Because the title of the book imposed it upon me, all throughout my experience of reading it, I kept asking myself, “So, why did they break up?” With every new chapter and every new item that passed by, I formed an idea in my head, and they kept being brought down.

I thought for sure that they would break up because they had sex, because Min just wasn’t ready. I also thought for a moment that they actually broke up because Min had feelings for Al. I didn’t want them to break up for the reasons that they really did.

Ed isn’t the best. He was a dick more than just a couple of times, and I liked that. I hated the idea YA novels have been trying to feed its readers for years. There are perfect guys out there. No. That’s just not true. Everyone has flaws, and Ed was full of them.

I honestly, honestly thought that he loved Min. But in the end, it was revealed – SPOILER ALERT! – that he was just a confused, horny teenager. Okay, maybe he cared for Min. But at the end of the day, they were both too young to know what love was. Hell, I’m still too young.

That revelation, though. It made everything ache. Reading through those few words Ed spurted out to defend himself after his secret’s been revealed made me go back to all those times he was charming, he was sweet. I felt like I was Min in that moment. I was deceived, and that was exactly what Daniel Handler wanted to make his audience feel.

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It’s a good read, I recommend it! Go along with the ride, and have your heart broken along with Min’s.

But I do wonder though – what else is there for YA novels? What else is there for YA romance?

I believe there is so much more. I would love to see a YA romance without a third party, without a love triangle. I would love to see one that embraces the reality of stereotypes rather than transcend them. I want a real YA romance. Because although this was very real – damn was Min’s heartbreak real – it wasn’t really. It was fiction.

No way would Ed read through everything Min wrote. I doubt he’d even look at it. And in all honesty, would a guy like Ed really look at a girl like Min?

We fawn over stories like these because of the likelihood of it happening in real life is very slim (but there is a possibility!). And so, I sincerely hope for a real contemporary YA romance. But until then, I’ll keep reading.

P.S. Kudos to Maira Kalman! I looked forward to every chapter because I knew a new illustration of hers would come along. And those flower petals? Falling and falling, page after page. It was magical.