Review | Flipping the Script by Danice Mae P. Sison #romanceclassflicker

Flipping the Script by Danice Mae P. Sison

(AmazonGoodreadsFor PH PrintFor International Readers)

Genres: Young Adult, Romance

Note: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Sometime in 2012, I visited the Mowelfund Film Institute, a museum tucked in Cubao, Quezon City that houses old movie props, costumes, tapes, and a ten-feet empty pool used for underwater shoots. This was my first and last time in a movie museum, and it’s actually funny because I wasn’t even initially part of the tour. It was exclusively for the film club, where all my friends were, but because I didn’t want to have a bad case of FOMO, I offered to write a school paper article just so I can join the field trip. Though it’s been almost seven years since my visit, this helped me visualize the setting better for Santelmo Pictures.

Santelmo Pictures is the fictional film studio where seventeen-year-old Miri dela Merced spends her summer as an intern, along with four other senior high students I’ll be dubbing collectively as The Army. Miri’s love for movies has partly to do with her late lolo, a former movie director. However, before her lolo even reached the height of his career, he had a falling-out in the 90s with the matriarch of Santelmo over pito-pito films. Now, we see this family feud element in other books and films (Romeo and Juliet, Little Italy, Descendants, Once Upon a Time) but in FTS, we see less of the deep-rooted animosity and more of how this affects the MC and LI’s relationship. Like the classic boy meets girl formula, Miri meets Pabs early on in a(n albeit non-literal) meet-cute that involves red wine and this inner dialogue:

“My god, what a stupid haircut he has. I don’t know what’s more annoying- that nineties bob or the fact that he’s actively avoiding our table.”

So basically, a very confident drunken me thinking I have a chance with that cute guy across the room. In my live-tweet, I’ve put the blame on Tetet from the get-go. Tetet, by the way, is Miri’s best friend who is basically the type of friend we need in our life. But, come on Tetet, I love you but you just do not challenge the universe by saying this:

“I guess it’s okay. It’s not like you’ll ever see that guy again or anything.”

Of course, we all know what happens next- Pabs and Miri meet again, because Tetet is the harbinger of summer drama. They don’t only meet, though, because the world and film gods (and probably a still feuding Lolo Ikong dela Merced and Lola Barang Santelmo) do not do things halfway. Miri and Pabs end up in the very same summer internship program hosted by Santelmo. Why would Miri end up there, you ask? It’s pretty anticlimactic, but I’ll let you find out yourself by reading the book. Pabs, the precious down-to-earth cinnamon roll that he is, joins, I think, because there are two paths in front of him: the business side versus the creative side, and he’s only interested in one, ideally without preferential treatment.

Ava, Eboy, and Aldrin, join Pabs and Miri to complete their version of The Breakfast Club. The quintet immediately bond over their mutual hate towards a certain production assistant who “looks like an angry twelve-year-old” likened to Snowball (from The Secret Life of Pets). In Miri’s second day, she’s sent back and forth fetching masking tapes and umbrellas for Snowball, while wearing a knit sweater and platforms under the dreadful summer heat. A couple of my favorite lines take place during this scene: “tiis-ganda, but more of the tiis and less of the ganda”, and the ongoing wager whether or not prideful Miri shrugs out of the sweater (my heart also melts a little for Pabs here). I guess nothing brings a group of interns closer than a toxic superior. The beauty of the film industry aside, Sison also highlights the harsh realities, for indeed, “Maliit lang ang industriya”, so you suck it up and be polite and civil to said superior and the heir of the studio-owner that sent your grandfather’s film directing dreams on fire.

Still- Miri’s only human (and a teenager, at that!), and at one point in our lives we do end up asking how far we’re willing to go for our dreams. I do hope we were given more of these scenes (not just with Miri, but with the rest of The Army, too). Anyway, thank goodness we have friends like Tetet who’s not afraid to give her two cents, even at the risk of being too invested in someone else’s problems.

“Gaga ka ba?” Tetet says. “Maybe you’re too focused on what you aren’t learning than what you actually are.”

Let’s not forget my favorite side character, Kiko, who had me worried for a heartbeat thinking we only get one chapter with him. I’m not sure if he has a substantial role in the book, other than as a goofy and candid post-production editor who renders frames while loudly jamming along to his K-pop playlist.

“What are you guys, Gremlins or something? You’re multiplying!” [But] Kiko finally wises up and puts the four interns he has at his disposal to good use instead of just using us for entertainment value.

This is an ideal summer read. It’s light, funny, and charming. Like I mentioned earlier, the book focuses more on Pabs and Miri than their grandparents’, which is great, actually. As interesting as lolo Ikong and lola Barang’s fall-out is, a lot of family feud backstories feel too petty for me (though I think they’re actually supposed to be?). On that note, though, I wasn’t completely sold with how Miri found out about her co-intern’s Santelmo background and thought it’s a bit of a nonevent when I was so hyped as a reader. It’s quite funny how Da Boy, who grew up in Macau and is basically clueless of Pinoy pop culture references, keeps dropping truth bombs and twenty-year-old gossip in The Army.

Though not a film buff, I could tell how so much thought and research has been put in this book. In Sison’s blog post, she shared her WIP journey with FTS, which included articles on film restoration, film festival schedules, and even notes on the K+12 SHS Arts and Design track (unfortunately, few schools offer this). Surprisingly, I was not bored reading through all the studio tour scene and film talk, and it even had me Googling ‘flatbeds’ for the sake of Mickey and Minnie. I guess the thing about this book is that it’s set in the film industry, where you’d expect there to be drama, but it’s actually just a cute fluffy story of a bunch of teens trying to dodge Snowball and Killjoy (side note, not really feeling KJ- it’s like, oh you need a villain? Here’s a villain. Next!) while trying to complete their eighty hours. Even more, our MC and LI aren’t the usual film staff/actor pairing- just two aspiring film directors who want to create. Miri further talks about this desire in a scene:

My ultimate dream is making something as well-researched and richly detailed as a Peter Jackson film. It would be so awesome if I ended up directing a movie as well-loved as The Lord of the Rings trilogy right here in the Philippines.

A memorable story to me is more important than fancy special effects, or huge explosions. It’s a gigantic dream, and one I choose to keep to myself so I don’t jinx it. It sounds impossible, but that’s what’s at my core. I want to direct someone’s next favorite movie.

Honestly, as far as the plot is concerned, I found myself less interested in the teen love aspect and more hooked with the friendship. The Army is made up of likable comedic characters, who all just want to be assigned away from Snowball, hang out with Mang Fred, and watch old movies in UP’s Sunken Garden. While it didn’t leave me feeling unsatisfied, my fingers are crossed that we see more of the quintet’s film adventures in the future. I guess this is the effect that #romanceclass titles give me- I just can’t get enough of their stories, young and new adult.

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Book Cover Info: Cover Models: Liane Palomo, Boo Gabunada | Cover Designed by: Tara Frejas | Flicker Design Identity: Clarissa Ines | Photographed by: Chi Yu Rodriguez | Makeup by: Carla De Guzman | Styling by: Alex Lapa

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AUTHOR INFORMATION

Danice Mae P. Sison realized she wanted to be Harriet the Spy when she was very young. Since then, she has been digging out from real life experiences, pop culture obsessions, and her growing TBR pile of young adult and romance books for inspiration. She works in pay television as a channel manager, and has previously contributed as an author on the anthology Start Here. Flipping the Script is her first book.

Author Website | Twitter | Email: hastyteenflick@gmail.com

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Review | Spitfire Trilogy by Nicole French

Spitfire Trilogy by Nicole French

Legally Yours (AmazonGoodreads)

Legally Mine (AmazonGoodreads)

Legally Ours (AmazonGoodreads)

Genres: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary

Note: This is a compiled review of all three books and will contain spoilers.

***

For someone who has very anti-love opinions, I am utterly obsessed with romance. To be accurate, though, I think what I love reading is how romance is portrayed. Perhaps it’s because I personally prefer writing heartbreaking pieces (breakups, moving on, all that dramatic jazz), over falling in love, and that’s why I read about them instead. Spitfire isn’t the first set of contemporary romance I read this year, but so far it’s my favorite (and I don’t use this word very lightly)!

Recently, I’ve taken a liking to checking out books on Amazon’s discount section without spending too much time reading blurbs (just to keep things interesting, plus there are some hidden gems catering to even the most specific of preferences). Sharp and sassy Legally Yours was one of those books that ended up in my library- maybe it was the law student in me that drew my pointer to click the ‘buy now’ button. These books are lengthy but I finished each of them overnight, which goes to show how easy it is to get lost in the story.

First off, let’s talk about Brandon and Skylar. At the beginning of LY, Skylar is a Harvard law student one semester shy from graduation. She is just capping off her last few days as an intern in Sterling Grove (a top firm in Boston) when she meets Brandon after narrowly escaping an obnoxious analyst with a bad tongue.

How they meet isn’t forced and actually pretty cute, but what follows after almost turned me off, mainly because of Brandon’s character. It was initially difficult to get a grasp of his personality because he basically comes off as just another lust-filled rich guy. However, his actions are explained further in the story, and while he’s still lust-filled until LO, it’s comical how he gets awkward around Skylar especially in the first book, with his tendency to shell out surprises worth more than her own apartment.

“A plane to Paris? Really?” I huffed as I wrenched my hand out of his clutch. My accent was starting to come out now. “It’s our first date. I’m a poor student. I would have been impressed with anything more than Dunkin’ Donuts.”

As superficial as I am, all I could do was nod at her in this particular scene, muttering, “Same.” When you’re not used to having disposable money, grandiose gestures like that will make you uncomfortable.

Another thing I like about them is that they’re not overly possessive. I can’t say I’m a fan of characters spouting things like “You’re mine”, or doing some primal, jealous-driven stupidity, because normal guys don’t do that. As passionate as it may sound (for some, if you dig that), this is kind of flag-worthy in real life. Personally, I feel like this is an unhealthy way of expressing your affections. I think this only happened once throughout the books, actually, and I’m glad Skylar speaks up about it.

He looked at me again, eyes full of love. “I just want to be there with you. I want to be your center, where you come back to. Because you’re mine, babe.”

I frowned and shook my head. “I’m not yours. I don’t belong to you, like all your fancy things. I’m a person, Brandon, not something to collect.”

Feisty, redhead Skylar, on the other hand, is pretty headstrong (as you can tell from that quote above. I wanted to give my phone a high-five when I read that line). She came from a poor and lovely, tight-knit family, but with ambition that could rival her wealthier well-connected peers. While there are still some scenes where she acts out of character for me, given how she’s initially portrayed, what’s consistent is that Skylar wouldn’t accept anything— gifts, plane rides, crap, even Brandon’s love.

“You essentially want me to be your weekend call girl.” Two throw pillows fell off the couch as I stood up. Blood rushed from my head in a way that only provided increased clarity. “Should we establish a rate, Mr. Sterling? A Harvard brain like mine doesn’t come cheap, you know. What’s the going rate for summa cum laude?”

Another thing I like is the accurate depiction of how law school is like (though if you ask me, I don’t even have the time to find a beau. Some of us are lucky, I guess?). In the post-bar exam scene, Skylar went out with her fellow law school friends and headed for drinks, even describing the experience to be similar to Plato’s ‘Allegory of the Cave’, being blinded by the summer sun after spending too long in the dark.

Two more shots and several rounds of drinks later, the entire bar was effectively shitfaced. I had already seen at least three soon-to-be-prominent Boston attorneys sprint to the bathrooms to throw up, and a few others had just skipped the line and dashed outside to hurl over the pier. We were messier than a frat house during Rush week.

We all sacrificed a lot to get to this point, financially and personally. The road to becoming a lawyer took a lot of time and money that most people couldn’t understand. While many of our friends from college and high school were well into their careers, we were just starting now, and wouldn’t be able to take a reasonable break for another several years.

Would I call what they have a good relationship? You know what, I actually would. Anyone could do without the complications (but then what kind of books would these be? Troubled, or rather flawed, characters bring their own stories) but the crux of the matter is that Brandon and Skylar are inarguably in love with each other. It’s so easy to say that your characters are in love but actually showing it is a different story. These two argue, all the time, and mainly it’s because of their opposing views and statuses. They won’t meet. They don’t speak each other’s love languages, as Jane, best friend of the year, so eloquently put it:

“They just weren’t the right way to talk to you. But this isn’t about you anymore. It’s about him. And right now, he‘s the one who’s hurt, Sky. You want to win him back, maybe it’s time for you to start speaking his language, buttercup.”

So like I said, these two characters are so in love, but with all their differences, how do you realistically make them overcome it? In this case, Brandon tends to care way too much, whereas Skylar tends to run away, a lot, particularly when things get tough. In fact, she gets called out for this by none other than Brandon himself. How the author reconciles two opposites’ personalities, without completely losing their sense of selves, helps readers understand them better, and French does this well. From the first book, we see this when Brandon sent a gazillion flowers, with this promise:

“You deserve to pursue your dreams on your own without being chased. But should you ever want to share those dreams with me again, Red, I’ll be here.”

Clearly, this guy knows what’s important. For all his sides portrayed throughout the books, this one definitely won me. Here is a love interest who eventually accepts heartbreak and doesn’t end up punching everyone and the wall, who doesn’t suddenly take up an interest in speeding cars, who doesn’t start sleeping with half the city’s population. He let her live her life.

Now, when this happened (meaning for the latter part of LY and the initial part of LM), we get to see more of the minor characters as support system, mostly Skylar’s friends and family. On that note, can I just say that E/J as a couple- what a thrill. It’s almost as good as what B/S have, though to be honest I also was half hoping for the brief Zola scene in LO to follow through. As for Jared, I actually liked him, you know? To me, he’s just this beautiful, WASP boy in love with someone who didn’t love him back. Then LO happened, que adiós.

Legally Yours. Now, let’s talk plots. I’ve already explained why I think Brandon is unlikable in those first few chapters, coupled with Skylar’s indecisiveness. I put this aside as things element to the story (so that they could finally get together, you know? Anyway, who hasn’t done things differently from what they’d usually do for the sake of romance?).

The cliffhanger on LY? Not originally a fan, either. I think it’s very common with books like these, but oh, does it serve its purpose in LM and that’s what ultimately roped me in. If you’ve read it, you know what I mean— the repetition of “blue or green” makes what happened feel painfully real.

Legally Mine. LM is probably my least favorite, largely because I felt it went on for too long. Like, I know Janette’s got something up her sleeve, and I know Miranda wouldn’t let these two just run off to the sunset, it’s all a matter of when it’ll happen, and being the impatient person I am, I just wanted to fast forward. Now, the second book for me, is basically a book about Skylar’s guilt over the blue/green thing, and while I essentially and naturally sympathize with her hesitance, I felt like I was not directly convinced by the writing itself. I’ve also read reviews of people who stopped reading after this, because of “encouraging” what happened to blue/green, but please remember it’s always a choice and I think, ultimately, that’s what the author wanted to say, especially in a place like Boston.

Legally Ours. I did not like the beginning of LO, though it merely continued the events of LM (because #cliffhangers). No one’s a stranger to the damsel in distress trope when there are (typically rich) leads involved (e.g. Fifty Shades Freed, Twilight, and mostly tv dramas). I actually thought this subplot would span for a few more chapters because of the way the blurb was written, but it only lasts for a chapter— two, if you include the prologue. The upside though is that it, again, is constantly referred to for the rest of the book. You can tell French didn’t just add it for the sole reason of adding to the drama.

I didn’t think I’d enjoy LO because of the above reason, plus, sometimes, trilogies spiral by the third installment in the author’s haste to bring closure to everything as the book ends. Not for the first time, I was wrong, because this book is the most emotional one for me. All the secrets were out and this time, Brandon and Skylar have to move on with everything hanging over their heads. And for a couple who practically couldn’t take their hands off each other when they weren’t even together yet, they spent one-third of LO hardly doing it at all. For all of Brandon’s romantic gestures, including:

I love you. Always. Do you love me yet, Red?

—this is such a big change in their relationship, specifically because of how eye-opening it becomes for Skylar. In the first two books, Brandon does all the chasing (she eventually acknowledges this herself). I’ve read books where the LI falls head over heels with the MC that they literally change from the persons they are, kind of like casanovas in love (e.g. Gabriel Emerson, Jace Wayland, Adrian Ivashkov). Perhaps the fact that Brandon’s done the adjusting all this time finally knocks some sense to her, that Skylar eventually meets him halfway:

“I was never the type who liked having people’s attention. I wasn’t like either of my parents that way. I didn’t seek the spotlight; I never wanted to be the center of attention. But I was willing to do this for Brandon. He spoke a language of large gestures, and worked so hard to scale them back for my sake. How many times had he tried to give me the world, only to have me shove it back in his face?”

How’s that for character development, right?

My usual basis with deciding how much I enjoyed a series (particularly when reviewing them on Goodreads) is asking myself if I’d reread it again. For Spitfire, I absolutely would. In fact, I’ve already gone through my favorite LO chapters a couple of times since finishing it. Despite the many contemporary romances with similar basic plots, French gives a unique spin by delving more into her characters beyond the bedroom.

I’m interested in checking out what else Nicole French has written, which is great since she actually has her new book, The Hate Vow, coming out this March. This time, it’s about an heir who employs the help of a former lover (or fling?) to be his wife for twenty million dollars. Clearly, the plot isn’t something we haven’t heard of before, but given how much I enjoyed Spitfire, I think I’ll give THV a try and see how the author makes it truly her own.

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AUTHOR INFORMATION

Nicole French is an East Coast/West Coast hybrid creature, Springsteen fanatic, hopeless romantic, and total bookworm. When not writing fiction or teaching writing classes, she is hanging out with her family, playing soccer with the rest of the thirty-plus crowd in Seattle, or going on dates with her husband. In her spare time, she likes to go running with her dog, Greta, or practice the piano, but never seems to do either one of these things as much as she should.

Author Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Pinterest

Review | Secondhand Origin Stories by Lee Blauersouth

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Secondhand Origin Stories by Lee Blauersouth

Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing |Publication date: 15 March 2018

Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Note: I received a copy of this book for an honest review.

***

Synopsis:

Opal has been planning to go to Chicago and join the Midwest’s superhero team, the Sentinels, since she was a little kid. That dream took on a more urgent tone when her superpowered dad was unjustly arrested for protecting a neighbor from an abusive situation. Now, she wants to be a superhero not only to protect people, but to get a platform to tell the world about the injustices of the Altered Persons Bureau, the government agency for everything relating to superpowers.

But just after Opal’s high school graduation, a supervillain with a jet and unclear motives attacks the downtown home of the Sentinels, and when Opal arrives, she finds a family on the brink of breaking apart. She meets a boy who’s been developing secret (and illegal) brain-altering nanites right under the Sentinel’s noses, another teenage superhero-hopeful who looks suspiciously like a long-dead supervillain, and the completely un-superpowered daughter of the Sentinels’ leader. Can four teens on the fringes of the superhero world handle the corruption, danger, and family secrets they’ve unearthed?

Book links: Goodreads  and Amazon

***

While lurking on Twitter a month ago, I came across a tweet by the author, Lee Blauersouth, talking about how difficult it was to market a book by word of mouth. At the time, she was distributing eARC (advance reading copies) to bookworms willing to read, review, and promote her self-published Secondhand Origin Stories. When I finally decided to slide into her DMs (is this still a thing?), she told me she could either send me an eARC or I could join the book tour The Bookshelf Bitch was organizing.

Spoiler alert- I said yes.

I consider myself a picky reader- and while that’s not something you’d really want to admit out loud around bookworms, I pride myself in knowing the types of books I want to read and those that I don’t. SHOS has the makings of a book I don’t usually read because I felt it was so many things at once– which apparently, isn’t always a bad thing.

Blauersouth has blessed us with a powerful and socially relevant book that emphasizes sensitivity, diversity, and acceptance- and while it may not be contemporary, it is timely. I agree that we still need more diverse books that aren’t just about coming out and falling in love because people are more than that. To the author, you are one kick-ass superhero yourself. Thank you for bringing this book to life.

If you’re not yet convinced, here’s an excerpt:

“Sausage and flapjacks OK?”

She refocused on her host. “That would be amazing. Thank you.” He gestured to a blond wooden table and chairs, and she sat as he headed into the kitchen. He was silent for a few minutes, digging through the fridge. Opal took the chance to focus on the fact that she was in Capricorn’s house. He was making her breakfast. Mom was gonna kill her. She’d always had such a crush on Capricorn.

He wasn’t anyone Opal would ever have a crush on, but he was a black, gay superhero, and she felt as giddy about him as she would a crush. He’d been a beacon for her her whole life. He was the hero of the whole Detroit line. Everyone else in the first generation of the Detroit line had been kidnapped, forced into experimentation by a rogue biologist trying to create a system for mass-produced alteration. Even though people had tried it all over the world, and it didn’t work. When you messed with genes without customizing your alterations to the genes the person already had, you just caused more problems. Most people died. Opal guessed that particular evil scientist must have gotten closer than most, given how many did survive, but still – a ton of people died.

Capricorn was the only one who’d gone in deliberately. He’d risked the alternation, and used his new superpowers to save everyone else. What could possibly be more superheroic than that?

His voice was easy when he piped up from where he was, his head in the fridge. “So. What brings a fellow Detroit altered to Sentinel Plaza so early in the morning?”

“Well, first a train. Then a bus. I still haven’t made it to my cousin’s place yet.”

He gave an amused huff. “Well, Ms—?”

“Flynn.”

“Flynn?” He straightened up. “Bet you’re Nick Flynn’s girl, then.”

Opal was touched. She knew her dad’s “trial” had gotten a lot of press, but it was a long time ago, now. It was good to know a hero like Capricorn remembered. She nodded.

He nodded, opening a package of sausages and starting up the burner. “Staying long?”

Opal licked her lips. Was there something implied in his question? It felt like there was an answer he was expecting. “Maybe. It depends.”

“On?” He threw a couple sausages onto the pan. Yeah, he was definitely expecting some particular answer.

“Work, mostly. I’ve got a basic job lined up, with my cousin, but…” This time he made a general listening sound, but didn’t say anything else. Waiting for her to elaborate, and say what he was expecting. She let the silence stretch a little longer, but broke eventually. “I was hoping to book an appointment to try out for the Sentinels, actually. Since you’ve been down by one for a while now.”

Her heart was in her throat. She’d only been in the city like an hour, and already almost got shot trying to accomplish this. She felt isolated and over her head enough, she had to keep moving forward. He sighed, and she realized that actually had been the answer he was expecting. He poked a sausage with a fork, then turned to her, leaning his hip on his kitchen counter. “Mm-hmm.” He crossed his arms. “Thought I detected that on you.” His eyes were uncomfortably penetrating. Evaluating. “I’ve seen ones like you before. Sometimes. Sol was one, actually. Long time ago. You got stars in your eyes.”

Her return smile was crooked. “I don’t mind being compared to Helix.”

***

AUTHOR INFORMATION

After about a decade of drawing comics independently or with small presses, Lee started writing prose out of a combination of peer pressure and spite, then continued out of attachment to their favorite made-up people. They live in Minnesota even though it is clearly not a habitat humans were ever meant to endure, with their lovely wife/editor, the world’s most perfect baby, and books in every room of the house.

If you like categories, they’re an ENFJ Slytherin Leo. If you’re looking for demographics they’re an agender bisexual with a couple of disabilities. If you’re into lists of likes: Lee loves comics, classical art, round animals, tattoos, opera, ogling the shiner sciences, and queer stuff.

Author website  | Goodreads | Pinterest | Twitter

Check out all the other posts from the blog tour:

23 April (Monday)

24 April (Tuesday)

25 April (Wednesday)

26 April (Thursday)

27 April (Friday)

Don’t stay single.

“Stay single until you meet a guy like this”, said the article that circulated my feed a couple of days ago. It listed in a short and dreamy manner the type of guy girls should wait for. I, along with hundreds of females I’m sure, like to think of myself as an independent woman who every now and then crosses her fingers for a similarly-minded man who’d respect me the way I’d respect him (insert inane amount of exclamation points for emphasis), but that’s it. I’ve thankfully outgrown my diary-keeping tween years of listing down the perfect guy, the perfect date, the perfect everything con mi novio. So, not only did I find the article a tad insulting bordering sexist (but let’s not get ahead of ourselves for one write-up), but its admittedly shallow and superficial approach is, in my opinion, built on a bed of roses. Before anything else, though, I’d like to state that I have nothing against the person who wrote it. I have everything against the idealistic view of staying single until a certain kind of man, someone so perfect beyond words, comes forth to sweep us off our feet in true Disney fashion.

So here is my response to that well-shared, well-versed article: Don’t stay single.

Don’t limit yourself to waiting for the guy who’ll open you doors, hold your hand, or kiss you in public, despite how lovely it is to actually experience them. Don’t wait for the guy who’ll apologize with a new watch or a new handbag. Don’t wait for the guy who’ll entitle you to things that are so pretentiously romantic that you become the envy of every similarly idealistic girl. Don’t, because you don’t need a guy to remind you that you deserve that. It’d be nice, but remember that love doesn’t revolve around the pretty packages after an ugly fight.

Date a guy who’s not Prince Charming. Date a guy who does these things but not because they are expected. Date a guy who, despite his incapacities to love the way society dictates him to, stays with you because you both care for each other regardless of what you don’t have or what he doesn’t do.

There are men out there so worthy to be loved, but they don’t know a thing about being in a relationship. They might not know that society wants them to stand on one end of the sidewalk while you on the inside, but that doesn’t make them less of a gentleman. They might not text back all the time, because they didn’t know that there was a time limit when texting back. They might not pay for every meal because it’s the twenty-first century and going Dutch is not unheard of. They might not kiss you in public or show you off to their friends, not because they’re not proud of the relationship, or they’re embarrassed for being labeled as the newly whipped friend, but because they don’t find the need to validate your togetherness. They might not drop everything for you when you need them, because they have other responsibilities and concerns aside from you. They might not apologize all the time, regardless of who’s wrong, because they do have some pride and sometimes, they want to play the hard-to-get game, too.

Don’t stay single by waiting for that seemingly perfect guy. They may exist, but they don’t exist solely for the benefit of a girl finding true love in the poster child for guy perfection.

The best part about dating is getting to know the person beyond their feed or their Tinder profile. Maybe he knows you from his friends, colleagues, or family but every other important and non-superficial thing that is to know, he only has spending time with you to find out. Learn with him. Spend time with him. Date him, and maybe love him.

Discover things that can make you happy, things that society or social media didn’t tell you. Try out each other’s hobbies or interests, don’t expect him to fit himself in yours. Go the extra mile without expecting any in return, and I swear to God, that is true love. That’s when you bring home a Tuesday gift or bake a cake out of nowhere, and not low-key hoping that in the next week he’d flatter you with a shiny piece of jewelry or a fresh bouquet of roses. Don’t do that. Don’t think he’s falling out of love, or that he doesn’t love you enough, when he doesn’t do certain romantic things, or when he doesn’t say ‘I love you’ first. Don’t doubt his uncertainty about his and your future together, because not everyone is lucky enough to know what the hell they want to do or to be. Relationships are messy but real, and sometimes, being with another person can get exhausting. Be patient. Be considerate. Push each other to become better versions of yourselves because sometimes change is good, and sometimes, they don’t come neatly packaged in someone’s first version.

Don’t look for the perfect guy. Don’t have such fantastical and unrealistic expectations, because trust me, that sort of extremity will hinder you from being happy, even when the guy you’re with is already as loyal, humble, driven, honest, and loving as he can be. Don’t demand for more. Give him space to try to become better, give him time to discover this out on his own—because that’s when it’s worth it.

So darling, put yourself out there. Don’t stay single. Don’t wait for one guy. Expect numerous guys with different personalities, beliefs, and interests. Expect guys who don’t know the difference about treating a girl friend from a girlfriend. Expect guys who won’t baby you. Expect guys who you think are out of your league. Don’t submit to a socially constructive standard that dictates the kind of guy you should see. Don’t think you’re wasting your life away by spending time with the ‘wrong’ guy.

There’s nothing wrong with waiting, and I think that’s also something that needs to be said here. It’s true that there are girls who believe that it’s exactly how a relationship is made extra special— when you save yourself for the person you think you’re spending the rest of your life with, or maybe you just don’t see the appeal of the complexities of dating. That’s not weird or wrong at all. It’s classic and yes, romantic, so you do you and make Jane Austen proud. The point is, don’t let yourself be swayed by the opinion of any other person. Don’t let your personal life decisions be dictated by someone else’s definition of love. Don’t limit yourself to the things you think you’re only allowed to have because, according to society, a guy is not worth it if he’s not everything and more. Don’t turn your back on the art of dating, no matter how terrifying it gets. Don’t be afraid of the heartaches, the fights, the incompatibilities, the cricket sounds on first dates, or the chaotic disaster of emotions. Don’t be afraid and put yourself out there. Make mistakes, love the hell out of every guy you see, even, because that’s what’ll make the real thing better.

Date him. Whoever you want, whatever he is, however he looks, regardless of age, religion, or any existing unseen barrier that contradicts the very definition of the beauty of romance, date him. As long as you’re happy, date him and don’t be single, because that’s not how you’ll always find true love.

Dear Tom Hansen

When we met, fireworks didn’t explode. In fact I barely remembered what you looked like or what you were doing, and it didn’t matter because I didn’t believe in love at first sight. There weren’t any redeeming or remarkable qualities or instances that had me sleepless or dumbstruck, so I set you aside as a face in passing.

I didn’t think I would spend the next few months with you yet I did.

We bonded over our mutual love for controversial books and a thirst to see more of the world. The thing is, you wanted to read and see them with me while I preferred doing them on my own.

Not long, I had become straight-up honest with my thoughts and my feelings. I told you that I wasn’t looking for anything serious, that I was fine with casual things, friendship, and even nothing at all. I told you why I found relationships messy and bothersome and how I get by alone. I wasn’t looking for any attachment, physical or emotional, but then you got attached and blamed me for your wounds.

I can’t blame you, and I’m saying this in hopefully the least obnoxious and presumptuous way possible. While I knew your initial feelings were not as friendly as mine, I allowed you the liberty of staying. I justified this with my honesty about my disconnection, thinking that it was reasonable and adequate enough for you not to develop any misleading thoughts. But instead, for some batty inexplicable reason, it amplified whatever you felt for me. You clung hard on my words and followed me closely. It was intoxicating and flattering but also alarming that your feelings didn’t change after I told you of mine. Maybe my detachedness had you coming closer, or maybe you really just didn’t understand what I meant. While I appreciate everything you did and said, from the morning coffee to the encouraging notes, forcing your feelings for me weren’t one of them.

I don’t believe in soulmates and I don’t believe that we can be together. I finished things off because I didn’t know where we were headed. It wasn’t some sort of an existential crisis. It was as simple as me not finding a reason why we should keep seeing each other. We didn’t click as much as we had when we met or as I thought and when time passed I kept realizing how different we really are. It had little to do with how I was more casual and unconventional with my approach towards dating while you were more refined and classical. It was more of how we perceived things and life in general. I know I said I wasn’t looking for anything serious, and maybe to you that meant it was okay to keep hanging around but that was the point why I had to stop. It wouldn’t be fair to lead you on for much longer when I already knew whatever we had at that moment was stagnant, hollow, and unhealthy. It wouldn’t be fair because I found out you were falling for me. I decided to stop whatever we were doing because delaying the inevitable wouldn’t make it true.

Shortly after, I also found out that who you were when we met was an entirely different person. You elaborated on your theory that there was significant change in your life after I showed up. You tried to convince me that your happiness relied on me, a regular insignificant person who had your mind reeling. You questioned me several times a day of my real intentions and whether being heartless was in my blood. Yet despite this, I remained quiet, because I guess a part of me worried I was also at fault and therefore I had little right to be vocal about my frustrations. After all, I was the one who finished things off. In the book of flings, relationships, and complicated social matters, that meant I was the evil person between the two of us regardless of the reasons. And I remained quiet even though I was so, so angry at you.

I was angry at you for refusing to accept my decision to allow us time apart.

For berating me for my choices because they weren’t something I would have said or done some months ago.

For declaring I was crazy because you swore I felt the same way that you did about us.

For claiming you knew me better than myself and that I was just confused.

For pleading me to stay because you wouldn’t be happy without me.

For arguing that I was difficult, unreasonable, and unfair because I hurt you.

For saying that I’m uninterested in men because I left.

For assuming that I’m seeing someone else because I broke it off without just cause.

You may not believe it but here’s the truth. There was just cause. There was reason. You just didn’t see because you were too engrossed in the image you wanted me to be. You saw me as perfect, beautiful, and in love. I had bad and ugly moments and sometimes I wasn’t sure how I really felt around you. But you went ahead and practically created an altar for me and assumed I felt the same.

My dear Tom Hansen, I hope you believe me when I say that it wasn’t my intention to hurt you. You weren’t the object of some twisted revenge-driven modus-operandi with the primary goal of breaking your heart. I didn’t intentionally belittle your feelings for some accursed reason. And no, I’m not a man-hater who despises relationships and love. I just don’t think they’re meant for me right now, if at all. I believe in love, just not with you. I believe in love, just not for you.

Above all, I think you should move on. Surprisingly I am not saying this in the restless, nettled way I did when I told you that we should stop, after you rehashed that I had no right to do so, quickly following it with wondering questions of what you did wrong. I am saying this because I sincerely believe that you would be better off not obsessing about who I’m with, what I like, or where I’m going. You deserve someone who can completely and genuinely accept your feelings, someone who’s willing to read books and see the world alongside yourself. You deserve to be with the person I can never be for you.

I hope, one day, when I’m content, and if I ever settle down eventually, you won’t think back to the time we never worked out and wonder why I couldn’t settle for you. That one day when I’m sure I’m in love, you won’t wonder why it wasn’t with you. I hope you realize that some people, despite the intense connection and amazing chemistry, are not meant to be together. I hope you never stop believing just because it didn’t work out with us. I pray that when that day and that person comes, you won’t take two steps back in fear that it wouldn’t work out. I also wish that once that happens, you won’t anymore be entangled in your belief that being in a relationship will make your life better, brighter, and complete.

Because I didn’t think you’d fall in love with me yet you did.

This is how you broke her

Somewhere down the road, in a lame attempt to assure herself that she’s just concerned even though she’s really curious, she will look you up. She’d see you single and happy, or occupied and happy. Thing is, once she sees you happy, something will trigger inside her. Turns out she’s a bomb waiting to explode. Like a thunderstorm, she will feel attacked by memories she thought were long gone.

She’s forgiven you, don’t get her wrong, but there are things too difficult to forget. Things that hurt her way too much to easily let go of. Things that the mere thought of still makes her cringe.

That’s how it is with you. She has no idea how you could still affect her, but you do.

You break her upon the next girl you find who seems to be lot better than she was, because once upon a time you told her she was the best and now she’s faced with your fallen words’ consequences.

You break her when she sees you giving flowers to the next girl, because once upon a time you told her flowers were pathetically unnecessary gifts and that they weren’t worth the money or the effort. Yet for the next girl, you did.

You break her as you try to be a better person for the next girl, and although she’s glad you’re trying to be better, she’s tearing because she couldn’t be that girl. Once upon a time, she was so convinced she was. You had her believing she was.

You break her with your proud boasting of how your family absolutely adores the next girl, and how they, like you, are smitten over her. Your once upon a time girl sits silently crushing as she remembers how they once said she was great, too, but then later agrees she was no good for you.

You break her when you deny her. When you deny the time she was special to you. When you regret that she was ever part of your life. When you choose to forget about the girl who swore to do everything that would make you happy.

You break her in the little things, like when you actually show up on time for your new dates all-dressed up, and the big things like when you hang out with the new girl’s friends and ask permission from her parents.

This girl used to think that a person could only break someone’s heart once. You proved her wrong. You broke her heart five, six times and kept breaking her heart when she realized she didn’t make the cut and deemed not good enough.

She tried so hard for you, you know.

In another lame attempt to excuse herself, she forces her attention away. She focuses on other things, on other places, on other hobbies, on other dates. She’s preoccupied most of the time, in her quest to stop feeling so bothered. She’s always known words hurt, but apparently so do unspoken ones. You’re not supposed to have the ability to hurt her. You declaimed the right when you gave up on her… but here you are. As she sees you blissfully happy and positively content with the next girl, she desperately tries to rub off your memories on her skin.

And all her life she will keep wondering why there was one guy who never thought she was worth it. One guy who didn’t try for her. One guy who didn’t take the leap. And no matter how many dates she goes on, how many kisses she gets, how many anniversaries she spends, she will wonder. And yes, maybe it’s just because she’s become far too insecure for her own good, but mostly because there’s a broken part of her that will remain broken for a long, long time. There’s a broken part of her that begs to be fixed but couldn’t be mended. This broken part of her will haunt her even as her lips press on a different man, even as her hands caress someone else’s body, even as her eyes wander into another’s soul.

This is how you broke her, darling. And perhaps she will wholly forgive you, at one point, when she’s convinced herself and everyone else that she’s fixed, but trust me, unless she’s actually gotten rid of your name tattooed in her heart and your letters taped on her head and the ghost of your kisses scattered on her body, she is not okay.

This is how you broke her, that even though she’s long assumed you were safely and quietly tucked at the very back of her mind, unreachable and harmless, you still bore the power to hurt her. That even though she’s with the company of another guy who treats her so well, you still creep in her mind, ready to attack at her most vulnerable moments.

This is how you broke her, to the point of madness. She doubts, hates, and assumes the worst from herself. She’s not supposed to think like that. No one should. No one should have to spend so much time in front of the mirror wondering what’s wrong with her, or on her bed at night thinking of the ways she could’ve changed herself for you. No one should feel incomplete just because someone made her feel that way— just because you made her think she was.

This is how you broke her, that so many unseen wounds keep her second-guessing herself from the deadest of nights until the wee hours of the morning. She keeps looking for the catch in every guy she meets, wondering what he really wants and when he’d shut the door on her. Her eyes look away whenever someone pays her an honest compliment, because who could find someone like her attractive? You told her you loved her yet you made her feel the ugliest, most spiteful person in the world.

This is how you broke her. So next time you go out with the next girl, I hope you remember about the girl who gave herself to you whole, and by God, does she hope that no other girl ever feels that way again. You have absolutely no idea how your words and actions can have effects on someone. She remembers everything and carries it around with her heart. They tail after her even when she doesn’t want them to. Please love the next girl so much, in ways you never did the girl you were once with. And when you see the once upon a time girl, I hope you remember that she was good to you, and that if things weren’t so different, she’d probably still be in love with you.

My dream told me to forgive you

For days on end I tried to not think about you. They said it was the most effective way to move on— so that’s what I did. Blindly, I followed people’s pieces of advice and disregarded my own free thinking for a change. Who was I to know? This was new to me. I’ve always geared myself for the downfall; I was ready for disappointments and breakups and heartaches—except with you.

That’s how I found myself busy in the weeks that came. I binge-watched series, I tried new hobbies, I finished my reading list and slept through the in-betweens. I started thanking in my mind the people who told me to do it, to commit myself to other things, because not once did I cry about you. Not once did I curl myself with thoughts of you knocking on my door. Not once did I watch cutesy romantic movies and thought, I remembered when it was me. Not once did I put bitter breakup pop songs on repeat. I didn’t even write about you. For some reason, I managed to get on with my life without massive breakdowns. For some reason, even though it felt like a chunk of me had been ripped out, I was okay.

Until one night, I went to sleep and dreamt of you.

For months I haven’t had so much as a glance of you, but that night I’ve had my first. I hardly remember what I was doing, but I remember you. You looked the same in my dream. You stood from afar and your stares were intense. You came up, pulled me to a seat, and held my hand. We stayed quiet. But while you said nothing in my dream, I knew what it meant when I woke up. My dream told me to forgive you.

After that, I stayed in bed and thought of you. It was the first time I did, ever since you left. Quite a time I spent mulling the dream over my mind. Here I was, purely going through the motions, and then you come dashing right back. Just when I thought I had perfectly steered myself from severe dejection, the past that I buried deep haunted me in my sleep. But as I rolled the dream over and over my head, I started to recognize the fault in my so-called philosophy.

I realized that although the progress had been amazing, I was doing it all wrong. I got on with my life not because I forgave you, but because I wanted to forget you. I know now that it’s impossible. Despite what they said about me laughing this all off in a few years’ time, I could never forget you. At some point I might forget the things we did and said but forget you, no. I think you can never truly forget someone once you’ve loved them. And boy, did I love you.

It was then that everything that happened came back—not the days that hurt, but the days that were happy. Days that seemed enough. Days that I knew were real. They barged into the door that I locked and attacked my mind with every bit of memory that I forcefully removed. In my desperation to move on, I chose to forget you completely. I set aside everything that reminded me of what we had in the hope that I would get over you. I guess I was too tired to be mad or upset that I decided to put you away instead, yet what has it done for me? Yes, I managed to keep myself busy, but I found out I couldn’t really commit to other things, not when I avoided whatever you marked in my life. I thought I could move on by forgetting you, but it turns out I couldn’t, not exactly. I guess that’s why my dream told me to forgive you— because this was what I needed to do.

Admittedly, I thought at first forgiving you would be asking too much from myself. In this set-up, I was the one who got ditched on the side of the road mid-trip. I was the hitchhiker who ended up walking the rest of the way. In fact, you’re the one who’s supposed to be on your knees— but the dream slammed me again. I realized I could never blame you for your decisions. I could never be mad at you for wanting to leave. I could never tell whether you made the good or bad choice because you’ve had your reasons, and I can never judge you for that. I guess, even though I probably will never understand what you did and how you could’ve done it, what I can do is hope for the best for you and me. Whatever happens from here on, may we both be happy, however it means for either of us. Despite what happened to us, I will forgive you, even before you ask me to. After all, once upon a time, you were my happily ever after.

And although that’s all you’ll ever be from this moment on, I’ll always be thankful for you—because this time, I’m forgiving you, but I won’t let myself forget you.