¡Hola, mi gente!
I come from the lands of pain and finals to talk about a sweet read that gave me all the serotonin I needed to survive the last weeks. Sugar and Spite is a story of fantasy, friendship, and learning to stand up for yourself.
Genres: Middle Grade, Contemporary, Fantasy
Trigger Warnings: bullying, colorism
Slightly spoiler-ish tw (mark/highlight the next line to read them):
death of pet, tropical storm, evacuation
Can a bully be defeated by a magical love potion?
Jolina can’t take Claudine’s bullying any longer! The taunts and teasing are too much. Though Jolina knows she’s still in-training to use her grandfather’s arbularyo magic, she sneaks into his potions lab to get her revenge. Jolina brews a batch of gayuma, a powerful love potion.
And it works. The love potion conquers Claudine’s hateful nature. In fact, Claudine doesn’t just stop bullying Jolina-now she wants to be Jolina’s BFF, and does everything and anything Jolina asks.
But magic comes with a cost, and bad intentions beget bad returns. Controlling another person’s ability to love-or hate-will certainly have consequences. The magic demands payment, and it is about to come for Jolina in the form of a powerful storm…
Magic and reality mingle in this brilliant new middle-grade novel by Gail D. Villanueva that asks whether it’s ever okay to take away someone’s free will.
THINGS I LIKED
THE SETTING & THE REPRESENTATION: I loved seeing Filipino culture through the characters eyes. I’m not Filipino, but I could feel the love and respect for everything that’s part of it through all the references (ESPECIALLY THE FOOD ONES? I left this book HUNGRY). The magic in the book is based on Filipino culture and traditions. But outside of the magic, there are also glimpses of some of the beliefs, traditions, and everyday elements that create the Filipino culture.
THE MESSAGE: Gail D. Villanueva doesn’t shy away from tackling racism, colorism, homophobia, classism and consumerism in the book. Not only that, but she does it in . I feel like it’s important to have these conversations, especially with children in the middle grade bracket, and Villanueva does it in a plain, accessible way without sounding preachy or talking down to them. The book also shows the journey each of us has to go, no matter the age, to love and accept ourselves. I wish this book had been in the bookshelves when I was in school; it would’ve shown me so many things at that time.
THE WRITING: if you’ve read any of my other reviews, you’ve probably seen that I put a lot of emphasis on writing style in them. Writing style is what either solds or throws a story for me. If you give me a writing style that compels me to read, I will read ANYTHING. That being said, if Villanueva is writing a list of “top most boring topics in the universe”, I would still read every single sentence. There’s something addicting about her words and the way she weaves them together. The way she describes the settings had me walking through the places with the characters. This was my first time reading any of her works, but I can’t wait to see what else I can read by her.
THE HUMOR & THE CHARACTERS: I loved this book so much, mainly because it made me laugh at all the right places. Jolina’s relationship with Claudine is thorny (at best) in the beginning, but through the events of the book we get to know them better and start rooting for each one. The pets are also part of the main cast and they were (in my opinion) one of my favorite parts of the story. From Jolina and Claudine to Kidlat, I loved getting to know the characters in the story and going with them through the ups and downs of living. When I finished reading, my eyes were damp and my heart was full. it felt like traveling back in time and going on an adventure with friends.
This book was a delightful read. I can’t praise it enough. If you’re looking for a fun and heartful read, Sugar and Spite is for you. It gives us a story of friendship, forgiveness, and resilience that will warm your heart and give you the serotonin you need.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gail D. Villanueva is a Filipino author born and based in the Philippines. She’s also a web designer and an entrepreneur. She loves pineapple pizza, seafood, and chocolate, but not in a single dish together (eww). Gail and her husband live in the outskirts of Manila with their dogs, ducks, turtles, cats, and one friendly but lonesome chicken. Her debut novel My Fate According to the Butterfly (Scholastic, 2019) was named a Best Book of the Year by Kirkus Reviews, an Amazon Best Book of the Month Editor’s Pick, and a NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People. Gail’s next book, Sugar And Spite, will be published by Scholastic on April 20, 2021.