“The sea doesn’t take anything without a reason, nor does it give anything back without a reason.”
She was born somewhere in the Sulawesi Sea, on board a balangay, an ancient wooden boat, or at least, a replica of it. Her parents had built it together with some friends, with the help of an old boatmaker from Sibutu Island, to sail around the world. It explained certain things about her, like her name, Sula, but not others, like why her skin was the colour of molasses…
Fifteen-year-old Sula has always known she is different. Even though her parents have shown her nothing but love and acceptance, she sees her dark skin as a reminder of how she doesn’t fit in with the rest of her family.
What’s worse is she also feels that her parents are hiding something from her. After getting expelled from school, Sula reluctantly goes to stay with her mother’s friends. There she unexpectedly finds herself on a journey of self-discovery — a journey that keeps drawing her to the sea. Sula must not only figure our her parents’ secret, but also just how different, and possibly magical, she really is.
Sula’s Voyage is a beautiful story of self-discovery – a young girl journey to the past to uncover her own identity.
With her dark skin, Sula always known she is different. Her parents alone with their fair skin and looks that’s nothing like her are big reminder for her. Though her parents love her very much she also feels they are hiding something from her. A secret that possibly held answers to all her questions and her real identity.
Sula’s Voyage started a contemporary novel with romance, then eventually become mysterious and almost magical as I try to guess Sula’s real identity and the “powers” she possess, and through the end Sula’s journey to self-discovery leads to a bigger and more important social issue.
Catherine Torres managed to sneak a bigger issue in the story, making this book more than just another fiction read. The revelation of Sula’s origin and identity leads to a more important journey that I as a reader only hope to be address in real life. Because things like that really exist and should be taken care of.
Sula as the main character is a very brave one. For someone who grew up being bullied for her color and peculiar interests she never let other people belittle her. She’s a fighter and a survivor. When she need to confront her parents about her identity and origin she didn’t let fear stand in her way, even the possibility of reality being too much to handle.
Sula’s parents are not only loving and caring but also very supportive to Sula. When Sula left school because of some circumstances they didn’t force her to go back instead they support her and her plans.
The other characters are also well written. James, Pablo, Mira and others add more intrigue and color to the story. Making Sula’s Voyage not only a story of self-discovery but also a story of love, friendship, life, and social awareness.
Other than the characters, two things also stand out – the sea and the foods mentioned in the book. Catherine Torres easily make the sea and its creatures essential part of the story and not just as a setting or background for Sula’s tale. The way Catherine Torres describes the beach and resort in Puerto Gallera makes me want to visit the place someday, even I am not sure if the resort actually exist in real life. I am not familiar with whale sounds or Marine Science but I actually poke around online after reading the book. And the foods mentioned in the book makes me want to go out and do food tripping even it’s actually in the middle of the night.
Reading Sula’s Voyage actually makes me miss the sea in-spite of my consecutive weekends getaway. I’ve been visiting beaches this past few weeks, going to the North side of Luzon trying to get some fresh air and a little piece of serenity as well as doing some surfing adventure when the waves are good enough for beginner like me. And in-spite of all those getaways I really want to hit the beach again because of this book. I want to do a reread near the beach area with the sound of waves as the background music.
All in all, Sula’s Voyage is an intriguing tale of a girl’s journey to self-discovery. It’s compelling, inspiring, and beautifully told. A must read for young adult readers who wants a taste of Filipino culture or just something different in the sea of young adult contemporary fiction.
* This review is based on a copy I received courtesy of the publisher, Scholastic Press Philippines in exchange for an honest opinion.