“Light always remains. The world turns, and the days pass, and the sun warms the places that need it.”
FOR OLIVE GUERRERO, DIFFERENT IS MORE THAN JUST A WORD.
What does it mean to be different? 14-year-old Olive is struggling to find out. Everything about her is so different from the rest of her family. She is big-haired, brown skinned, and clumsy in a family of cream-colored beauties who are all popular and Good At Sports. She closely resembles a father she has never known, and about whom her mother never speaks, and no one wants to tell her why. She turns to books and other things in her quest to find answers, and as a way to cope with her loneliness. When she learns the truth about her father, she must decide whether or not she will let the differences in her life define her forever.
A unique coming-of-age story unfolding through dictionary-style chapters, What Things Mean takes a closer look at the things that define a life, and the many ways in which we find meaning.
*Grand Prize Winner, Scholastic Asian Book Award 2014
I actually read What Things Mean before reading Catherine Torres’ Sula’s Voyage, both books written by Filipina authors and showcases Filipino culture. What things mean reminds me that I haven’t actually read many stories set in my own country, Philippines. Though I’m sure there are many out there published both locally and internationally my reading pile doesn’t have much of those titles. I’m guilty for not really checking Filipino authors and their works as much as I’m supposed to. Support our own right?
Anyway, What Things Mean introduced readers to Olive Geurero, a young girl who is trying to find her place in her family. Being different from the rest of her mother’s clan from appearance to hobbies and interest makes her feel lonely and unaccepted. She is more like her father, though she never actually met him. The more she wants to fit in, the more she wants to meet her father to understand why she is so different. But what if meeting her father is not the key in uncovering her own identity?
The writing format reminds me of David Levithan’s Lover’s Dictionary wherein the story is told in a non-linear format of dictionary-entries. In What Thing Mean, Sophia N. Lee highlight each chapters using words and their dictionary meanings, then weaved all these words to Olive’s story.
“Like life. You can’t keep it from happening. You grow up. You change,”… “It’s just like those clothes you let go of because you get too big for them. Sometimes, your life just gets too small for you, and there’s nothing else you can do, but walk away.”
Olive as the main character is interesting. Her quiet and subtle approach of uncovering things to understand more why she is so different or just to find answers to most of her questions shows a different kind of strength. She is smart and humble. Even during her early age she clearly shows an inquisitive mind and an eager spirit. Readers will surely like Olive and her quiet tale of self-discovery to find meaning.
The story being set in the Philippines with Filipino characters showcase Filipino culture and values. Like the close family ties setup of living, where Olive lives in a house with her grandmother, her aunts, and cousins. Filipino readers will surely relate to Olive’s life and experiences. The book will easily remind us how colorful and unique Filipino culture is.
All in all, What Things Means is a quick read about a girl trying to find her place and meaning in life. It’s a unique book that show a closer look to Filipino culture and values, something that every Filipino readers will easily relate to and be proud of.
* This review is based on a copy I received courtesy of the publisher, Scholastic Press Philippines in exchange for an honest opinion.