Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — More often than not, young adult (YA) fiction tends to be overlooked or scoffed at by readers who are under the impression that it doesn’t count as “serious literature.” It’s for kids, they would say, or it’s all about vampires and melodramatic dead boyfriends and tired dystopian formulas. But over the years, YA novels have won over readers of all ages, thanks to their diversity as well as their sensitive and introspective coverage of tough, relevant topics.
Stories about young people are universal, after all. Who knew?
YA may be about young adults, but they’re not necessarily only for them. Adults have a lot to learn from YA, too. They can be tools for connecting with and understanding younger people in our lives, or just reconciling with our less knowledgeable and less experienced past selves. (And sometimes, whether we admit it or not, we just want to curl up with something fluffy and light.)
Still, it’s a different feeling altogether when the book you’re reading is much closer to home. It resonates all the more when the experiences of the characters on the pages mirror our own experiences — in our own families, our own culture, our own villages, cities, universities, even our favorite places to pass the time. Which is why it’s such a treat to discover that the Philippines has no shortage of YA. From upbringings to uprisings, these are our dreams, our relationships, our coming-of-age, our identities.
Here are eight YA books from local authors that need to get on your reading list ASAP.
“Una & Miguel” by Lilledeshan Bose
When Miguel almost runs Una over with his Vespa, it’s practically a disaster waiting to happen. That is, until they bond over the Rolling Stones. But Miguel plays basketball and runs with the in-crowd, while Una’s eclectic tastes and “weird” friends have made her an outcast. Their mutual crushes would never work out. Following a major misunderstanding and ill-timed prank, the now-adversarial duo find themselves working together for the summer. And it’s here, away from judging eyes and (cliche as it may be) peer pressure, that they come to understand that they’re not so different after all.
“Una & Miguel” is available at National Book Store and Adarna House.
“Playing It Safe” by G.T. Los Baños
Anything can happen in an intense game of softball. And for varsity wrestler Jon, it’s a bad swing that ends up sending the ball flying at swimmer Sheila’s forehead. Jon is mortified — but more than that, he’s smitten. Whether he’s pursuing his sports dreams, an unlikely friendship with Sheila, or what may even become a courtship or first love, Jon comes to appreciate the importance of taking a risk and putting in the effort. A wonderfully familiar look into life on a university campus serves as a backdrop, recalling days of dirtied jeans at trusty hangout spots, photocopied readings, and all those faces in the halls.
“Playing It Safe” is available at National Book Store.
“Every Girl’s Guide” series by Marla Miniano
Following a breakup, Anna seeks comfort and solace in embittered sarcasm, revenge scenarios, and her also-newly-single neighbor. No-nonsense Chrissy, whose life is so uncomplicated that she runs an advice column, suddenly lands smack-dab in the middle of a love triangle. And Rickie, who’s used to living a carefree existence of partying and fleeting flings, might finally be falling in love — with Anna’s ex, of all people. In this interconnected trilogy, author Marla Miniano offers laughs, swooning, and sage advice on how to handle all sorts of relationships, whether it’s romance, friendship, family, or even the self.
All three books in the “Every Girl’s Guide” series are available on Buqo.
“Woman in a Frame” by Raissa Rivera Falgui
In the year 2000, aspiring artist Ning (short for Sining) is attending a summer art program when she comes across a painting of a woman, which affects her so much that she embarks on a search for the artist to uncover its story. Her narrative is interspersed with that of Marcela, also an artist, who in 1896 is working on a portrait of the town darling, Raquel, with whom she becomes fast friends. When Marcela falls in love with Raquel’s betrothed, Julio, she is faced with difficult choices, struggles against social differences and societal expectations, and finds her place in the coming revolution.
“Woman in a Frame” is available at National Book Store and Adarna House.
“Another Word for Happy” by Agay Llanera
College freshman Caleb has known that he’s gay since he entered his teens. Now that he’s out of high school, he thinks he could be falling in love for the first time, and he’s working up the courage to come out and release the breath he’s been holding. It’s not always so simple, of course, but he decides that the path to freedom, acceptance, and being who you really are (not to mention figuring who that even is) means taking chances and thinking out of the box. So he joins a spoken word group — and the rest just might be history.
“Another Word for Happy” is available on Kindle.
“Don’t Tell My Mother” by Brigitte Bautista
At 19 years old, Sam is used to being coddled and overprotected by her strict mother, what with her family’s safe suburban existence in a devout Christian household. It doesn’t occur to her to think any differently until she meets her enigmatic neighbor Clara, who happens to be a widow. They strike up an odd but somewhat endearing friendship, but when it begins to show potential for something more, Sam is left to reconsider her religious upbringing, who she is, and how these two factor into one another.
“Don’t Tell My Mother” is available at National Book Store, Anvil Publishing, and on Kindle.
“Prom Queen Perfect” by Clarisse David
Classic teen movie tropes and archetypes are made fresh and fun again with an extra helping of banter in this novel, which puts a go-getting, initially “unlikeable” queen bee at its center. Alex is practically a shoo-in for prom queen, and she’ll do whatever it takes to get the crown. The last thing she needs is her (admittedly infuriatingly attractive) classmate Adam calling her “selfish.” To prove him wrong, she takes the class misfit under her wing and gives her a full-blown makeover — but it might just cost Alex her best friend, her coveted title, and her chance at getting the guy.
“Prom Queen Perfect” is available on Kindle.
“Friend Zones: An Anthology of Stories for Young Adults” edited by Cyan Abad-Jugo
Don’t let the title fool you. With genres ranging from romance and horror, to science fiction and fantasy, to mythology and history, “Friend Zones” has gathered such celebrated authors as Chinggay Labrador, Ines Bautista-Yao, Emil M. Flores, Dean Francis Alfar, and Ian Rosales Casocot for 14 short stories about the many definitions and nuances of friendship and loyalty, extending to our closest companions, family members, pets, strangers, and perhaps the rarest of soulmates.
“Friend Zones” is available at National Book Store and the Ateneo de Manila University Press.