Book: Tangerine

"Tangerine" by Edward BloorPaul Fisher sees the world from behind glasses so thick he looks like a bug-eyed alien. But he’s not so blind that he can’t see there are some very unusual things about his family’s new home in Tangerine County, Florida. Where else does a sinkhole swallow the local school, fire burn underground for years, and lightning strike at the same time every day?

With all this chaos compounded by constant harassment from his football-star brother, adjusting to life in Tangerine isn’t easy for Paul–until he joins the soccer team at his middle school. With the help of his new teammates, Paul discovers what lies beneath the surface of his strange new hometown. And he also gain the courage to face up to some secrets his family has been keeping from him for far too long.

In Tangerine, it seems, anything is possible.

With the Cinemalaya film festival done, I thought I would take a break from writing about film and go back to what I usually write about: books. Though, sadly, I’m still not finished with Miguel Syjuco’s Ilustrado. So instead, I picked an easier book to read: Edward Bloor’s Tangerine.

You’ve probably read the book’s back cover synopsis above. If you’re the type to skip/skim over that, I’d suggest you go back and read it again. Now, what do you think this book is about? If you think this is a book on conspiracy theories, aliens and the like, you’re wrong. But I can totally see why you would think that. When I bought the book, I thought it would be fantastical, or at the very least, suspenseful. But Tangerine is neither fantastical or suspenseful. It’s a coming-of-age book.

As a genre, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what makes a story a coming-of-age one. I’ve mentioned this before when I posted my reaction for I-Libings. But when I finished reading Tangerine, I knew that this was the perfect example of a coming-of-age story.

Our main character, Paul Fisher, has always been looked over–but things change when his family moves to Tangerine County. While the circumstances are the same in all the previous towns they’ve inhabited, external forces are taking Paul out of his comfort zone–and forcing him to confront things that he would’ve otherwise hidden from.

In Tangerine, we get a strong “weak” main character in Paul. He’s they every-nerd, the one always picked on, the one made fun of–even by their own siblings. But like many people, he has that one special thing that keeps him afloat–that helps him get up in the morning and choose to continue going. In Paul’s case, it’s soccer. And with the combination of his love for the game, and the sinkhole that forces him to move schools, Paul finds himself in the company of people he would never have approached if circumstances hadn’t forced him too.

I really liked how the book handled the issue of identity. I subscribe to the idea that we don’t know who we really are until a stranger makes an assessment of who they think we are. Friends who grew up with you, family members, will always repress the little things that they think isn’t so important in your relationship. We choose to remember the good things. Until a stranger points out our faults. And true, we might not like what they have to say, but there must be a reason why they said what they did when they did.

In Tangerine, Paul sees everything. But since he never talks, for fear of retribution, he never grows. And it takes a group of kids from the “bad side” of the neighborhood to show him who he can be if he wasn’t always afraid. It takes these kids to show him that his friend may not be really be a good person. And it takes these kids for him to see that his family is badly glued together by the one belief that is doing more harm than good.

Tangerine is a book about friendship, responsibilities, and knowing when to do the right thing–and the wrong thing. It may not be a fantastical book as I expected it to be–but it sure was fantastic.

I bought my copy at Fully Booked: The Block for PhP 280.

Television: Futbolilits

"Futbolilits" head written by Aloy AdlawanBeginning Monday (July 4), GMA Network brings to Primetime TV another original family drama series about a one man’s quest to lead a group of kids from being a ragtag bunch to becoming a league of football champions called FUTBOLILITS.

This latest Telebabad offering not only captures the emotion and excitement that comes into the colorful world of football but also introduces the next generation of kid superstars who will spice up the viewing experience of the Filipinos, adults and kids alike.

Leading the cast is action star-turned-comedian-turned-celebrity dad Raymart Santiago who plays Frankie, an exceptional football player who will experience a huge blow to his career and life in general when he loses his wife and son to a natural calamity.

After the accident, Frankie lives for years as a depressive recluse, a vagrant who turns his once flourishing profession into a forgotten memory. He cuts off all contact with his peers, and all he wanted is to spend the darkest days of his life in solitary confinement.

Forsaking everything he once knew, Frankie’s wretched life turns upside down when meets a team of budding footballers who gets beaten and mocked for their lack of proper training and experience. With the prodding of the kids, Frankie restarts his career in football, this time as the coach of the underdog team known as Futbolilits.

That’s a press release from GMA-7, and I’m promoting the show here because I’m part of it.

Yes, I’m doing another shameless promotion on my blog. But more than that, I really believe in this show, and I think many would enjoy watching it. So, if you’re in the Philippines, I hope you do watch and enjoy the program.

And that’s pretty much all I’m saying about it. Well, that and the schedule. It airs weekdays, at around 5:45 in the afternoon, before the evening news begin.

Book: Africa United

"Africa United" by Steve BloomfieldAfrica United is the story of modern-day Africa told through its soccer. Traveling across thirteen countries, from Cairo to the Cape, Steve Bloomfield meets players and fans, politicians and rebel leaders, discovering the role that soccer has played in shaping the continent. He recounts how soccer has helped to stoke conflicts and end wars, bring countries together and prop up authoritarian regimes.

A lively and elegantly reported travelogue, Africa United calls attention to the amazing relationships between people and soccer, and to the state of Africa on the cusp of the biggest moment in its sporting history, the 2010 World Cup.

Not a lot of people know that I’m a football fan. Well, not exactly a fan—but I enjoy watching football. Of all the sports out there, football is the only one I can actually see myself playing. Now, if only I had better coordination.

But that’s a subject for a different kind of blog post.

When I saw Africa United, I was intrigued. Reading the back cover, I thought it would be sort of like Pacific Rims—except with football as the sport instead of basketball. And during the time I bought the book, I was still on a Pacific Rims high. (To be clear, this was after I read the book—way, way before the book-signing event last month.) So I picked Africa United up—and bought the book.

Fast forward to some months later, I started reading the book. Three weeks later, I finally finished it.

Normally, I would attribute my slow reading pace to being busy with work, and because I tend to read more slowly when it’s non-fiction. But Africa United was only ten chapters long. And it wasn’t a thick book to begin with.

I just found it really boring.

Each chapter of the book relates to one African country. And I think that’s the problem with the book. Each chapter has its own story to tell, and most of the time, it doesn’t relate to the other stories being told. For a book called Africa United, its stories don’t seem to be very united. Or, at least, it doesn’t to me.

Every time you’d start a new chapter, it feels like you’re starting a new story. And not a very well-plotted one. The author has a tendency to jump through time, detailing football or political history, depending on what he needs to explain, rather than what the viewers need to know. That might sound a little confusing, let me try again:

Whenever the author wants to get a point across, like how good a team was prior to a certain event, he would rail off a few points of historical data—and then go back to his narrative. This was, quite honestly, jarring for me as I didn’t expect that there was a going to be a trip down history lane. Whenever this happened, I had to do a number of re-reading to make sure I didn’t skip a page or miss out on a paragraph. It was definitely disconcerting.

When I started to read Africa United, what I really expected was to learn more about Africa through the sport they play—and the political climate the continent is in. I got much of the latter, but of the former, the only thing I gleaned from the book was this: Africans love football. A lot.

I know I really shouldn’t compare it to Pacific Rims. I mean, one book is about basketball, and the other football. That alone means I shouldn’t compare—but I can’t help it. I’m not a basketball fan, but I saw how author Rafe Bartholomew loved the game through his writing. Steve Bloomfield claims the same for football, but I never felt it through his writing. Reading Africa United was like reading an online news article—except it wasn’t just a few paragraphs long. And it took forever (an exaggeration, obviously) to finish.

Do I regret buying Africa United? Well, not really. Books like this make us appreciate those we liked all the more. But if I could go back in time knowing what I know now, I might have passed on this book.

But, as I always say, these are just my thoughts. Check out what other people have said about the book:
The Scotsman
The Independent
Good Reads