Book: This is Where the World Ends

"This is Where the World Ends"

Janie and Micah, Micah and Janie. That’s how it’s been since they were children, when Janie Vivian moved next door. Janie says Micah is everything she is not. Where Micah is shy, Janie is outgoing. Where Micah loves music, Janie loves art. It’s the perfect friendship–as long as no one finds out about it.

Is it racist if I say that I expected this book to be about race? No, not because of the author’s lineage. I read the synopsis and thought: “oh, okay. People frown upon their friendship because they’re not the same race.” Or, at the very least, because of wide difference in their social stature. Is one of them poor who only got into a private school because of a scholarship?

It’s neither of those things. The only reason no one can find out about Janie and Micah being friends is because Janie wanted that to be the case. Seriously. It’s…disappointing.

This is Where the World Ends has a nice hook, with two points of view spiraling from a catalyst, an event so big that it ends the world as they know it. Janie’s point of view shows us what their world is like before the “big event,” while Micah takes us through the aftermath. Which is a great idea, because it gives the novel and extra layer of suspense. But if you take out the gimmick, This is Where the World Ends reads like a half-baked John Green novel. One he wrote before The Fault in Our Stars.

Janie is a manic pixie dream girl. She’s the dream girl of the unpopular boy who has issues. She’s not a sympathetic character until she is changed by an event. Not the big event, no. Not yet, at least. But she is changed. And you see the potential in exploring this change. But author Zhang doesn’t explore that. Janie becomes more reserved, which is understandable. What I don’t understand is why Zhang doesn’t allow us in either.

Janie’s smaller event is more heart-breaking, more life-changing, and more powerful. The “big event” is an afterthought, a way to mark the beginning and the end. It doesn’t have the power to destroy a life. Not like Janie’s more personal and more intimate tragedy.

Because Janie gets raped. And it doesn’t get discussed. Not to the other characters, until one of them admits to feeling guilty. Not to the readers, until Micah needed to reach a breakthrough. And not to the protagonists. And, putting the book down, I thought–what was the point of writing a novel that doesn’t do anything but just put to paper something that can happen… Something that happens.

I know of people who do not like Thirteen Reasons Why because of its subject matter and its handling, and I get their point. But juxtaposed with This is Where the World Ends, I feel like Thirteen Reasons Why tackles the subject of rape and suicide better. Not because we get to confront the crime, or how the victim processes the event, but because it doesn’t pretend to know more. Thirteen Reasons Why had us following the perspective of someone who had no idea, and who blamed himself for not doing more.

Micah, in This is Where the World Ends, blocks from his memory every bad thing he doesn’t like. And he only uncorks when there is need to finish the story. When the book calls for catharsis. And by then, it feels like a cheat. It feels like the book only put the rape in so that the book would have a statement, and not be just another outcast and manic pixie dream girl young adult romance.

And that is not okay.

This is Where the World Ends could have been something more. Amy Zhang is an amazing writer. So amazing that she was able to make me continue reading, even when my brain keeps telling me that it does not like where the story is going. I loved her imagery, and her use of fairy tales. The gimmick of the before-and-after accounts, as I already mentioned, is a nice hook. And all of these are also the reasons why it’s so disappointing for me that the book dropped the ball on what counts the most: the treatment of its chosen subject.

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Book: Mr. Kiss and Tell

"Mr. Kiss and Tell"

The Neptune Grand has always been the seaside town’s ritziest hotel, despite the shady dealings and high-profile scandals that follow its elite guests. When a woman claims that she was brutally assaulted in one of its rooms, then smuggled out and left for dead by a staff member, the owners know that they have a potential powder keg on their hands. They turn to Veronica to disprove the woman’s story.

But the case is a convoluted mess. The accused employee is no longer in the country; the security footage shows the woman entering the hotel, but there is no evidence that she ever left; and the victim is someone from Veronica’s past who has no good reason to trust her. As Veronica works to fill in the missing pieces, the one thing that becomes clear is that a dangerous predator is still on the loose…and that he’s one step away from striking again.

Previously on Veronica Mars…

In our titular detective’s debut in print form, authors Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham re-established the world of Neptune, California. As Veronica took on a case very close to her heart–while also padding her wallet–she also took us on a tour of what her town looks like now: a little more grown-up and a little more corrupt, while continuing to feel like the same town we left more than ten years ago. We saw them set up how the father-daughter relationship between Veronica and Keith had matured, and we saw how Veronica is with friends Wallace and Mac. It felt like a reintroduction to the Veronica Mars world.

And now, we’re getting the second episode.

If The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line felt very much like an episode of Veronica Mars, Mr. Kiss and Tell feels even more so. In fact, it feels more Veronica Mars than the entirety of the television series’s third season. This time, we get an even more closer look at what Veronica’s life is now that she’s returned to Neptune. We see familiar names crop up: Weevil, Duncan, and even the Sinclairs; and we see Keith working with Cliff McCormack again to right the wrongs of the corrupt justice system that Don Lamb (who also gets a name check) started way back when he told Veronica to go see the Wizard.

Oh, and Logan also exists in this book.

But let’s begin with the things I loved about Mr. Kiss and Tell.

If the debut novel gave us twists and turns and red herrings galore, the second book presents a pretty clean-cut mystery. And while the mystery serves as the a-plot of the novel, the b-plot is the one that really pushes the novel to great heights. Now that authors Thomas and Graham have re-established the world, I feel like they’re pushing for Neptune to grow even further than what the television series (and the movie) allowed before. And while I grew not to be an advocate of this when Buffy went to the comics world, I can’t help but feel reassured with what Veronica Mars is doing. Mostly because Thomas and Graham are showing us the journey to a new Neptune. Mr. Kiss and Tell is the episode that bridges the pilot that sold viewers into trying a new series, and the rest of the series that populates and makes rich a whole new world.

We’re getting a whole new Neptune in print form! And the authors are using established characters to push that change!

Keith, Cliff, and Weevil take center stage in the b-plot that will create new dynamics in (hopefully) future novels. And this is the backdrop to the a-plot that takes Veronica back to who she was before she left for Stanford, to a past plot that wasn’t completely resolved in the series and creates wonderful tension in this novel.

And, unfortunately, it also underlines why I’m not a fan of Logan continuing to be part of the series.

Yes, I did say that I don’t mind the Logan-Veronica relationship. But I may have said that too soon. Mostly because the Logan in the Veronica Mars movie was dealt in small doses. We barely had any Logan in the first novel. Now that he’s present for most of the book, I feel like Thomas and Graham are scrambling to clean up a character that wasn’t a moral fit to Veronica.

Here’s the thing with actor chemistry. It messes up stories. Kristen Bell is wicked good, and Jason Dohring sparkles when he’s in scenes with her. I understand why the writers would want the two to keep interacting, and from there, it felt like natural progression for their characters to fall in love. But novels do not have the luxury of having actors sell their characters. In print form, Logan would’ve been just a jackass rich-douche who doesn’t deserve Veronica. But fans want them together. And the film promised them to be end game. And now we’re seeing a ret-con of the character. Well, what feels like a ret-con. I must commend Thomas and Graham for actually trying to explain the changes in Logan. But at the end of the day he doesn’t feel like Logan. He feels like a new character. A new character that, based on the callbacks to the past in the a-plot, Veronica Mars doesn’t really need.

Yes, you read me right. Veronica Mars doesn’t need a love interest.

What Veronica Mars needs though? Is more growth. In more future releases, whether in print or film form.

Television: A woman goes to great lengths to protect her daughter in ‘Magpakailanman’

"Magpakailanman: Child Rape Video Scandal"

Tonight on Magpakailanman, a mother’s worst fear is realized when a nightmare scenario from her childhood happens again–to her own child.

When “Jessa Aquino,” not her real name, married her husband, she thought she was leaving a nightmare life behind. About to be a single mother, “Jessa” was just trying to get by in life–when love found her and married her. But what she thought was a fairy-tale ending proved to be a red herring as a bigger nightmare awaited her in marriage.

“Jessa” became the breadwinner of the family, leaving her husband to essentially become the housewife. What she didn’t know was that while she is away, her husband has a nasty addiction to porn–leading him to act on his lust with “Jessa’s” eldest daughter!

Confronted by the truth, “Jessa” is shell-shocked. How can something that happened to her as a child happen again? And how could she have been so wrong about her husband who she thought was going to be her family’s savior?

What will “Jessa” do for her family? For her daughter?

Find out tonight’s episode of Magpakailanman featuring Angelu de Leon, Neil Ryan Sese, and Kyle Ocampo. “Child Rape Video Scandal” is directed by Laurice Guillen, with the script by Senedy Que, based on the research of Karen Lustica.

Press Release: Girl, sexually abused at 14, tells her story in “Magpakailanman”

"Magpakailanman"

Tonight’s episode of Magpakailanman is a very affecting feature–especially for parents, and those who have sisters.

Here’s GMA-7’s press release;

Michelle, now 42 years old, may not be the perfect daughter a parent could have but she certainly did not deserve the tragedy she found herself in when she was yet a child: she was sexually abused when she was only fourteen years old while at a party in Baguio City.

Michelle was adopted at birth by a rich couple. Her biological mother used to be a house help working in the couple’s mansion.  Since her mother knew she could not provide her daughter with a comfortable life, she decided to put her baby up for adoption. Michelle had known early on that she was an adopted child.

Even if Michelle is not their biological daughter, her adoptive parents treated her as if she were their own.  They enrolled her in exclusive schools and even in dance and music classes during summer breaks.

Unknown to Michelle’s adoptive parents, the girl has been mistreated by their housemaids, who made up stories about her and accused her of stealing her parents’ money. Consequently, she was frequently — albeit, unfairly — scolded by her parents.  They would learn later that the accusations were untrue and that the maids themselves were the culprits.

But the realization of Michelle’s parents’ came too late.  The much-needed affection and sense of belonging, which she didn’t find at home, she found in the company of her peers.  Unfortunately for Michelle, she joined the wrong set of friends as they were a bunch of drug addicts.

Not long thereafter, Michelle found herself addicted to marijuana and later on, to shabu.  She carried her vice even after she gave birth to her first son.  Eventually, Michelle’s addiction to drugs became worse.  She became a drug pusher, supplying illegal drugs to her high-profile clients, some of whom were celebrities.

Michelle continued her topsy-turvy life even as she was expecting her second child.  When she turned 28, she came to a realization that will forever change her life.

She realized that drugs has not only ripped her life apart, it is also taking a toil on her family and her relationship with her children.  She figured, she must do something to change her dire situation.  She turned herself up to her parents and volunteered for drug rehabilitation.

Today, Michelle has not only moved on from her drug addiction, she is also helping drug addicts who wish to be rehabilitated and regain the normalcy in their lives.  Michelle has since put up a drug rehabilitation foundation.  She studied in Harvard University in the United States and in another university in Canada so she could become an expert in the field of drug rehabilitation.

Watch Michelle’s life story in this Saturday’s episode of Magpakailanman dubbed “Pakawalang Anghel” starring Kapuso teen star Joyce Ching and versatile actress Ehra Madrigal as the teenage and adult Michelle, respectively.

Hosted by multi-awarded broadcast journalist Mel Tiangco, Magpakailanman airs Saturday nights after Kap’s Amazing Stories on GMA-7.

And remember when I said I wanted to do more video elements for my blog? Well, here’s the first one for 2013: