Another Word For Happy by Agay Llanera | Book Review + Discussion

32607764Title: Another Word for Happy

Author/s: Agay Llanera

Publication: Kindle Edition, 140 pages published October 8th 2016

Source: From the Author

Get Your Copy Here:

Amazon (Kindle)

Plot in a Nutshell (from Goodreads):

What does it take to come out of the closet? Since he was thirteen, Caleb has always known he’s gay. Now a college freshman, he falls in love for the first time. If it’s true that love conquers all, then will Caleb finally find the courage to reveal his secret?
In this tale about family, friendship and self-discovery, find out how Caleb discovers the path to the freedom he’s always longed for. Here’s a hint: it involves doing things outside his comfort zone, such as joining a spoken word group!

Thoughts in General:

Another Word for Happy by Agay Llanera is one of the few LGBTQA+ novels I’ve ever read and I’m happy to say I enjoyed myself with Caleb’s story. It is a novel about coming out and the struggles of being a homosexual in a contemporary Filipino setting. I felt that Agay Llanera tackled the topic with earnestness and class. If you are in the mood for a not so typical Filipino coming of age Young Adult novel, then you should definitely go for this!

Aesthetics

Another Word for Happy‘s cover is really spot on. Although I can only judge the cover image of the book since I only read an e-copy of it, I do believe that it encapsulates the main characteristics of the protagonist. It’s simple and straightforward.

Story

As the tagline of the novel clearly states, it is a coming out story for the protagonist but you should not dismiss it for sounding cliche. It is still a delightful novel to read. I like how the book did not focus on the romance but on the character development of our main protagonist instead. However, I will admit that the love subplot was a bit problematic for my taste, which I will discuss in detail later on.

I also like how music and poetry played a role in the novel. Caleb is piano prodigy, which is why there’s a significant amount of music talk here, but it isn’t overwhelming. The slam poetry included in the prose were written well and it didn’t feel out of place, since one of the major characters is a poet.

Lastly, the novel was written in such an accessible way that you will feel for the main protagonist’s struggles and triumphs.

Characters

Caleb, the MC, was an interesting character. Frankly, I did not like him at the beginning of the book because of how stuck up he sounded.  He eventually had a good character development arc, but to be frank I’m just not 100% enthusiastic about him still.

I love Ginny, Caleb’s best friend, because she was such a colorful character, both figuratively and literally (if you read the book you’ll know what I’m talking about). She was such a good friend to him and I just love her how bubbly she is.

For the rest of the characters, I think I might discuss them in the spoiler section so I could fully express myself, but I did like most of them, except for the romantic interest of Caleb.

I think if you are a fan of Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda you might like Another Word for Happy by Agay Llanera. This is a wonderfully Filipino take on the coming out story that you should give a chance.

Thoughts in Details (SPOILERS):

I just want to discuss a few things in this section freely without the fear of spoiling anybody. So please only read on if you have finished the novel. Ready? Let’s go!

The reason I was really annoyed with Caleb was the way he treated everyone  when he and Franco started “dating.” God, I really wanted to kick some sense into this dude because clearly, he was just a rebound for Franco and he fell for it. I know that the author might have done this intentionally to get the plot going and, also, to show some sort of a downward spiral for the main character, but Caleb really got on my nerve during this phase. He acted like a lovesick puppy and he actually allowed his so-called infatuation to get the most out of him (he even skipped classes for this dude, like wtf). Sorry I just had to get that out of my system.

As you can tell, I didn’t like Franco. I know that he was just human and he needed somebody to take his mind off of his ex (at that time) Drew, but the way he handled the situation was just infuriating.

However, weirdly enough I like how their “romance” ended because it did not go the traditional route. There wasn’t a clear closure for their relationship, which I’m still fine with that because Caleb deserved someone better.

On a different note, reading the part when Caleb finally confessed his true identity to his mother was nervewracking. Then when she actually called him a “disappointment” that just saddened me because it read so real and true. From there on I think that the story got better because it depicted a sound and rational approach in the situation.

Ginny’s aunts were so cool and so sweet (I love their cheesy wedding speeches). I also loved the fact that they talked to Caleb’s mom and recommended that book. My favorite scenes from Another Word for Happy was where Caleb performed at that gig and he thought his mom wasn’t going to be there but at the end there she was, so proud of her son. Also, that last part when they were both at the beach and Caleb’s mom remarked that the boy her son was eyeing was cute, made me smile. It was so nice to see her grow to accept her son’s identity and it was the perfect way to end the book.

Have you read Another Word for Happy? What are your own thoughts regarding the book? Feel free to discuss them by commenting below (please be mindful of spoilers).

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