I first learned of Miss Agay Llanera after reading her story Vintage Love. After that, I've always been keeping my eyes open for more works from her and just a few months back, I managed to win a copy of her latest YA - Choco Chip Hips (see my review HERE!) Like the first work of hers that I've read, I greatly enjoyed Jessie and Dave's story :)
That is why, when the author herself had given an opportunity to read and review her latest work - This Side of Sunny, I did not hesitate to help out especially since I'm trying my best to support Filipino indie authors :) Want to help out too? Click on the banner below to find out more!
*Thanks to the author for providing a review copy! Receiving one did not affect my views on the book.
"Like her boyfriend back in the States, 18-year-old Mela Connor is spending Spring Break by the beach. But the difference is she's spending it on an exotic island in the Philippines, where she'll spend the next six days finding her estranged mother, of whom she has no memory. In the process, Mela meets her self-appointed tour guide, Paolo, who helps Mela make amends with her past while struggling not to fall in love with her."
I will admit that I was a bit misled by the title at first. I honestly thought that the lead character would be named Sunny lol. Anyway, with that said, I would like to point out how adorable the cover is! Just look at it! This beauty really captures the vibes of the book.
Moving on, I can say that the characters interested me. Mela isn't the usual sweet and shy female leads that I usually encounter. If there's a word I could describe her, it would be brave. Hopping into a plane towards a place you've never been to is brave enough. But doing so using your college funds and without an actual plan on who you'll look for is braver. Still, despite occasionally putting her walls up around herself, Mela eventually reveals a soft side of her which I loved as much as her Ice-Princess facade.
Aside from Mela, another character that I've enjoyed reading about is the LI in the story - Paolo. At first, he is projected as the cliche "playboy" who spends his vacation from woman to woman; fling to fling. What made him different, however, is the fact that there is something more to him that what meets the eye. Despite his actions, one can say that he has a good heart once that he realizes his mistakes.
Plot-wise, I wouldn't say that the story is simple. It touched several aspects of life and presented several conflicts that the main characters have to face - from family conflicts, school, romance, betrayal, and forgiveness among many others. Although I may not agree with some actions that the characters have done, I do not condemn them for it either. The important thing for me is that they have managed to redeem themselves and discover what the important things are. Lastly, the story proved itself to be layers upon layers of mysteries to be solved. There are several times when a piece of information was revealed and you'll just have to give props to Miss Agay for thinking of it ;) An example would be the reason why Mela reacted the way she did when she saw the ride that Paolo had brought.
I don't really have problems with insta-love stories but for those who do, I can say that you wouldn't really feel it in This Side of Sunny. Despite Mela's stay being too short, her relationship with Paolo didn't feel instantaneous because Miss Agay managed to flesh out the story well enough for it to feel like it was slowly unfolding :) (spoiler) I do wonder though, that if Sean didn't do what he did, would he and Mela have broken up because of Paolo? I wonder what would've happened then. (end of spoiler)
If I have some comments, it would just be some minor technicalities like the repetition of a chapter number (there were 2 chapter 17s in my copy which confused me a bit haha!) Aside from that, I also would've loved if (spoiler) there was some kind of closure between Mela and Sean. I loved Sean's character as seen through Mela's eyes. He seemed like a really nice guy if not for what happened by the end. Even so, he was man enough to tell Mela about his fault even when he could've just hidden it from her in the first place. Also, he seemed genuinely regretful of it although it wouldn't really change the fact that he did what he did. (end of spoiler)
"I may not be able to give you a list of reasons why I fell in love with you, but what I do know is that with you, I want to believe that love is real. That I want to try believing it...even if I get hurt in the end." -Paolo
"You can do anything you want - smile at me, kiss me, hurt me again (...) But please don't tell me to leave you now." -Paolo
"But of course, we can never really run away from something, can we?" -Mela
Despite This Side of Sunny being my third consecutive summer-themed read (in very non-summery months), it didn't felt like the two previous that I've read. In fact, Miss Agay's work makes me wish that there really is a Gumamela Island somewhere out there (and a Paolo within it too haha!)
Also, I do not know if I'm just slow or if (spoiler) Mela's real name - Gumamela (end of spoiler) was supposed to be obvious from the beginning. Until it was revealed, I wasn't really expecting that haha!
Five out of five rating for Agay Llanera's This Side of Sunny!
|5/5 Rating! :)|
Agay Llanera is a freelance writer for television and video, and a published writer of children's books. She is the author of NA Romance books Vintage Love, Once upon a Player and This Side of Sunny, and the YA book, Choco Chip Hips.