This book was discussed widely before its initial release. It tackles such serious issues in a manner befitting a YA book, that it cinches its place as something unique and worth reading.
This is the story of Jay and his sudden discovery that his cousin back in the Philippines died under mysterious circumstances. He had met this cousin only once in person when he was ten (the only time he had visited the country since moving to the US at the age of one) but Jun had a way about him, Jun had started and kept up a series of letters trying and succeeding to connect with someone oceans away but at the same time who share a bond. This jolts the complacency out of Jay who suddenly realises that there are a lot of things about his father’s country that he has no idea about, and the death nags at him as does his aimless life. This leads to an impromptu two week ‘vacation’ to visit his father’s family.
Following the event of his cousin’s death, Jay starts to research into the ongoing issues in the Philippines and this brings all the same facts to the reader’s attention. It encompasses both history and current events which served as a learning exercise to me as well! It is heartbreaking to walk through the lives of people who are struggling for help and Jay gets to see all sides of the varied lives through his uncles and aunt. The tale tries to approach a lot of ills and put it in one tale, and for the most part, succeeds. There are unfortunately too many things to cover and a few of them felt abruptly fit in to get the point in there. This in no way diminishes the value of the book and I think it will play an important role in raising more questions in all people (young and old) and make everyone curious about how everyone else lives. In this digital world when every kid a certain age lives and breathes the same Peppa pig (for example) regardless of the country they live in, or the language they speak at home, it is easy to assume everything else stays the same as well. Cultural variations do exist and hopefully will continue to do so just to ensure variety. It was fascinating to get to know a whole new culture that I had never read about before and see the subtle similarities even in the current generations with my own. I only mention the abruptness and the eagerness to get a lot in only because it kept this from being a five-star read for me. I would highly recommend everyone give this book a shot.
I received an ARC thanks to NetGalley but the review is completely based on my own reading experience.