Publisher: ScholasticRelease Date (Philippines): August 6th, 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Contemporary
Fifteen-year-old Sula has always known she is different. Even though her parents have shown her nothing but love and acceptance, she sees her dark skin as a reminder of how she doesn’t fit in with the rest of her family.
What’s worse is she also feels that her parents are hiding something from her. After getting expelled from school, Sula reluctantly goes to stay with her mother’s friends. There she unexpectedly finds herself on a journey of self-discovery — a journey that keeps drawing her to the sea. Sula must not only figure our her parents’ secret, but also just how different, and possibly magical, she really is.
The sea doesn’t give anything back without a reason.
First of all, I would like to thank Catherine Torres for sending me a book in exchange for an honest review. The cover looks gorgeous, and the story compelling.
Sula’s Voyage is as the title suggests—a voyage. For the last fifteen years, Sula has wondered why she was so different from her parents. While her parents and grandparents were fair skinned, Sula had skin the color of molasses. When her father flies to the Caribbean in an opportunity to further his career, Sula and her mother head to Puerto Galera to visit her mom’s best friend. There, she finds more about herself and about a special skill most people do not have.
There are elements of fantasy, mystery, and romance perfectly balanced to keep the book a definite page-turner. I was afraid that if I blinked, I would miss something. There are two boys in the picture—James, the sweet college student who adores Sula; and Pablo, the childhood friend who seems to hate her. Sula’s relationships and interactions with the two are quite contrasting.
While James is open in how he felt for Sula, Pablo’s the opposite. He teased her when they were kids, and when they were older, he’s almost hostile. The romance between James and Sula had an abrupt end when James left for Gensan and Sula and her mom for Puerto Galera. Pablo and Sula’s relationship did not bud the way it did with James, but there seems to be a connection despite the appearance of dislike. Pablo also seemed to know something about Sula.
Family is a huge element in the story. There are three different families featured in the story. First is Sula’s family. Most of the time, her parents are quite open with her, and their relationship is almost like that of friends. The support her decisions, and love her wholeheartedly. Sula’s relationship with her father is especially amusing. I don’t know if it’s just me, but dads are usually more protective than mothers when it comes to the opposite sex. I could understand why Sula’s mother was more anxious than her dad though.
The second family is Sula’s mom’s best friend, Tita Lupe, Tito Guido, and their kids—Mira, Pablo and Pedro, twins. Lupe and Guido have a different approach in taking care of their children, treating their children—the twins, especially—like social experiments. Like all experiments, it could either succeed or fail. Despite that, there is a genuine affection between the family although stinted compared to Sula’s family.
The last is James’s. Coming from a rich family, James’s father expects him to succeed in the family business. James is against it, and instead joins a non-government organization that aims to help restore and protect aquatic resources and such, resulting in James’s disownment.
When I first read the blurb, I assumed the story involved mermaids and magical sea creatures. Now that I’ve read it, it made perfect sense that the story was more on the divine and enchanted in the Philippines’ superstitious beliefs. Filipinos believe in faith healers, enchanted creatures—both in land and sea. That’s all I’m going to say about that.
The truth about Sula was expected, but the journey into discovering it was still surprising. I had a lot of questions throughout reading this, and it was great to have them answered as we went along the way. Still, it would be amazing to read more about everyone in this story. Pablo and James, especially.
Sula’s Voyage made me so happy. It’s the first time I’ve ever read an English young adult novel set in the Philippines. As a child, I grew up reading stories about heroes and heroines living in more known and more popular countries. Don’t get me wrong; I loved them. I just wished there was a protagonist like me when I was a kid. It’s heartwarming to know there finally is.
The story featured the beauty of the country and the rich culture we obviously have. I love how the Philippine custom and traditions were shown in the book—things like kissing the elders’ hand and taking off the shoes before entering the house, close family ties, the food, the influence of the spiritual or divine forces of nature.
On August 6th, 2016 at 2:00pm, National Book Store Glorietta 1 will be launching Sula’s Voyage by Catherine Torres along with What Things Mean by Sophia N. Lee. For more information, click here.