I love reading books ever since I was a kid. I can still vividly remember the first book I have ever read. Robinson Crusoe. A story about a man who was shipwrecked on an island and gained the friendship of one of the locals named Friday. (Another reason why I love Fridays because he used to be my favorite character 😁). I was six then.
Since then, every Christmas, I always received books from my family. I read Heidi, Little Women and Anne of Green Gables when I was seven. I remember idolizing Jo March, because she is fearless and witty and a writer! ( I always and still wanted to be a writer 😥). I also wanted to be like Heidi because her optimism and enthusiasm made Clara better. I wanted to make people around me feel better. And lastly, to be Anne, with the ever supportive Matthew and Marilla and Gilbert Blythe (still my first ever literary crush haha). Since then, I started collecting books, devouring each page like a hungry predator. Each beautifully written sentence means a lot to me. There are words though that were too strange for me to fathom. So when I was eight, my parents gave me a dictionary and I was the happiest. I can finally look up the words I did not know and finally understand if all the words combined together make sense. That is when my love for writing began.
Fifteen years after, nothing changed. I still devour page after page. And with each page, my knowledge and understanding grows. My collection now ranges from classics to crime fiction to young adult and even nonfiction. I have never been picky with the books I read but I always wanted to read books which will show me a part of the world I have never seen. That is why trips to the bookstores are my favorite habit. I am always in the hunt for something new. And lucky as I am, I was able to find what I am seeking for. In my most recent bookstore trip, I happened to find myself in the kids’section. Nancy Drew. Hardy Boys. Sweet Valley High. Oh those beautiful memories they gave me! And there it was. A book which has never been there until now. What Things Mean. By Sophia N. Lee. Intrigued, I picked it up. And I knew then that I have to buy it.
A Scholastic Asian Book Award winner, What Things Mean is close to home. Written by a fellow Filipina, Sophia N. Lee, who like me dreamt of being anything through writing. It starts with a girl named Olive Guerrero who finds herself and makes a decision if this will define her forever. Olive is similar to me in every sense. She was described as “big-haired, brown-skinned and clumsy” as compared to her mother. I can see myself in her. Big-haired. Brown-skinned. Clumsy. And I looked like my father. And like her, I am still seeking for myself. Sophia N. Lee’s heroine makes you root for her from beginning until the end. She makes you not only support her but be one with her as she accepts herself and accepts the truth about her father. But what sets apart Olive from other heroines, is the gripping and beautiful prose Sophia N. Lee paints. Each chapter begins with a word and their definitions. From there, Olive begins a new story or a new anecdote which will lead her to the truth. Each word has a pre-defined meaning already but with Olive, it becomes different. The word becomes hers and hers alone. To quote my favorite line from the book, “Things mean different things to people. People are the ones who give meaning to things”.
Words are truly beautiful and powerful. But what makes it beautiful are the memories etched on it. A book for some may just be a book. A collection of pages with words. But a book for me is more than that. A book means haven. A book equates to happiness. A book gives me hope, that someday, maybe someday, the world will be a better place to live in.
To Sophia N. Lee, I hope you keep writing more novels. Because your work is not just a novel. It is art, an art showing a piece of you inside. And to my fellow Filipinos, I hope that like me you will also discover the power of words and put it to good use.