What You Wanted (2015)

This is part of my effort to read all of Ms Mina V Esguerra’s books.

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What happened between them should have been a one-time thing. This is what Andrea Crisostomo believes with regards to Damon Esquibel, the playboy she had a one-night stand with during her sister’s wedding. It doesn’t look like what they are – whatever they are – is just a fling though, because they inevitably find their way back to each other, plotting revenge on the two people who broke their hearts and made them feel like trash. The more they use each other though, the more they realize they might still get a shot at their own happy endings – just not in the way either of them expected.

Review

Narrative
This is a sequel to a short story called Wedding Night Stand so it starts off where its predecessor ended. What You Wanted starts in the thick of things, which isn’t necessarily bad, although it is still what it is – the thick of things. I personally enjoy this type of narrative though because it makes the fleshing-out of the characters’ back stories fuller. Vision is 20-20 in hindsight, right? That’s true for Andrea, and it makes her story richer, because she’s able to contemplate on her life so far and make sense of it for the reader.

The change in tone through the novella is also delicious. Though the narrative, in first-person POV, starts off being pensive, its energy eventually snowballs the deeper our two protagonists connect. Through its pace, it shows you the developments in Andrea’s life – and the interplay of these two elements is fairly nice to see.

My only beef with the narrative is that towards the end, when Andrea and Geraldine (Damon’s Ice Princess) finally have their showdown, things get so confusing that even Andrea admits that she doesn’t understand what’s happening. And if even your protagonist doesn’t understand what’s happening, where does that leave you?

Rating: 3 / 4

Characters
The characters, as always with Ms Mina’s work, are very well-planned. There are so many layers to them, so many reasons for why they are who they are that even though you don’t know anyone like them in real life, you find yourself relating with many of the things they say. Again, the characters have always been my favorite part of Ms Mina’s works (aside from her witty writing style) but even among a cast of remarkable people, Andrea stands out. I really quite love her, even though I’m sure I’d be intimidated if I ever get to meet someone like her in real life HAHA.

The downside of this book’s characters is that there are quite a few of them whom you’re supposed to be familiar with. Although this novella is a stand-alone, it’s also part of the Chic Manila series, so there are people from other books who make cameos here. For example, Julie and Anton from That Kind of Guy are Andrea’s sister and brother-in-law. Granted, there are descriptions of them in this book, but something about their presence doesn’t seem solid to me. It’s almost as if they’re shadows of their former selves – which makes sense, because this isn’t their story – but I’m picky about these things.

I really cackled though when I read about Andrea’s Apollo Ortiz marathon and the return of the kebab store from Welcome to Envy Park.

Rating: 1.5 / 2

Aesthetic / Style
Ms Mina’s writing is on-point when it comes to broadcasting live from Andrea’s head. She is sassy, she is witty, she’s smart, and she knows it. This is another reason I love Andrea – she’s in advertising, so you can imagine how she would look at a plastic clothes hanger and see a potential weapon for an impending zombie apocalypse. (This was not a good example. I repeat: This was not a good example.) She really is funny though.

But! I really hate ellipses in books, so while I understand that they’re there to stand in for the awkward pauses in real-life conversations, that really doesn’t make me like them any better.

Rating: 1 / 2

Personal Feels
My favorite scene has Andrea standing in line for the long commute home. Not even the bit after where Thad (the jerk who slept with her only to dump her less than 24-hours later) offers her a ride. Nope, I just like seeing Andrea stand in line for hours because it’s so real.

To me, romcoms stand slightly removed from the masses. After all, they exist to remove you from whatever cockroach-infested, termite-polluted hole-in-the-wall you live in. But because I like seeing the rust in things – the imperfections in our daily lives that make them uglier and more precious at the same time – I relish mundane mini-plots like Andrea’s commute situation. These little problems, these relatively masa problems, they endear her and this book to me.

Rating: 2 / 2

Total Rating: 7.5 / 10
This is not my favorite Mina V Esguerra book simply because I am Andrea’s polar opposite. She likes to go to far-flung islands without any plan whatsoever; I refuse to sleep over at a friend’s house if I’m not carrying my toothbrush. In terms of voice and character development though, I argue that this is Ms Mina’s best work yet.

This is Filipino romcom gold. It’s not your traditional romance story, which is why I love it. Yes, there’s the meet-cute that ends up with two attractive people falling in love, but it’s also about self-worth, family, the frankly hypocritical values that we Filipinos have when it comes to women having sex. What You Wanted is very against-the-grain, and in a land of Catholic schoolgirls raised on the importance of mental and physical purity, it’s extremely wicked. But deliciously, unforgettably so.

Title: What You Wanted (2015).
Author: Mina V. Esguerra.
Pages: 134.
Language: English.
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Comedy.

Thanks to C for my copy.
Photo © minavesguerra.com.

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