Thursday, April 15, 2021

Sugar and Spite

Villanueva, Gail D. Sugar and Spite
April 20th 2021 by Scholastic Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Jolina and her family have moved from Manila to the small island of Isla Pag-Ibig. After the death of her Lola Toyang and a stroke suffered  by Lolo Sebyo, her father has taken over the family Bagayan Food Haus, and her mother is a receptionist trainee at a fancy resort in the area. This resort is run by the mother of a girl in Jolina's Bible study class, Claudine. Claudine is very snooty and mean, and Jolina would rather avoid her. When she can't, she decides to try to concoct a potion like her Lolo does. He's a faith healer, and has a vast library and workshop full of spells and supplies. She attempts a love potion that results in yema balls, a type of candy made out of egg yolks and condensed milk. These actually work, and Claudine suddenly wants to be her friend. Soon, Jolina, as well as her Jack Russell terrier, Kidlat, are hanging out at Claudine's fancy house, and being asked to her birthday party, where there is a buffett, magician, and petting zoo! As she begins to enjoy Claudine's company, Jolina feels bad about the spell and asks her grandfather about it. When a typhoon hits the area and everyone must evacuate, Jolina and Claudine have a falling out that has disastrous consequences. Will the two remain friends when the magic no longer holds?
Strengths: I loved the details about life on Jolina's island! The sari sari store, the difference in what outdoors is like, and the array of foods I've only read about were all great details. Add to this her difficulties with mean girl Claudine, and sprinkle with a little possible magic, and this was a great combination. Even the cover is appealing, and having a cute cat and dog in the plot doesn't hurt. I especially loved the details about school, and how Jolina has to share a desk with two other students! I would love to see a lot more books written by people who are living in other countries. 
Weaknesses: Okay, I know it illustrates the Filipino concept of sagip, but I thought the death was unnecessary. It's redeemed a bit, but wasn't my favorite part of the book. 
What I really think: I liked this a lot more than this author's My Fate According to the Butterfly which was a much sadder book. This showed some of the struggles of living in the Philippines while incorporating friend drama and a good dollop of magic, making this a good choice for readers of Meriano's Love, Sugar, Magic or Harrison's  A Pinch of Magic. I have several students with Filipino backgrounds, and I'm glad to have something happier than Cruz's Everlasting Nora or Erin Entrada Kelly's work to hand them when they want "mirror" books. 

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