by Catherine Torres
Release date: May 2016
Published by: Scholastic
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.
I was so excited to read Sula’s Voyage because:
1. The author is a Filipino and Sula’s Voyage was a finalist in the 2014 Asian Book Award.
2. The setting of Sula’s Voyage is in the Philippines (!!) and most of the events that happened in the book are inspired by real life events that happened in the Philippines (!!).
3. Sula’s Voyage features Filipino mythology – one that I’ve never heard of before!
Needless to say, I was really hyped about Sula’s Voyage. And the fact that the book is actually a really engrossing read helped me to devour it.
Sula's Voyage revolves around our protagonist, Sula, but as the book is set in the Philippines, it also spotlights the Filipino culture. And part of our culture is our obsession with white skin, so Sula getting ridiculed by her classmates about her dark skin is not uncommon, though it doesn’t make it justifiable.
Sula's different skin coloring was given emphasis in the beginning of the book that I feared that it will be the sole focus that made Sula different compared to others. I guess I just didn’t want this to be another book about racism and I’m glad that it was just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, and that this subject became less and less relevant as the story progressed in regards to how other people see Sula physically and eventually, it paved way to the more important aspects of what ultimately makes her different from others. As well, Sula is the kind of character that grows on you. In the beginning, I was hesitant whether I’d fall in love with her or not but I did. I admired her unpredictability the most. Mira, Pedro, and Pablo are also the kinds of characters that will slowly creep up on you. I really didn’t like them at first what with how Sula portrayed them but as Sula grew and she became able to see through things, I was able to see through the three of them as well.
Sula’s Voyage also has romance but the plot doesn’t revolve around it. Sula’s love interest isn’t even around for the most part of the book, yet it doesn’t make the romance instant or forced as even though he’s absent pretty much over all, he still plays a big role in Sula’s self-discovery. His physical absence merely gives the readers time to focus on Sula’s growth as an individual.
Other things I love about this book are: Sula’s parents! They’re not the perfect parents and their family has issues of their own, but damn, are her parents savage! Also, Sula’s dreams. She tends to dream laughably weird dreams and Sula lampshading their weirdness but still getting scared by them is just so hilarious. With the kind of tone the book set in the beginning, I didn’t think it has the ability to have such ridiculously funny moments, but there they were and I am so pleased. But now that I’ve said it, still, don’t be fooled. Because Sula’s Voyage also has the power to make you weep like a little kid! As well, I can relate soooo hard with this book. Granted, the setting is the Philippines and I’ve been to some of the places the author mentioned in the book like the University of the Philippines Diliman. It’s a 15-min ride away from my place and we used to jog in the Oval and have taho or dirty ice cream. There is also the iconic Sunken Garden which is said to sink some millimetres every year.
Also, GUYS YOU SHOULD TOTALLY READ THIS WHEN YOUR STOMACH IS FULL BECAUSE THIS BOOK IS GONNA STARVE YOU WITH ALL ITS VIVID AND MOUTH-WATERING DESCRIPTION OF FILIPINO FOODS. I had to urge to take a jeepney to Antipolo to get a taste of that Antipolo suman and then fly to Puerto Galera just for the kinilaw na talaba, lechon de leche, and champorado. I’ve had lechon de leche and champorado, but I got a bit depressed because all those times my mother’s friends gave us talaba (oysters) and I didn’t take one bite because they all looked slimy and ew. Alas, this book was too good I couldn't stop reading to get myself out of bed even if I wanted to. But I did ask my mom to buy suman for breakfast the next morning so all was well. ;)
Sula’s Voyage delves deep into familial relationships, tragedy, and self-discovery. Those, combined with Catherine Torres’ beautiful writing style that flows so smoothly makes Sula’s Voyage a captivating read. And if you want to get a taste of what Filipino culture is like (because I swear this book is so spot-on in that part) then you really need to read this book.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy from Scholastic PH and Catherine Torres for free in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author
Catherine Torres (Catherine Rose Torres) is a diplomat and writer from Manila. Her work has taken her to postings in New Delhi, Singapore, and now, Berlin. When foreign affairs, as well as domestic ones, permit, Catherine travels around the world on boats made of words. Occasionally, as with these books, she even builds the boat herself.