What Things Mean
Author: Sophia N. Lee
Published: May 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
FOR OLIVE GUERRERO, DIFFERENT IS MORE THAN JUST A WORD.
What does it mean to be different? 14-year-old Olive is struggling to find out. Everything about her is so different from the rest of her family. She is big-haired, brown skinned, and clumsy in a family of cream-colored beauties who are all popular and Good At Sports. She closely resembles a father she has never known, and about whom her mother never speaks, and no one wants to tell her why. She turns to books and other things in her quest to find answers, and as a way to cope with her loneliness. When she learns the truth about her father, she must decide whether or not she will let the differences in her life define her forever.
A unique coming-of-age story unfolding through dictionary-style chapters, What Things Mean takes a closer look at the things that define a life, and the many ways in which we find meaning.
*Grand Prize Winner, Scholastic Asian Book Award 2014
“I know now that things are always more than what they mean. Things mean different things to people. People are the ones who give meaning to things.”
For most us, searching for the meaning of a particular word in the dictionary is as easy as looking for a certain thing that is missing in our room. For our 14 year-old heroine Olive Guerrero, however, it’s not about that. Every time she runs into a particular word or thing, she contemplates its meaning on the deeper side and not just on its literal definition.
Olive grew up in a Filipino community, embracing its beautiful tradition and way of living. All throughout her childhood, she didn’t have any knowledge who her father is because every time she asks her mom about him, her mom would just dodge her question and wouldn’t talk about him. At home and in her school, she’s also aware that she’s quite different especially when it comes to her physicality. She often even wonders why she doesn’t share the same traits with her cousins. These things lead to a lot of questions in her mind and bring us to her beautiful perspective.
Reading this book felt like living in a teenager’s foot again. It was simply refreshing. I was once an Olive Guerrero. In my younger years I was so curious about a lot of things. But of course, Olive is a lot more enthusiastic than I am because she focuses on the certain things’ relevance to her life. On what they do to her and what they make her feel. She’s an old soul living in a 14 year-old body and for that, she has my admiration.
What Things Mean was simply a sensible book and I think every teenagers need to read this. It teaches life lessons and more importantly, it tackles the importance of family relationships and ties. I loved that the concept also focuses on the traditional Filipino values which for me is quite comforting.
“Don’t be afraid to fall down. Most of the big things in life are on the other side of hurt.”
I especially loved how Olive learned a lot of things from her relatives. I think she’s lucky more than she’ll ever know because despite the absence of her father, she has a supportive mom, uncle, and grandmother and her relationship with her cousins is great, so it’s not so bad at all. As a whole, I did enjoy this book. It was a quick read with relatable characters. The setting, which is my homeland, also makes me feel proud of this book. I can also say that the author, who is a Fellow Filipina, writes incredibly. Her words are so smooth and so easy to get into. I highly recommend this book to all the youngsters who are looking for a wholesome read!
(Thank you to the author Sophia N. Lee and Scholastic for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!)
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