I first heard of Mina V. Esguerra on Chachic’s blog when she reviewed Fairy Tale Fail. This is a Filipino author who writes chick lit set in Manila. I always love a book NOT set in the usual places, and filed it away for future reference. At 99 cents each, I didn’t think I could go wrong with either Fairy Tale Fail or Love Your Frenemies, the two options I found at the Barnes & Noble ebookstore. Of course, I went with the one with “Fairy Tale” in the title first. Since these are each about 200 pages, I thought I would review both of them in the same post.
The Premise: Ellie Manuel is a young twenty-something working girl and free spirit. She enjoys her job in Marketing, but work is not the end-all and be-all of her life. Travel is her real passion, and can spend hours constructing her next vacation. From what to eat to where to stay, the options are limitless. Ellie is a dreamer for sure, and she is convinced that life is like a fairytale. There are only seven types of stories, but in Ellie’s life, she is the Hero, and eventually, she will get her happily ever after. That is why, when her boyfriend Don dumps her because they aren’t “in sync”, Ellie is sure it’s all just a part of her Hero’s Journey. Don will come back if she stays true. Then months pass, and Ellie isn’t so sure. She gets promoted, makes friends with the cute guy of the office, and begins to feel happy, without Don. Wasn’t Don her True Love? Or was she mistaken?
My Thoughts: It was very interesting to read about life in the corporate world that’s so different from mine. Not only do I know nothing about Marketing or Client Services, but the corporate culture in Ellie’s life sounds so different. Just the fact that there were a lot of young people in Ellie’s office blew me away (there is a serious dearth of people my age where I work), but that there is a social life among them? I’m jealous. I loved the concept of the barkadas – circles of friends and how they tied into the story. How social the work culture seems! I also enjoyed the glimpses of life in Manila like the food and the torrential rain that are a part of life there. Peppered throughout the story are Filipino words that I usually could guess the meanings of within the context. I wish there was a glossary, but I didn’t *need* it.
Ellie and Don belonged to the same barkada at work before they started dating. When Don breaks up with Ellie, it’s very painful for her, and it’s made more so because Don is still within her circle of friends, and he was there first. With Ellie’s feelings on her sleeve, things are very awkward with Don, Ellie, and their work barkada. I really felt for Ellie during the breakup and it’s aftermath. I think most people have experience with a bad break up. The fallout amongst friends and the little dramas that play out afterwards felt very realistic (the dialogue felt particularly spot on as well). Ellie’s situation conjures up those feelings of denial, depression, and bargaining that are part of the grief process, although I wondered and worried about Ellie. She just wouldn’t get angry at Don nor would she accept her relationship with him was completely over, but this is obviously the crux of the story.
Ellie has to get herself out of her post-breakup rut and regain control. So she makes some changes like moving to a job in Client Services. She takes some trips alone, and makes friends with Lucas, the cute guy with Rock Star hair. Lucas at first doesn’t seem like Ellie’s type. He’s tattooed, a smoker, and agnostic, and office gossip has him dating one pretty girl after another and fathering a lovechild. For a nice Catholic girl, he hits everything on Ellie’s no-no list, but the more she gets to know Lucas, the more she realizes that her first impressions were wrong. They have a charming relationship with the sort of easy conversations you only have with your very best friends. A year later and Ellie is more like her original self:
“Ellie the Free Spirit was the girl [Don] fell in love with, the kind of person he kept comparing Ellie the Girlfriend to, and apparently by being away from him I was restoring myself to that state.”
It isn’t exactly a surprise where the story goes from here, but it is nice and satisfying the way it does.
Overall: This was a short and sweet chick lit that charmed me with it’s whimsical main character, easy dialogue, and feel-good romance. As a bonus, the Manila setting gave me a glimpse of another culture, and I’m always hungry to learn about places I haven’t been.
The Premise: Kimberly Domingo grew up in privilege. A fixture of the Country Club, she was raised alongside two daughters of her mother’s college circle, Chesca and Isabel, who became her closest friends. In high school, she got what she wanted by being direct (and intimidating), and at work, she got ahead easily with the same directness and ambition. She was the girl people loved to hate. The only person that can trip up Kimmy is Manolo, an on-again, off-again fling she’s had since she was fifteen. Unfortunately, Manolo’s M.O. seems to be: make Kimmy melt, then disappear. Then Kimmy met Zack. They were supposed to get married, but Zack broke off the engagement, leaving Kimmy the object of scorn and rumor. Unable to deal with it anymore, Kimmy left the country. Now, many months later, she’s back for her her best friend’s wedding. This time though, Kimmy thinks she knows how to get her life back in order – by cutting off the toxic friends that put her in the position she found herself in months ago.
My Thoughts: This story is told in alternating chapters that tell the story of what’s going on now that Kimmy is home, and what happened months ago, before her failed wedding. There were times, reading about Kimmy’s past, that I just didn’t understand her, particularly at the start this story. Compared to the dreamer main character Fairy Tale Fail, Kimmy was a much harder character to love. She’s a girl who is incredibly confident that what she thinks is how things are, who doesn’t seem to have any regrets being a Mean Girl growing up.
“If you went to school with us, you would think that Chesca and I had a lot of friends — but really, it was just us. We let one girl join our “group” because she had a driver and her own car. Another because she was good at math and she let Chesca copy off her once. We also kicked people out of our group fairly regularly, if and when they stopped being useful, so yeah, we weren’t very nice.
And this is how we did it: Chesca invited the girl into the group, and I eventually did something to kick her out. But we made decisions together, and just played different roles. She was always the angel, and I was always the witch.”
Kimmy is self-aware about who she is. This is the story about the not-nice girl – the girl who is actually the villain from the point of view of another Esguerra book (My Imaginary Ex), much like Darcy of Something Blue by Emily Giffin. She’s not so nice, but at the same time, it’s obvious that she’s still going through something and she hasn’t figured out her life yet. It takes some time, but slowly the reader begins to realize that Kimmy could be harder on herself and her friends than they all deserve. How she sees things colors what really happened, and people change as they grow up. I really liked the way Kimmy’s relationships were portrayed in this book. They were a little dysfunctional but realistic. It was refreshing to have a story with the dramatic best friend that demonstrates her love in a different way.
Love Your Frenemies felt like an internal story. We’re in Kimmy’s head a lot, and a lot of history and back story is implied. She grew up with Isabel and Chesca and Manolo and they are such a huge part of her life she will always feel their impact. It takes a little time to get into that part of the story, but it feels very organic the way Kimmy narrates as things happen and as she remembers the past. I really enjoyed the perspective from a more messed up, less happy heroine. If I were to have a complaint, it would be that I wanted more of a connection to the romance. I could tell that it was the kind of romance that devastates a person, but I felt like I was seeing it through the lens of time, and I wanted to understand Manolo’s perspective better.
Overall: The trials and tribulations of the not-nice girl was a refreshing perspective in this chick lit novella and I liked the depth and development that went into the story in such small space.