It was during the 2016 Manila International Book Fair in September that I came across this book. The shelf in the National Book Store booth had new releases of Anvil which included three works of one of my favorite Filipino authors and motherhen of the Filipino #romanceclass group and she will be holding a book signing event. I was working on a very tight budget as my shelf is overflowing with to-be-read books. I vowed to buy not more than five.
Then I heard the host that Ms. Mina would be signing books together with Mae Coyiuto. He added that it might be one of he rare chances we’d get to see Mae as she was scheduled to fly back to California in a few days (if I remember correctly). So my Filipino author supporter self took over and I grabbed a copy. I mean, she was already there, right? And there was a 10% discount too.
So I fell in line and was greeted by a warm smile when it was my turn.
I didn’t get to talk much with her as I had a tendency to be shy in person because, well…starstruck feels. But I appreciated the dedication she wrote:
I went home with four signed books that day.
But only managed to finish “The Year We Became Invincible” (TYWBI) on the road to the province recently. And towards the end, I was blinking too fast to fight back the tears threatening to fall from my eyes. (I didn’t want ze boyfriend to make fun of me crying over a book.)
At first I thought I wouldn’t be able to relate with Camille Li’s story as someone who grew up in the states with Asian roots. But boy, I was so wrong.
I easily connected with her teenage problems recognizing that I had the same challenges growing up.
To give a preview, I made some fancy stuff with the lines that struck me because the story just oozes with life lessons that are applicable regardless of age.
Pardon the uneven spacing. Have to practice some more.
I had forgotten that the struggles a teen undergoes is universal—problems involving family, friends, school, love, dreams, identity. Every teenager goes through all of these regardless of race and location.
TYWBI has it and more.
Written in epistolary style, Camille’s significant, almost life-changing experiences was summarized in each letter to her future special someone she has yet to meet. Not too wordy or detailed but just enough to be realistic and relatable and would allow you to relive the same situation in the past (if you’re past your teenage years, that is.)
My favorite scene would have to be when Camille snuck into her parents’ bedroom so she could leave tickets for them to her ballet recital after having a huge fight with her Dad and he said he’s got some stuff to attend to on the day of the recital. That really got me teary-eyed. It says a lot about family dynamics and how one could get mad at a child or parent but not forever. That at the end of the day, you’d always have a home to go back to.
I also noticed some sort of art work at the end of each “letter”. I found it cute—the formation of the star and the word ‘Invincibles’ which was in sync with how Camille got to face everything and figured out what she wanted in the end.
Because like what Mae Coyiuto stressed in TYWBI, Everyone is Invincible.