Review: What Things Mean by Sophia Lee

Title: What Things Mean
Author: Sophia N. Lee
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: May, 2015
Pages: 133
My Rating: 4.5 Stars

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 was sent a copy of this novel by the author in exchange for an honest review.

When Sophia Lee sent me an email regarding this book, I was immediately on board because I love supporting Filipino authors. I didn't know if I would like the story, but it seemed pretty interesting to me. I felt excited to be reading a contemporary novel by a Filipino author. But then I read it and boom! It's one of the most amazing books I've ever read and I would read anything that Sophia Lee writes in the future. 

"Maybe, that's how it's meant to be. Maybe we all have to let go of things, and people, in order to keep our balance. Maybe that's the only way to keep moving forward."

What Things Mean is written in a way that each chapter starts with definitions of a certain word that would be relevant in the chapter. It follows Olive, a fourteen-year-old girl who feels different from her family. Only she has dark skin and likes pickles in her family, and she thinks that her father might be the source of the difference. However, the thing is, no one in her family is willing to tell her about who he is. 

"Maybe she's trying to understand how, in the space of a minute, something can turn from a thing that fulfills you entirely to something that empties you out."

What Things Mean is written in such a beautiful way. There were so many notable quotes that I had a fear that I would ran out of sticky tabs (I put sticky tabs when I find a nice quote). Another amazing thing about this book is how I've never been in the situation of the main character, but I definitely felt everything that was narrated in the story. Tagos talaga sa puso, grabe! 

"Light always remains. The world turns, and days pass, and the sun warms the places that need it. Maybe that is how it is with everything else. Things go where they are needed, and when they do, we simply learn how to live without them."

I really think that this is the type of book that should be made into book reports. I think that those in high school would really be able to appreciate this one because it's easy to understand but at the same time it's also very meaningful. Everyone is sure to find a quote or two that would be relevant in his/her life. Plus, this book is a quick read, although it's also a book that's meant to be savored and taken in slowly. 

"I was always going to be somewhere, stepping over some line. We all were - even if we didn't want to admit it. There was only forward or backward, and an infinite line of changes either way."

Another thing I enjoyed is reading about the Filipino culture within the pages. Every time I saw things like chocnut or adobo, I smiled because it's rare that I get to read something that's not literary fiction with references to Filipino culture. I'm actually not actually Filipino myself, but I was born and grew up here, so this is the culture that I know and love. 

"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."

I really, really loved this book, more so than I first thought I would. This book deserves to be read by everyone, especially Filipino youth. It's so meaningful yet concise at the same time, so there would be no room for boredom. I definitely recommend this! 

Thank you Sophia Lee and Scholastics for providing me a copy of this novel!

4.5 amazingly-written stars. 

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