{ Book Review } The Year We Became Invincible | Mae Coyiuto

Dear Future Partner,
Where in the hell are you?

That up there is probably how I’d write the first few lines of this book, had this been my story to tell. Of course it will not be YA, and perhaps not as hopeful as Mae Coyiuto’s The Year We Became Invincible, but it’s a start. But I’m not writing this to lament a personal lack; I’m writing this entry to review Ms. Coyiuto’s latest novella . . . so I’d better get to that. And quick, before I start thinking of things to write to my future partner about.

TYWBI.cover_.front-1-5-600x960

The Year We Became Invincible
Mae Coyiuto

Dear Future Reader,

If you’re reading this book, it’s either:

1. You’re my future partner

2. I’m famous and my writings have been immortalized

3. You’ve violated my privacy and these are not meant for you

Let’s hope it’s not the last one. Before this year, I had my life all planned out. This book contains the story of the year that changed my life (well, my life so far). It’s the year I learned how to be invincible. That wasn’t really specific, but I guess you have to read on to see what I’m talking about.

Love,

Camille

The Year We Became Invincible is available at your nearest National Booktore outlets. Buy your copy today!

My review of The Year We Became Invincible follows after the jump. There are spoilers, so click the Read More button at your own risk! ^_^

The Story

Through Camille Li’s letters to her future partner, we are given more than just glimpses of her life. The Year We Became Invincible is an epistolary novella that explores the life of a very sheltered young lady (Camille) who encounters a new group of friends (Ian, Gabby, Felix, and Rica) and gets involved, albeit reluctantly, in their quirky activities.

At about the same time Camille realizes there is a lot more to life than academics, ballet, or the by-the-book way she has been living her life thus far, family situations arise. Her sisters Lea and Nikki both get into rough patches in their relationshps, and so do her mother and father. It’s her new friends who somehow buoy her through the uncharted waters of growing up, but that’s not to say she wouldn’t come across a heartbreak of her own.

What I loved

I like narratives written in epistolary form (It’s a style I personally want to explore further in my writing), so as soon as I saw that this book was written in said form, I knew I had to get it. There’s just something intimate about epistolary novels, in that you feel as if the character is writing to you about his/her life. Writing letters is a lost art form, I know, but I really like it when I am presented an opportunity to do it, even if only in the form of Christmas cards. And doesn’t it give you a really nice feeling when you open a letter from someone–and it doesn’t contain anything groundbreaking because they’re just filling you in on stuff about their day to day–knowing they spent time to let you in their lives even if for a brief moment?

Anyway, I digress. My point was: 1) I love reading letters because they’re intimate, 2) I loved that this story is written that way because it made me feel like Camille and I are friends. (Wish I say I felt like Future Partner, but I’m not really batting for the same team.)

TY1

The moment I came across this quote, I knew I had to put it in my review. Because that’s the thing. When we were younger, our parents (or other older relatives) tell us that we’re “too young” to understand a lot of things. Like why this person did that thing. Or why so-and-so said this and that. Or the very concept of love itself. But really, when you’re older and (supposedly) wiser and you think back on some things, sometimes you can’t confidently say you did understand, right? Which was why this quote kind of called out to me. If Camille, a high school senior, is too young to understand true love, does that make me–I’ve been twenty-five for perhaps way too many years now–too young as well?

I guess it’s a universal thing, to know and to not know, to try finding answers. This line appears early on in the story, but I guess it’s safe to say finding the meaning of true love will be a continuing journey for Camille. And for most of us too.

TY2

Camille says she occasionally tells white lies so she doesn’t hurt other people’s feelings, and don’t we all? Sometimes it’s a matter of being kind, telling lies. Sometimes you follow the “If you can’t say anything nice . . .” rule and don’t say anything at all. But Ian has a different perspective on things, and he says that “the truth that hurts is what people need to hear.” I agree to an extent, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop telling white lies or holding my tongue in the future. So can you say I’m like Camille in that aspect? Very much so.

There is nothing wrong with being honest, however. I think that’s what I like about some of the characters in this book, especially Ian. He inspires honesty in others, even if sometimes, he has to force it out of them. (And sometimes, he really does comes off as lecture-y, as expressed by some of his friends, a quirk of his I’d come to accept.) In an ideal world, a lot of us (if not all) would be able to tell painful truths to others, and a lot more conflicts might be solved sooner than later. But that’s not how the world works, sadly. And we need to skirt around a lot of things, walk on eggshells and what-have-you to preserve the “peace.”  But what if the peace we’re trying to keep really is just a nicely packaged ticking bomb that will someday blow up in our faces just because we refuse to open it?

Few cases in point:

  • The entire Camille-Felix thing. If Camille had only been honest about her feelings for Felix, she’d never would have ended up hurting him. The poor chap. On a personal note, I felt so sad Camille couldn’t get into basketball (Felix’s sport) because BASKETBALL OMG! I’d have loved talking to Felix about basketball . . . take me, take me!
  • The whole issue with Lea. This wasn’t expressed outright, but I’m 99% sure the reason why she couldn’t push through with her engagement with Martin was because she loved and wanted to run away with someone else. Annie. In the beginning of the story, there was this scene where Camille sees Lea keeping little trinkets she received from Martin because she didn’t really like jewelry but never expressed it. She wasn’t honest to Martin with the little things, and she couldn’t be honest with him with the more important issues, which led to a huge fallout that even affected Camille’s parents.
  • Ian and Gabby. This one here is a bit too complicated to sum up but yep . . . could’ve used a little more honesty between these two.

TY3

Ian says these words to Camille during one of their confrontations, and I could say the same to Ms. Coyiuto: Thanks for being honest. Thanks for writing an honest, straightforward piece that a lot of readers Camille’s age (or even older) could relate to, at one point or another. We might not have Ians, Gabbys, Felixes, or Ricas in our lives, but I am pretty sure everyone has someone (or a group of people) they could feel and be invincible with, and this book is something that reminded me of how lucky I am to have them.

Overall rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Plus points for: 1) All the fun things, the “adventures” The Invincibles had done together. It was an experience reading them, and I wish I’d been brave enough to try them when I was younger. Oh well~living vicariously through fictional characters is what I do, after all.

2) The Breakfast Club reference. Blink and you’ll miss it.

3) “If it turns out that I’m writing to a grown-up Ian years from now, thank you for making me feel that way. Thank you for being there.”

Here, have my tears.
Here, have my tears.

Because of this story, I wish I could: Go on that trapeze thing. I really, really, really want to do that like OMG.

Mae Coyiuto has authored and published three children’s books and a collection of young adult short stories. You may connect with her through her blog, Mae Coyiuto Writes, or via Twitter.

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