Welcome to my stop on the TBR and Beyond Tours Book Tour for Sugar and Spite by Gail D Villanueva. I was so excited when we scheduled this tour and couldn’t wait to start. Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom to see the tour schedule for other content creators.
Thank you to Gail D Villanueva and Scholastic for providing me with an ARC for this review.
Gail D. Villanueva is a Filipino author born and based in the Philippines. She’s also a web designer and an entrepreneur. She loves pineapple pizza, seafood, and chocolate, but not in a single dish together (eww). Gail and her husband live in the outskirts of Manila with their dogs, ducks, turtles, cats, and one friendly but lonesome chicken. Her debut novel My Fate According to the Butterfly (Scholastic, 2019) was named a Best Book of the Year by Kirkus Reviews, an Amazon Best Book of the Month Editor’s Pick, and a NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People. Gail’s next book, Sugar And Spite, will be published by Scholastic on April 20, 2021.
About The Book
Title: Sugar and Spite
Author: Gail D Villanueva
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publishing Date: April 20, 2021
Page Length: 208
Genre: Contemporary | Fantasy
Age Range: Middle Grade
Can a bully be defeated by a magical love potion?
Jolina can’t take Claudine’s bullying any longer! The taunts and teasing are too much. Though Jolina knows she’s still in-training to use her grandfather’s arbularyo magic, she sneaks into his potions lab to get her revenge. Jolina brews a batch of gayuma, a powerful love potion.
And it works. The love potion conquers Claudine’s hateful nature. In fact, Claudine doesn’t just stop bullying Jolina-now she wants to be Jolina’s BFF, and does everything and anything Jolina asks.
But magic comes with a cost, and bad intentions beget bad returns. Controlling another person’s ability to love-or hate-will certainly have consequences. The magic demands payment, and it is about to come for Jolina in the form of a powerful storm…
Magic and reality mingle in this brilliant new middle-grade novel by Gail D. Villanueva that asks whether it’s ever okay to take away someone’s free will.
Thank you Gail D Villanueva for taking the time to answer my questions. I was beyond excited to read Sugar and Spite and was honoured to get the chance to interview you.
You include a fair amount of Filipino in the story. Did you set out with that in mind, or did it happen naturally?
I’m Filipino myself, so having Filipino stuff in the story is something that’s intrinsically part of my writing. I did, however, consciously chose to have an all-Filipino cast and set my book in the Philippines.
There’s a lot of food in the book, including Phillippine cuisine (had me hungry through most of the book). What was your favourite food that you included in the book? Or what would Jolina’s and Claudine’s favourite meal be?
I love every food mentioned in the book, except for balut. I’ve raised my irresponsible-duck-moms’ ducklings from egg so I just can’t make myself to eat balut anymore. Jolina’s dad only mentioned caldereta in passing, but that’s my favorite—beef caldereta in particular. It’s beef stewed with vegetables in tomato sauce and liver paste. Jolina’s favorite would be chicken adobo, while Claudine’s would be any seafood dish from the Bagayan Food Haus eatery.
You and your characters seem to share a love of animals. Were Kidlat and Winter based on your own pets?
Winter was based on Richard Parker, who is a bit useless (he’s too lazy to hunt or do anything) but he’s the sweetest cat ever. Kidlat was based on my dog, Kubrick. Kubrick is in heaven now. Writing Sugar And Spite helped me heal from the grief of losing him.
At one part in the story, Lolo talks about a potion that was not meant to solve the problem, but something temporary and made the connection to medication for mood disorders – but for soothing the mind. Do you think it’s important to talk about mental health in middle-grade books?
Definitely. I think discussing mental health with kids helps them realize that doing so isn’t taboo, and that mental illness is not something to be ashamed of.
Without spoiling anything, what was the favourite scene to write?
My favorite scene to write was in chapter twelve, “The Broken Fish.” I don’t want to give anything away, but I laughed when I was picturing it in my head and writing it.
If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?
Well, I’m me now because of the things I’ve experienced before, so I’m not really sure if I’d want to change it. Like, if I didn’t let colorism affect me and allowed it to make me feel like I’m less because I have dark brown skin and a flat nose, would I be including this issue in every novel that I write? Probably not. Because then, I wouldn’t be as driven as I am now to show brown, flat-nosed kids like me that they are beautiful and every bit as deserving to be heroes in a story.
Was there anything you learned after writing My Fate According to The Butterfly that helped you write Sugar and Spite?
One of the things I really appreciate from both my agent and editor is that they encourage me to make my books as Filipino as I want to make them. My earlier drafts of My Fate According to the Butterfly had less Tagalog in them, and I was surprised when they asked me to add more. For Sugar And Spite, I didn’t hold back—I wrote my Filipino story about Filipino girls using my Filipino lens. It was liberating.
Rep: Filipino (Own Voices)
Content Warning: one warning would be considered a spoiler – will be listed at the end of my review
This was a beautiful story that I am so glad I knew nothing going into it outside of the first few lines of the blurb.
Villanueva wrote a beautiful world, as the island does not exist, and made feel completely immersed. The environment felt calming and vibrate with the descriptions that Villanueva wove into the story. You could really feel the pride of the Phillipines.
The characters felt realistic and well fleshed out. At no point did I mix characters up, each feeling unique no matter the amount of time dedicated to them. Jolina and Claudine had their own faults and quirks to them, but I still found the absolutely adorable. Joline is headstrong and will do anything for her family, which she share that trait with Claudine. Claudine feels awkward and standoffish when we are first introduced to her, but as the story unfolds you can see that she really is a kind and beautiful girl.
The main themes in Sugar and Spite are friendship, family and grief. You can see just how important those themes are to Villanueva in the beautiful way they are explored. These heavier topics are dealt with well and, despite being targeted towards Middle Grade, handed with the heavy feelings that comes along with them. Villanueva does not shy away from grief or bullying and makes sure that the audience understand the importance of exploring both. Bullying is also talked about, although I do not believe in great depth. The characters acknowledge their actions and excuses are not used – which I thought was very important point for the author to make (that we can acknowledge the wrongness of the act without trying to make excuses for it, but to learn from it).
The magic system in this world was interesting. I wish I knew more about albularyo (a Philippines witch doctor). Although it was never gone into great detail, I feel like there would be a lot to learn about albularyo, Babaylan (shamans) and their beliefs. As part of the story, I thought it was an interesting component and help explain the consequences that occur during the story.
I think if you enjoyed the magic and friendship in Love Sugar Magic by Anna Meriano than you would absolutely love this one.
I rarely read author’s notes; however, I highly recommend you read these ones. It goes into depth of how important this book was for Villanueva- including why certain aspects were included in this story. I found this part to be very informative and helped me see this work from the author’s eyes (which made me love it even more).
Content Warning: bullying & death of a pet (death scene & funeral scene)
One person will win an annotated ARC from the author. The giveaway starts on April 19th and ends on April 26th.a Rafflecopter giveaway https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js