The Teenage Textbook & The Teenage Workbook by Adrian Tan

The Teenage Textbook and its follow up, The Teenage Workbook has been around for years. The Teenage Textbook was first published in 1988 which means its been in print for 30 whole years. It’s one of the most iconic piece of Singaporean literature that I know of and it wasn’t until the recent BuySingLit campaign that discovered this.

The Teenage Textbook was such a gem. The whole book was funny, engaging and extremely relatable. It was typically Singaporean and I could easily imagine myself being in the same school and proximity of the main characters of the book. The summary doesn’t tell you much, so essentially, I went into this pretty blind and I was pleasantly surprised at how fast paced and easy it is to read.

While reading this, I thought about my own teenage hood and how my life as a Singaporean teenage was like and I saw myself in Mui Ee. It hit home, the story of first loves, the idea of love and finding love. For Teenage Textbook, I feel that the reliability is what keeps this a fan favourite for years and its what won my heart in the first place.

Now, the teenage textbook itself is embedded into the story. Characters from the book refer to this textbook for guidance on how to deal with certain matters and it shows us excerpts of the textbook. And this is where it goes downhill: I don’t particularly enjoy the “textbook” content at all. Its a hit or miss; I don’t find it particularly funny or good but perhaps that was the point of it. The author seems to acknowledge the fact that the textbook is somewhat useful, by acknowledging that the textbook has only sold very little quantities and that the cover of it was not engaging, but rather frightfully plain. So perhaps that was the point? Don’t quote me on that.


The Teenage Workbook is the sequel to The Teenage Textbook, except now instead of just a textbook, the workbook comes free with the textbook for the characters to fill up the details and assess their situation based on their answer.

I don’t think TTW was necessary. I truly believe that TTT was good enough as a standalone. TTW does touch more on Sissy’s character but the new characters that was introduced like Nikki and the three guys who are interested in Sissy are not prominently featured in the book and neither are they very interesting at all. They don’t contribute to the main story arcs or Sissy’s character arc either. I don’t see the point. Worst was Nikki’s character who only showed up one or twice, before being completely forgotten about until the wee back pages of the book.

So is the addition of these new characters necessary? No. Is the sequel necessary? No. When we last met the heroes of TT, everyone had a positive ending or assumed to have had a positive ending. Another story told a couple of weeks after the happenings in TTT was just pointless. Nothing much changed — and again, this could have been the point? To subtly show how time could go by and nothing could still happen to a person. Nothing interesting.

But I don’t know. Don’t quote me.

TTT is a solid book that can be easily digested, even if you’re not Singaporean. TTW? Well, it’s not a must have for me, but it would be a nice addition to the shelves if you enjoyed TTT.



#BuySingLit: I Want To Go Home by Wesley Leon Aroozoo

I Want to Go Home by Wesley Leon Aroozoo
Published by Math Paper Press

Disclaimer: I received a finished copy of this book c/o the author. Review and opinion is my own.


Summary: On the 11th of March, 2011, Yasuo Takamatsu lost his wife to the tsunami during the Great East Japan earthquake. Since that fateful day, he has been diving in the sea every week in search for her.

Compelled and inspired to share his story, I Want To Go Home is a journey from Singapore to Onagawa through the lens of the intrigued to meet him. Of unlikely friendships across borders and languages; to share a man’s loss, recovery and determination to reunite with his wife.

The novel’s feature film (also titled I Want To Go Home) has also been selected for the 2017 부산국제영화제 Busan International Film Festival (BIFF). This book also includes a Japanese translation by Miki Hawkinson.


Prior to reading this book, I didn’t actually know about this story. But I’m glad that the author contacted me and let me know about his book. I do feel that this story is one that should be shared. There’s a lot of things that we don’t necessarily know about the aftermath of a Tsunami. How deeply it affects people and how they’re holding up when the news don’t talk about them anymore. The laws, the court trials, the search — these are the things that sometimes get overshadowed by other news. But for these people who are affected, it is their life. They live through it, day in and day out.

What I like about this book is that its not very difficult to get into. Its a non fiction that reads a little bit like a fiction book, which is great, especially for people who don’t really read non fiction or are scared of non fiction books being boring. The book is essentially the author’s week, spending time with a Japanese man who is still in the search for his wife’s body. He dives everyday, with the hopes of finding her and bringing her home.

I liked the story. I think its entertaining, it teaches us a lot of things about the Tsunami, about how they prepare the citizens for a Tsunami, the protocols etc. But there’s a lot of how the author himself relates or makes sense of the whole situation. I feel like this could be a hit or miss with people — I’m kind of 50/50 about it myself. I think yes, its a good way for me to relate with how he feels as an interviewer. He wants to tell the story of how he felt, the places he went, the things he observed in detail and share it with us. But sometimes, it becomes too detailed that it derails away from the main story he wants to share. It can get a bit much.

I went into this with no expectations, though the main expectation is to learn more about Mr Takamatsu. And while I learnt bits and pieces about his story, his life, his wife, I found myself more intrigued with the final few parts. I was keen on learning to know more about the lawsuit, the evacuation plan, I wanted to see more research about safety plans, alerts. I thought those portions were important and interesting.

The book essentially is a documentary piece, about a journey, but I felt like there’s still so much I could learn about Mr Takamatsu and his life and his efforts. I would say that its a good non fiction, but it was hard to connect to the story on a deeper level.

The book touches the surface of love and loss in the midst of a disaster. A good read, suitable for those who are keen to read more non fiction books.



Crazy Rich Asians By Kevin Kwan

16085481Crazy Rich Asians By Kevin Kwan
Crazy Rich Asians #1

Published 11 June 2013 by Doubleday


Summary: Crazy Rich Asians is the outrageously funny debut novel about three super-rich, pedigreed Chinese families and the gossip, backbiting, and scheming that occurs when the heir to one of the most massive fortunes in Asia brings home his ABC (American-born Chinese) girlfriend to the wedding of the season.
When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn’t know is that Nick’s family home happens to look like a palace, that she’ll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors on her arm, Rachel might as well have a target on her back. Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor, Nick’s formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should–and should not–marry. Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider’s look at the Asian JetSet; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich.


This book is over the top dramatic.

I had initially pinned this as an Asian version of Gossip Girl, and yes, it read like gossip, but it was just so over the top. I am a Singaporean, born and raised and we often hear about this top few percent of billionaires so it was quite intriguing at first.

What I hadn’t imagined was this entire cast of madness. I came in thinking this book would be about Nick and Rachel and how they navigate returning home to Singapore for the wedding of the year and surprise! Nick is crazy rich. Except… Rachel doesn’t know it, and quite frankly, Nick doesn’t seem to realise he’s extremely rich either. The book was flamboyant, irritating at times and just so unnecessarily complicated.

I kept reading for one reason only: I wanted to know what was this deep secret that everyone seemed to know about Rachel Chu. Her family background. And when I found out, I felt empty. The ending made me feel empty, like I’ve been working so hard chasing after nothing. I just wasn’t impressed. It left me hanging, thinking, huh, that’s it? After all that drama towards the end, all for it to end up like this, neatly wrapped and everything is okay. It just didn’t blow me over.

I initially started listening to the audiobook of this, read by Lynn Chen but I didn’t like the way it was read (too difficult to listen to, all the characters sound the same) and there were too many characters being introduced for me to properly catch on. So I switched to the book and eased myself into the story again. Fairly disappointed at the audiobook — considering people were raving about it but it just really wasn’t for me. As someone who lives in Asia and can differentiate different dialects very well, I just don’t think the narrator does any of it much justice or even has a clue. Too much switching, too many bad attempts at dialects and Singlish (Singaporean English). Overall would not recommend you getting the audiobook (I believe she’s the only narrator for Crazy Rich Asians) at all and opt for the book instead.

Enjoyed the book as a whole, but got lost in too many insane characters and felt that Nick and Rachel’s relationship got lost in the process, being completely overshadowed by other colourful characters. Reminds me of Gossip Girl meets Sarong Party Girls (by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, which I read and devoured this year — a total must read, especially if you’re living in Singapore or Asia!)

Still very excited to see the movie! Very curious to see how all this will be interpreted for the big screen!


#LocalLit: Library Haul | 12/09/13


#LocalLit is my personal project into reading and promoting more Singaporean Literature.

Okay, I’ve been lusting over these books for the longest time but I’ve been trying to go on a bit of a book buying ban. So what better way than to take advantage of the libraries! The books below are mainly poetry books so they should be pretty quick reads for me.

I love how Math Paper Press always keeps their designs looking minimalistic yet extremely gorgeous. Math Paper Press is a small publishing company here in Singapore. You can check some of their stuff here or visit their Facebook! (You can purchase these books from BooksActually – they ship internationally!)





  1. Bursting Seams by Jollin Tan
    Goodreads • BooksActually

    Bursting Seams
     is a raw and passionate exploration of the body through poetry. The book mines the inescapable linkages between physicality and difficult emotions in poems that are traumatic and revealing, but also tender and self-empowering.
  2. Transparent Strangers by Loh Guan Liang
    Goodreads • BooksActually

In Transparent Strangers, the city is more than steel and glass: it is also a landscape where emotion is as much architecture as it is part of human experience. With subjects ranging from burial sites to Taiwanese dramas, this debut collection of poems meditates on the distance we must cross with words to make the everyday unfamiliar again; if only to understand ourselves better.


Cyril Wong’s prose poems remark, instruct, exclaim and curse at a world long settled into its desire-ridden forms. These protracted sentences both attack and reflect on the miasma of memory, working life, the delusions of family life, and the paradoxes of lust and love, moving between meditative moments, philosophical arguments and cryptic to lyrical tongue-lashings. Time, or our failure to exist meaningfully beyond its dimensions, forms the heartbeat of this book.


Is love born from duty, misplaced ideas of nobility or the thirst for dependence? Jerrold Yam’s second poetry collection confronts the very act of creation, wrestling it from family, religion and sexuality—a triptych of forces that bears as much a promise for redemption as a capacity for cruelty and hurt.


My name is Benjamin Hong, aged 8, height 90cm, and studying at Loyang Primary School.

Mummy said we are going to Bedok Reservoir, and I changed out of my school uniform. She forced me to wear a red T-shirt & shorts. She painted my nails red too, but that was super fun.

I could hear Mummy’s footsteps on the gravel. I could hear the water in the distance, ebbing closer and closer. There were no stars, just darkness. I didn’t want to open my eyes. With my head against Mummy’s chest, I could hear the rhythmic beating. The sound made me calm and relaxed. All I heard was the sound of water splashing around Mummy’s waist.