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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.

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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.

 

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#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.

Goodreads

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.

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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.

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