When Anna is dumped by the love of her life, the perfect guy, the only one in the world who truly meshes well with her, she is devastated. She’s angry, she wants revenge, and most of all, she wants him back. But when life throws her a curve ball in the form of Miguel, literally The Boy a Few Houses Down, Anna thinks she can be happy again—or is her heart just playing tricks on her?
Rule number 1: Find comfort in your family.
The day after Jaime and I break up, my mom asks me to clean my room.
One thing you should understand about my mom—her definition of “cleaning my room” does not just involve making my bed, or picking up dirty laundry off the floor, or tidying my bookshelf. No, for my mom, it means sorting out my clothes, shoes, and accessories into three piles: Yes, No, and Maybe. It means emptying my desk drawers and going through each note and letter and greeting card, then throwing everything away. For my mom, the exact opposite of a pack rat, a clean room is an almost empty one. And she has hardly any tolerance for sentimentality.
Another thing you should understand about my mom—she knows everything. So when she shakes me awake on this Saturday morning, taking in my puffy eyes and semi-permanent scowl, she doesn’t just feel that something is up, she knows exactly what's up. And so I’m guessing that her telling me to drag my sorry self out of bed, take a shower, have breakfast, gulp down some coffee, and proceed to slave over the act of cleaning my room for the rest of the day is her way of helping me deal.
“Get up,” she says, as if I am not already sitting up, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, and groping around for my glasses.
“What are you dragging me out of bed for, Mom? It’s Saturday, no school,” I remind her, suppressing a duh at the end. I am tempted to dive under the covers again, but I don’t attempt to.
“I know that, Anna,” she replies. She rolls her eyes as she stresses the know, like, Lord, what evil have I done to deserve this much nonsense at the start of what could be such a lovely weekend?
“Then why are you waking me up?” I know I am pushing it by asking too many questions, and not very smart ones, at that, but I just can’t seem to stop.
She looks around my room. Then, at me. “This is a mess,” she declares. I am not sure if she is referring to my room, or to me, or both. She opens my closet. “Too many things in here,” she says. “That gray hoodie has to go, it doesn’t look good on you anymore. And why do you still have that denim skirt? Daddy told you it was too short. Didn’t he ask you to get rid of that?”
“Mom, it’s not—”
“And your desk is ready to collapse any minute now. Can you please empty those drawers? I don’t understand why you have to keep every single letter you receive from every single person you meet. Hay naku, Anna, this won’t do. I want this room spic and span by the end of the day. And don’t even get me started on that bed, if you can even call it that; I honestly don’t know how you can sleep in that thing…”
You know how people tell you that things always look better in the morning? It’s true. Mostly because when you spend almost the entire night crying, you wake up the next day with a dull ache in your head that renders you numb to everything else. In a way, you forget about the emotional pain because you are so focused on the physical pain. Which means you will say yes to anything and anyone just to shut them up, which explains why the only thing I can think of doing as my mom barks orders like a drill sergeant scorned is to wince and nod silently.
Several hours later, I have one big No pile and two small Yes and Maybe piles. In the No pile are three pairs of sneakers (all gifts from The Ex—and yes, I shall start referring to him as The Ex from now on, despite the fact that he was given a real name by his parents and I’m sure they think it’s a very nice name), every single dress I wore to every single dinner date with The Ex (twelve, last time I checked), my four-inch heels (The Ex is tall and lean, while I am…short and clumsy), the red bag The Ex gave me from his recent trip to the States, and the shirt I was wearing when The Ex and I officially became a couple (out in my corner in the pouring rain). The Yes and Maybe piles are all stuff that either a) do not remotely remind me of him, b) remind me of him but are too expensive/unique/cute on me to throw away, or c) remind me of him, no longer fit me, and are ugly as hell, but have been with me since the beginning of time.
In the background, “Apologize” (the Timbaland-less and therefore more conducive to emo moments version) is playing over and over and over again. The ache in my head slowly but surely beginning to subside but just as slowly and surely beginning to be replaced by an entirely different kind of pain, I head downstairs to update my mom on my progress—and maybe convince her to let me leave the desk drawers for tomorrow.
Marla believes heartbreak always leads to bigger and better things, such as this book you're holding right now. She doesn't need much to be happy—just quiet weekends with her family, people who let her think she's funny even when she's not (which is most of the time), and friends who stay up all night with her during intense, slightly-panicked writing sessions.
She likes curling up with a David Levithan novel, typing the very last word to a story, and baby-sitting her two little boys, Macu and Cisco. She thinks being Candy Magazine's Assistant Lifestyle Editor is pretty cool, and loves the fact that she gets paid to watch chick flicks, listen to her fave bands, and stalk her celebrity crushes.
In the following Q & A, Marla tells us more about the Every Girl's Guide books. Read on to see how she, too, learned about these rules from her own experiences, and what advice she gives teenage girls who want to move on and look forward to better relationships.
Tell us about the Every Girl's Guide series.
Every Girl's Guide to Heartache is composed of ten rules for girls after a breakup. Some of the rules are followed, some are not. As a more creative way to tell the story, we start each chapter with a rule. It's actually the first in a series of three. The three friends (Anna, Chrissy, and Rickie) get to tell their story a book each, and some characters keep resurfacing. Miguel will still be in the other books. Jaime and Olivia are coming back for the third. Gabriel will still be around, too, and he's going to have a love interest. Book three sort of puts everything together. The second book is more about Chrissy and her boys, plus the two girls.
Did you go through those breakup phases?
The main stage—like denial—yes. I think everyone goes through that. The stages aren't clear-cut for everyone, I think.
Did you break any of those rules?
I think I followed most naman. But for most people I would say it's hard not to break rule number four—cutting all communications with the Ex. You can delete the other person's number, but you've already memorized it! Or you see the updates in Facebook and Multiply, and you can't help but wonder how the other person is doing.
Do you have your own Miguel?
Right now, there's no Miguel, but the Jaimes have popped up once or twice! The thing with Jaime in this book, it's just a joke for him and he doesn't know what to do. He's a one-dimensional jerk. Even guys in real life who tend to act like jerks, especially the younger ones, they're just confused and don't know what they want. Even if they know what they want, they don't know they can actually do something about what they want. My Jaimes are a bit less evil (laughs) but more of the confused type nga. I don't think they meant to hurt me. That's what I think every time.
Miguel is sort of patterned after me because he was the one who was sure about what he wants. Sometimes, it's really possible to feel that everything is really over, even though some people don't think that can really happen. When you break up, sometimes it's really over.
Are Anna's friends patterned after your own friends?
Chrissy is sort of patterned after my close friend in college. She was good, she followed all the rules; very mature and very responsible. When Anna and Rickie are up to something, she's the level-headed one. It's good to have a friend like that especially when you're younger. A mature friend can keep you on your toes.
I love Rickie, she's so funny. She's actually a bit similar to my sister. I have friends who have lots of boys, but they have their reasons. Rickie has her reasons, too. In the third book, you'll get to understand her more. You'll understand why she needs all that attention, why she's self-absorbed.
How about Anna's family?
Her mom is super pakialamera. My mom's not like that (laughs) but Anna's dad and Chrissy's dad are like my dad: they're super cool. Among the three girls, si Rickie lang actually ang may problem. Anna and Chrissy have good, functional families. For the first two, I didn't want to blame the family for everything that was happening. Anna is actually my sister's name. My brother's name is Timothy, when he was younger my aunts called him Timmy. You'll get to see him more in the third book.
I'm curious: where did you get the inspiration for Gabriel?
He was supposed to be straight, but in the end I thought, what if he's gay—that was actually funnier. Plus, you didn't see it coming! One of my friends said Gabriel reminds him of Yael [Yuzon], but I wasn't thinking about him consciously. When I read it again, I realized there were similarities. They're both very mysterious, with a rock star vibe and all.
What kind of books do you read and who are your literary influences?
David Levithan actually has a diverse body of work. When you read him, you can't pinpoint his exact style because it's never the same with another book. I love his work. I like Melissa Bank, who wrote The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing and The Wonder Spot. In terms of influence, I can't really pinpoint one particular person. I try my best to make it a bit deeper but fun and entertaining. But there always has to be something beneath the surface.
I really love teen lit. When they were asking me to pitch ideas, I admitted I really can't write for older audiences. I write for a teen magazine, so that's what I really like. My gauge for pleasing a younger audience is actually my sister—kasi minsan 'yung ibang young adult books hindi pa talaga appropriate e. When she buys books, I screen the book before she reads them. Would I let my little sister read this? There's something about teen lit that you can relate to, but there's still something deep about it. It's more fun, too.
What advice would you give girls with problems like Anna's?
Channel all energy into something more productive. Don't bash your ex online or anywhere. When you read that much later and look back at it months or years after, it's actually quite pointless. You could have left each other alone and somewhere down the line you could have been friends again. Kasi if you do, you just ruin the relationship and friendship; you both lose in the end. Be productive and keep yourself busy, ang dami namang distractions available. You can write, read books, listen to music, [and] go out with your family. If you really want to get over someone, you can. Be willing to let go first, from there it'll all work out.
If ever a movie version of your book was done, who would portray the main characters and why?
Ellen Page for Anna and Michael Cera for Miguel. Alexis Bledel for Chrissy. For Rickie, she's a bit younger than them—but the girl in Privilege—Lucy Hale—she’s malandi but lovable and charming. For Rickie you need someone you won't hate. For Jaime, Joe Jonas (laughs)!
Will the third be the last?
Yes, the third book wraps everything up already. But publishing more books is a good option! They'll go to college, meet more people...we'll see what happens.