Chrissy thinks her life is problem free (she even sets up an online advice column to make use of all her good girl talent) till her best friend, the boy she's been in love with since she was maybe five, comes back from the US. Now this would be a good thing if she wasn't already in an unofficial, sort-of relationship with her long-time crush Nathan. Is it finally time for Chrissy to trash her good girl image and follow her gut? Or is she making the biggest mistake of her life?
"Full of insight and characters you instantly grow attached to, Every Girl's Guide to Boys will have you laughing, crying, and laughing all over again. You'll never want to put it down. In fact, you'll find yourself savoring each and every word as you near the end, hoping it can go on forever." --Candy magazine
Rule number 2: Gather information.
Nathan looks at me. "Chrissy. What are you doing?"
The answer I give him is, "Why, what's weird about what I'm doing?" Which technically isn't an answer because it's also a question. We are driving to Flaming Wings in Katipunan for lunch, and for the last five minutes, I have been leaning forward in the passenger seat, resting my hands on the dashboard and inspecting my newly-purple-polished fingernails. The real answer, of course, is "Trying to get you to notice my fresh manicure and ask for a closer look and therefore hold my hand, you dimwit." I'm not really sure why I'm doing this now. Maybe because the last time I saw him was during our semi-disastrous movie date, when his hand was on the armrest for the entire two hours and my palms were gross and sweaty and I panicked because I knew he wanted to hold hands for the first time. I dealt with the situation by crossing my arms tightly over my chest so he wouldn't have access to my hands. I have no idea what the movie was about, or why he keeps asking me out despite my mixed signals. I just know I have to make it up to him somehow, unless I want him to give up and go ninja (i.e., disappear without a trace) on me.
"Can you please put your seatbelt back on?" he says, sounding irritated and PMS-y.
"Fine," I sniff. "Sungit mo naman." I lean back, snap on my seatbelt, take out my phone, and pretend to be texting. For all he knows, I might be texting another guy and saying, "I'm so glad you don't make me wear a stupid seatbelt. And for that, you totally win over this idiot Nathan." I rearrange my face into what I hope could pass for a kilig, texting-with-a-cute-boy expression. At one point, I even giggle in fake delight. He grunts and rolls his eyes but doesn't say anything.
Hold up--in case you start wondering why I'm even out on a date with this guy, let me make it clear that this isn't like Nathan at all. This irritable, PMS-y person beside me is not Nathan, or at least not the Nathan I know. Because the Nathan I know defies the broody, tortured artist stereotype by being cheerful and good-natured and impossibly optimistic. The Nathan I know caught my attention by making the school's cranky canteen lady laugh with a really stupid joke, way back in freshman year. I was picking up a dozen packed lunches for a Student Council meeting, and she was giving me this lecture on not expecting people to wait on me hand and foot, all because I had asked her (very politely, mind you) for some string to tie the styrofoam containers with. I was explaining to her that I needed it to carry everything at once, when someone behind me piped in, "Manang, I have a joke for you. Sinong banda ang palaging nanghihingi ng string?" Surprisingly, the cranky canteen lady shrugged and said, "Ewan ko. Sino?" He cleared his throat for emphasis and said, "Eh 'di Metallica! May tali ka? Hahaha!" There was eerie silence for about twenty seconds, and I was deathly afraid she would throw her cash register at us. I was about to run for cover when she laughed and told him, "Oo iho, meron. Sandali lang ha." Before I knew it, she was handing him an entire roll of string, and he was giving it to me, and I was blushing and saying thanks, and he was introducing himself and shaking my hand. And yeah, I've had an enormous crush on him since.
The Nathan I know is sweet and caring and one of the most patient guys I have ever met. The Nathan I know asked me out on our first date by leaving a note attached to a single red rose in my locker—a cheesy and outdated gesture, but a sweet one nonetheless. The Nathan I know would never pull into the parking lot, get out of the car, slam the door behind him, and stand there scowling in the midday sun, waiting for me to open my own door.
I run to catch up with him and ask, "Who are you and what have you done to my friend?" I say "friend" because I don't know what else to call him—we're not officially together, although we have been dating (exclusively, I think, although we never agreed on that either) for almost six months. Besides, we've been friends since that Metallica incident in freshman year, and have gotten closer while working together for the Student Council, which means our platonic relationship trumps our sort-of-romantic one in terms of longevity. Who are you and what have you done to my potential boyfriend would have been presumptuous, and Who are you and what have you done to the guy I'm dating would have been, I don't know, complicated. But the moment I say "friend," I realize what a huge mistake I have made, as proven by the fact that he just shakes his head sadly, pulls out a chair for me, and sits down.
Okay, seriously, what is going on here? The sungit scowling, I can take, or at least ignore—it can even be amusing because it is so out of character. But this disappointed silence, like I am a pre-schooler who has done something wrong, is strange and unsettling and, as far as I know, completely uncalled for. Because I haven't done anything wrong, except for that holding hands incident, and I really don't see how that can amount to this much fuss. I feel like I am five years old again, except when I was five and in trouble, I was always told exactly what I was in trouble for before being subjected to disappointed silences.
But today, the disappointed silence stretches on until our lunch arrives, until he asks for the bill, until we leave the restaurant, until we get back in the car, until he drives me home. And now I am sitting in front of my computer, staring blankly at the monitor, gathering my confused thoughts into one big blob of disbelief.
On my computer screen, there are three new comments for the latest post on my online advice column. Remember what I was telling you before, that it was a shame to let my amazing insight go to waste? Well, I might as well use it to make the world a better place—and maybe stir up some drama in my life through other people's problems so that the hypothetical hotshot director can give me a happy ending. This online advice column, which I put up three months ago, is my answer. Let me explain how it works. Readers e-mail me their problems about school, family, friends, love, etc. As expected, most of the problems that come in are love-related, which is fine because they make way for some really interesting discussions. I choose one problem every week, write a lengthy response full of wise advice, put it up online, and allow the other readers to react. Comments don't require approval because sometimes it takes me a couple of days to check my mail and I want everyone to be able to post their thoughts right away; besides, the site visitors are a tame, well-behaved bunch—no bashing or inappropriate remarks, and everyone seems to want to help everyone else. In school, people would come up to me to say thank you, or tell me what a wonderful idea the site was. It made me happy, the fact that I was making new friends and maybe even building a small fanbase, all because of my ability to solve a few problems here and there. In a nutshell, the way it works is actually pretty simple. No, scratch that, it's supposed to be pretty simple.
A week after the birth of my online baby, someone who called himself "N" started leaving messages like, "Your readers are lucky to have you," and "You are extraordinary." Soon, the messages turned to, "You make my day a little bit brighter every time I visit this site," and "If I admit to being one of your many secret admirers, does that still make me a 'secret' admirer? ;-)" To that last message, I replied with a flirty, "I think I have an idea who you are, N. You make my days brighter too. :-) But just for fun, let's keep pretending your identity is yet to be revealed. Your 'secret' is safe with me." I was glad Nathan was being supportive of this little venture, although every time I'd bring it up, he'd deny having anything to do with it. "But if you're not N, then doesn't this make you the least bit jealous?" I'd ask playfully. He'd grin and say, "No, because I know at least five guys in school who have a thing for you, but I also happen to know that you only have eyes for me." And then I'd punch him in the shoulder and we'd laugh about it and move on to another topic.
The three latest comments are all from "N," and all in response to one post:
July 14, 2008
My best friend and I have always been attracted to each other. We've never said this out loud, but I know for a fact that we are definitely more than friends. We go out on "dates" all the time, we text and YM every day, and we spend our weekends hanging out with each other's families. The problem is, we've been in this in-between, are-we-or-are-we-not-a-couple stage for quite a while now, almost a year. Sometimes I try hinting that I want us to make things official, but I don't want to be the one to spell it out for him. I'm starting to get confused. Why isn't he making a move? I've been giving him all the right signals. Does this mean he's not really interested?
About the Author
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.
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.
Are Chrissy'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.
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 the same problems as the three friends?
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.