Since he was thirteen, Caleb has always known he’s gay. Now a college freshman, he falls in love for the first time. If it’s true that love conquers all, then will Caleb finally find the courage to reveal his secret?
In this tale about family, friendship and self-discovery, find out how Caleb discovers the path to the freedom he’s always longed for. Here’s a hint: it involves doing things outside his comfort zone, such as joining a spoken word group!
Not a romance, but a romantic YA/NA coming-out story of Caleb, 19yo piano prodigy and bow tie wearer, coming to grips with his sexuality, starting his first relationship, and working through home issues. This is only the second queer #romanceclass I've read after Don't Tell My Mother, and it makes clear at least some of the social and religious pressure and problems for LGBT+ people in the Philippines, a conservative and largely Catholic country. (Text includes a few slurs, voiced by the hero trying to get used to them rather than said to him, but jsyk.)
It is nevertheless a very rainbow-tinted book. Coming out is terrifying for Caleb but he finds acceptance, quicker in some places than others, and the book is very much about the confidence and happiness he gains from it. It's super positive; there isn't a romance HEA but there is very much a sense that he'll get one sooner or later (I would love that book please and thank you), and certainly that his life has immeasurably improved now he knows and loves himself. It's a story that sings with hope and joy and possibilities and flawed people managing to do better and forgive each other. Lovely writing as well.
Like its title Another Word for Happy balances the exhilarating realism of coming out, and the fun.
Books that center around coming out isn’t the same from one another, and that’s because universal experience for an entire marginalization doesn’t exist. The experience might be comparable but there’s nuances. They are not the same at some degrees. Coming out stories always has something new to bring. For me, it always brings a bittersweet twang. I feel as if my heart is being gripped by an iron fist.
Another Word for Happy follows the story of a closeted gay Caleb. He’s aloof, has a penchant for bowtie, and a pianist. The main protagonist is exploring his many firsts such as the kiss, and heartbreak. This book is imperfect but I appreciate the essence of it. It is a celebration of being proud despite of the circumstances. There’s music, poetry, life, and love.
Caleb used to be a sacristan. He internalized for years about his sexuality conflicting with his religious beliefs. It’s difficult to read, but I know a lot of religious readers who have been in Caleb’s shoes would be able to resonate with it. I couldn’t think of a better song appropriate for Another Word for Happy besides from Troye Sivan’s Heaven. Go listen to it, it’s heart wrenchingly beautiful.
Philippines is a predominately Catholic country. Homophobia, transphobia and, violence against the LGBTQIAP community is alive and thriving. Though, I love how Llanera chose to feature an ensemble of supportive cast. There’s a middle age wlw parental figure.
There’s several things I didn’t agree with. Per once, the casual ableism languages. Secondly, there’s this underlying tone how coming out is the “most freest thing you could.” Of course, it’s all about interpretation, I am proud of people who are out, but I want coming out stories to also reveal the other side of the coin. Not everyone in the closet loathes themselves, this is a myth. Some people treat their identity as theirs alone, and that’s okay. Some people are completely happy at being in the closet. That’s okay as well. There are also people who can’t be out because it would put them into an unsafe situation. That’s okay as well. There are people who didn’t chose to be out, they were forced to, and that’s not okay.
Just a PSA because I saw in the glossary: B*yot and b*kla aren’t just a Filipino term for gay, it is a slur. These words has been used as a dehumanizing word to Filipino LGBTQ community. It has always been linked with violence while the community has reclaim the word, please be cautious of using it.
Overall: I would recommend Another Word for Happy, it’s my first gay Filipino read which is refreshing. I’d love to see more #ownvoices stories. Just proceed carefully with the gay and T word slurs that were used.
Hoooooly guacamole. Another Word for Happy is the reason I'm crying right now. I'm still crying. It was so good; the characters, the story, the secondary characters are so!! ~ This is such an adorable read. I recommend everyone to pick it up!
It's the first LGBT+ book I've read from the #romanceclass books. It's about Caleb, who has known he likes boys since he was 13, and how his life changes when he meets cute boy Franco at a poetry club. It's a story about coming out and Agay wrote a beautiful story. I really want everyone to just get this book and shout with me because it's really really GOOOOOD.
I’ve been so excited about this since I found out this was coming out in October 2016! I’ve even hyped it up in my blog on National Coming Out Day even though I haven’t read it yet because I had a feeling it would be so good. And it definitely is! Even though I had to take several reading breaks because my heart could only take so much! Haha!
It’s a story about Caleb, a piano protégé who’s got so much more to give than what he lets on. He’s got a secret, something that is eating away at him daily and refuses to be repressed any longer. Especially since he’s fallen in love.
I know I don’t need to tell you why we need books like this, but I’ll tell you anyway. Caleb’s story is important, not only for the diversity of the romance genre in the country, but moreso for the closeted Pinoy teens in the who feels like they’ve got no one else to turn to. Because sometimes, even when you are swarmed with loving and accepting handful of friends, loving and understanding yourself for being you is an entirely different thing.
I’ve been in Caleb’s journey. Sometimes not identical to his (i.e. I didn’t have bowties or musical talent to express myself); other times it fit to a tee (i.e. pep-talking myself in the mirror with all the worst things people could say to me, and more); But it’s pretty much the same.
That’s what I loved best about Another Word for Happy. It tells a different boy’s story, but it tells my truth. In this day and age, coming out as homosexual seems to be something celebrities are doing left and right (sometimes for publicity, which is annoying at the very least), and people aren’t as shocked as we imagine them to be when we finally do it, but this book is unique in capturing the real reason why we choose to hide in the closet.
It’s more than being afraid for ourselves, being afraid of exposing our vulnerability and the hurt we’ll get from it. It’s more guilt and fear of disappointment from people who actually love us. The levels of fear may differ depending on how close one is to their parents, or how accepting and understanding they maybe, but I believe that’s the greatest fear we all have: to make our love ones feel betrayed. I would gladly take all the hurt and pain, if my parents would be spared.
But this story also tells how hiding is never a good thing. Caleb seemed to have made a way to cope up with his pent-up feelings but constant avoidance of the truth eventually caught up with him and threatened to destroy him from the inside.
And the story doesn’t stop from telling what happens when Caleb is in the closet, it goes further to tell what goes wrong and what goes right, after he comes out. I won’t spoil what happens but this is important because this happens in real life and, with all the LGBT stories I’ve read thus far, I haven’t come across a story as close to home as this one.
It made me cry, lots of times, for various different reasons. But ultimately because this is a story of love and acceptance. From others, yes, but ultimately, from one’s self.
Thank you for this, Agay. The world needs more allies like you. And this story in particular, has ignited more fire inside me to be better at loving myself. For closeted teens out there, I urge you to get this book! It helps that the cover is cutesy but not flamboyant, perfect for keeping you safe, until you find your own time to come out of the cocoon you’ve built yourself in, to be the butterfly you were meant to be.
6 of 5 Stars. 5 stars for flawless narrative, creative merging of music, prose and poetry, and well rounded characters. ALL OF THEM.
Plus 1 Star for telling my story this beautifully.
*Disclaimer: I’ve had zero input in the making of this book, but I claim it as my story, because it is.*
*This review first appeared on my blog: bentchcreates.tumblr.com
Growing up, I only encountered two Asian characters in fiction meant for people my age, the goddess Claudia Kishi from The Baby-Sitters Club and Cho Chang from Harry Potter.
Pretty sad, I know. It's even sadder if you take into account that neither of them grew up in an environment remotely similar to mine.
I didn't know it then, but I desperately wanted to see myself--or someone like me, at the very least--in the books I was reading. Someone who has relatives who work in places like Saudi Arabia or Dubai to make life better for the people left behind. Someone who understands what it's like to grow up with overly religious Catholic parents/grandparents.
Enter Another Word for Happy by Agay Llanera.
It's about Caleb, a talented pianist with a penchant for colorful bow ties. He's been in the closet since the age of thirteen and has no plans of coming out. Until he meets intense, brokenhearted Franco and falls in love for the first time. But falling doesn't always mean someone will catch you, something Caleb learns in the most painful of ways.
Where do I even begin to explain my utter adoration for this book?
If Caleb were a real person, I’d want to be the cool older sister-ish friend who takes him shopping for bow ties and says wise things to him like, “Cheer up, kid. Heartache always gets better with time.” He totally won my heart the second he binge-watched videos of Franco’s spoken word performances online. A boy after my own heart.
Not that I do stuff like that. Ahem.
It hurt my heart to read about his struggles to fully accept himself. At the same time, though, I was thankful to be given the opportunity to walk around in Caleb’s shoes, to understand what it’s like to be afraid to be judged by people because of who you choose to love.
I think I broke down a bit—a lot, if we’re being honest—when he stood in front of the mirror and called himself all the names he imagined people would call him once he came out of the closet. Give me a minute to collect myself. I’m not okay, you guys. *sniffles*
And the characters! Another Word for Happy was a book populated by flawed and realistic characters. Franco and his self-destruction. Ginny and her ever-changing hair colors. Caleb and the bow ties that match his mood. Even the minor characters were interesting and all added something of value to the story. They all felt like people I could run into at my old university.
Although Caleb’s story is uniquely his own, Another Word for Happy feels like an accurate portrayal of what it’s like to be a seventeen-year-old in the Philippines. Unlike in other countries, most of us go to college in the same city we grew up in. This basically means we live with our parents beyond the age of eighteen. We’re still subjected to our parents’ coddling and strict rules at a time when we begin to feel like full-fledged adults. It’s something my friends and I personally experienced, and I was so glad to read about it for the first time in Another Word for Happy.
Filipino teenagers seriously need to read this book, even just for the sadly rare pleasure of seeing themselves reflected in it.
I would totally give Another Word for Happy ten stars out of five. It’s like that long-term boyfriend who can make you cry until you pass out at 2 A.M. but shows up the next day with a bouquet made of multi-colored roses and a poem he wrote for you. It hurts, but you know you’re not letting go. More please, Agay Llanera?
Falling in love for the first time is already a grand mess. What more if the type of love you're feeling comes with a heavy secret? 17-year-old Caleb is gay, and he doesn't think anyone can accept him for it. It is a persistent weight he carries around with him as his tale unfolds. But what is beautiful about Caleb's tale, and about his awareness of the life he is living, is that being gay is not all there is. He is a musical prodigy and a college freshman struggling with schoolwork. He is best friend to a vibrant, colorful character of a girl. He is the only son to a mom who loves him so much, it hurts sometimes. He is all of those things, even if some days what stands out is how he is in love in this thrilling, all-consuming, throat-blocking way with sexy, spoken word artist and college senior Franco. And it is a love (like most first loves) that he feels will never be returned.
It is a joy to see Caleb wade through all of these things as he learns to pick his battles and fight for his wins. If you've read and enjoyed Llanera's works before, you would expect (correctly) that she handled this story with a careful yet loving hand, and that you might (will, for sure) cry. And at the end of it you too will feel the many colors of happy.
"Closets are for clothes. Not for that part of yourself you loathe. If you want to see the light, Outside the closet, you must take flight."
I grew up in an environment where there is so much rainbows and all and I know that you know what I mean and I really really appreciate this story so much. Every word of this book made me cry, literally made me cry. The title of this book truly encapsulates the aspect of being in a unique community where we all know has struggle being accepted by everyone but has provided us the happiness and joy they gladly share to all of us, for me they are happy people and to me they really are another word for happy, I have so much love for the LGBT community and they are really close to my heart and this book will be one of the best stories I have ever read and will be forever etched in my memory. This is my first in this kind of genre and I believe that we all need this kind of diverse stories. This book however is bittersweet due to its issues about coming out but also still it focuses on the protagonists life as a music prodigy and his life as a regular student and as a son and as a best friend.
"Out of the closet, we choose to be free. Remembering that gay is another word for happy."
This book is an array of colors, a spectrum of emotions, a rollercoaster ride of feelings. It will make you happy, and at some point it will make you sad and the whole time it will make you cry. Yes, cry. Cry for so much joy, cry for sadness and cry for celebrations.
"People are naturally scared of things they don't understand. Understanding and acceptance go both ways."
I love Caleb for being brave and courageous and I am glad that he has found the reason to come out and be proud of who he is. To find it in his heart that it is okay to be what he truly is and to find acceptance and comfort all throughout. That no matter what the odds are there will always be someone who will accept you, it may be hard at times but acceptance and understanding always go hand and hand. I really feel his emotions from the simple person that he is, to what he had become in a week's time together with Franco and how he had become after all the pain, the love, the struggles and the acceptance and happiness that he achieves in the end by coming out.
I love Franco as much as I love Caleb, he may have done something to Caleb but I still adore and love him. He may be flawed also just like the others and yet there is something in him that's just so heartwarming and lovely. Maybe because he appreciates Caleb so much and he has paved the way for him to come out in the open and accept his own worth. I think he really did bring out the best in Caleb. If only they could end up together, they compliment each other very well, they perfectly fit each others personality. Franco has so much warmth in him that even I can feel it.
Ginny and the Aunties, oh my goodness gracious! They complete this story and they make me giggle, they make me smile and they make me believe that love wins. Yes the Aunt's vows? God! I cried reading them well, i cried the whole time reading the book anyway, they are just lovely and I knew it. The scene where Caleb first went to the house. I have hinted it already. Their support for Ginny and Caleb was undying and it is overwhelming.
Tara and Drew the remaining members of the famous triumvirate ahh Drew i dont know how to feel about him at first, but I have come to terms with my feelings for him after I finished the book. I love it when he reached out to Caleb at the end and tell him how proud he is of what he had become. He is silent and yet observant of the things around him. He is quiet and yet he has this warmth. Tara is fun, I think she is cool, having a likeness for Caleb she's just out there very ready to express what she feels for someone. I love that in her and I am glad that Caleb has himself thinking if he was like Tara very vocal, straightforward and free.
Caleb's Mom, being the matriarch and the only support he has in their home I know that it is very hard for her to accept the news but, a mother for all we know will accept her children no matter what, whatever choices they make, whatever preferences in life they will have they will always love their children, accepts them and fights for them. After all who else will love us infinitely right? I am so happy that she has finally comes to terms with Caleb's personality. The scene at the wordplay event? It gives me chills while reading it and yes how many times do i have to say that I cried? Somehow his mother reminded me of my Mom, maybe because my Mom also participates in the church.
My heart is just so full after reading this. Now, I know why there are so much good words for Miss Agay's works. This is my first full length novel from her and it is very beautiful and will touch you one way or another and this definitely won't be the last. And I hope everyone gets to read this story, it would be such a great inspiration for others who also struggle with their life choices. Coming out isn't easy for everyone but I think you have to go out there be brave and show the world how amazing you are whichever preferences in life you might have. There are people who will understand you believe me. People who will not judge you in what you believe in. People who will accept you and embrace your uniqueness no matter what.
"Surely, his arms were bigger now - stronger and longer. But he knew he still wouldn't be able to hold all that happiness shimmering before him. Still, it was okay. Some things were just too big, too beautiful for him to hold on to."
If there is one word to describe this book, it is this: vivid.
Agay did a great job of weaving the story of Caleb through an amazing way of showing, not telling. Each scene was vividly described, each emotion clearly depicted, that I can actually feel I am there, with Caleb. In his school, in his home, with his mother, with Ginny. And with Franco.
The tone of the story was set at the first paragraph. It was neither happy or sad, or hot or cold. It was somewhere in between. More importantly, it was real. As real as it gets. In modern jargon, I believe it's termed "true-to-life." Caleb went through the pains of realization, acceptance, unrequited love, and despondency, and emerged scarred yet armed with a renewed conviction of staying true to himself as he saw fit. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, he graciously granted forgiveness and understanding to the persons who hurt him. And in doing so, he turned the tides of his life to his advantage, avoiding a lifetime of anger and resentment.
Caleb's character development was carefully laid out and crafted. Ginny is adorable, as well as her aunts. Franco is, well, Franco. Human and imperfect, like Caleb's mother. The flow of the story was remarkably fluid, made more entertaining by naming each chapter after musical terms and compositions which best reflect it.
I think the most important thing we can learn from Caleb's story is not that we have to accept people like him. The most significant lesson here is that we hold in our hands the power to live in peace and harmony, not just with our own selves, but with others too, especially others who are dear to us. Like Caleb, we can also turn the tides in our favor instead of letting bitterness in our hearts take us to the depths of despair and infinitely wrong choices. The secret? To forgive.
I was given an Advanced Reader's Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Agay's writing is so gorgeous and vivid. Caleb's love for music colours how he views everything and I loved that. I love when a character's passions are reflected in how they see they world, and there's a lot of great musical symbolism woven in here. It adds so many more layers to Caleb's characterization that feels so real to who he is.
I mentioned how vivid and beautiful Agay's way with words are and this stood out the most for me in the scene where Caleb's playing Mozart and recalling his afternoon with Franco. I could see so clearly how this would look on screen. It doesn't hurt that I saw the live reading video of this scene before reading the book so it was even easier for me to picture it! :)
Caleb's coming out isn't without some heartbreaking moments. The guy he's had a crush on kisses him and Caleb believed (hell i believed too) there was going to be a happy ending for him and Franco but it wasn't to be. (side eyes Franco >.>) Then the coming out to his mother, lawd, that was painful. The things she said to him. :( His mother after some conversations with Ginny (Caleb's best friend's aunts) does come around. She even teased him about a cute boy there at the end.
Another thing i liked about this book was the casual inclusion of Ginny's titas being married, to each other. That made me smile and Ginny showing Caleb the tita's vows near had me crying. Honestly, that was so beautifully written i highlighted the entire passage.
Lovely book, gorgeous prose, also the poetry! Franco's poetry was glorious, highly recommend :)
Finished this story in a day. I swear, I could not put it down! Agay’s prose is beautiful. It grips your heart and squeezes it for all its worth. Add a solid, sensitive, emphatic story to the mix, this is definitely a book everyone should read. I loved Caleb, and reading about his journey made me want to give him a BIG hug. His thoughts and reflections, juxtaposed against the music he loves and the poetry of the spoken word sessions is a revelation … unfamiliar, but inviting the reader into his world … until in the end, you can’t help but understand and root for him. Read this book and discover … not only things about Caleb and the LGBT community, but also about yourself. Because the struggle is real---and it exists for ALL of us. Buy this book. You. Have. To. Read. It.
As usual, as with any story by Llanera, I jumped head first into this book and fell in love. The way she writes is masterful and the way she crafted this story showcases these very skills.
Caleb is a character you care about so deeply, you root for him from page one. However, I also found myself rooting for everyone else in the story too. The girl who hoped Caleb was straight, the mom who couldn't understand but so desperately tried to, the best friend who wasn't just a token character but one who was so fleshed out she deserves her own story, and yes even the boy you know might just break Caleb's heart.
And the poetry. I didn't fully appreciate the title till I read the poem. Buy the book and find out what I mean! You won't regret it.
Thank you to Ms. Agay Llaner for a digital copy of this book in-exchange of honest review.
When I read the synopsis of Another Word for Happy, I’m thrilled so I immediately signed up for the blog tour. Another thing that caught my attention is how diverse this book. I haven’t read a book about a boy coming out of the closet. I am always curious of the thoughts, feelings, behavior and emotions of those people part of the LGBT community especially how they struggle yet still strive for acceptance and respect.
A highly commendable heartbreaking and tearjerking story by Agay Llanera.
It says right on the cover that it’s ‘a story about coming out,’ and it is, and in more ways than one. The writing is heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time, complete with wisdom and inspiration.
Can I pretty please give this a 7/5 because of awesomeness? I love getting lost in Agay's worlds and Another Word for Happy is no exception. The way she makes characters relatable is a gift. You can't help but cheer for them and wish them happiness.
First of all, I am grateful because I was able to read and review Another Word For Happy by Agay Llanera and I am one-hundred percent sure that this is my first ever book from her. I could say that I am a satisfied reader.
Another Word For Happy is a thin book with an entertaining story that is simple, direct and beautiful in all possible way. It is a story of acceptance, self love and friendship. It has a little love story on the side but the story is focused on Caleb. He's gay, a musician and he is afraid to show his true self because the society might not accept him. He's not confident to tell his own mother or his friend Ginny about his little secret because they might not understand his feeling but with the help of Franco, Caleb was able to come out of his little world.
Reading this book made me realize how closed minded some people are because of the LGBTQ community. It was annoying in someway because at the end of the day these people who are being judged by the society is still a person, right? I just hope that one day people will change their minds. Anyway back to my review, I had a great time with every pages of it, each turn is beautiful. My favorite part is when Caleb plays piano. I wish I could listen to him playing those songs. What hit me on this story is when Franco admitted his real feelings for Caleb. I was like "darn it! why?!" But I am glad to know that this book ended well.
I have one question though, will there be a sequel for this? I feel like there should be more Caleb story. I would love to read more about him and what happened to him after everything. I have this feeling that Caleb will be a great pianist as well.
THIS BOOK IS AMAZING. AM-AHHH-ZINNNG. I'd been having a bit of a reading slump lately, being a bit of a grouch because I couldn't turn my inner 'story engineer' off. You know, that voice in your head that thinks of stories like shapes and buildings, noticing the symmetry of the plot or how dialogue and characterization can otherwise decorate faulty bones. (Just me? Heh.) But this book shook me out of that grouch potato mode. Trust Agay Llanera to deliver a perfectly constructed story in a way that I can only describe as having 'good bones,' over which she layers intelligent characterization, distinct personalities and an inner story so bursting with heart it'll drive you to tears. Every detail of this book makes absolute sense, from the bowties Caleb wears as a nonverbal, soft assertion of identity to the smell of smoke and how that is so much more than that, between Caleb and his mother. Even the meaning of Caleb's name plays an integral part of the story. Masterful and I love it to bits!
Another Word For Happy is one bold book. It's a story about Caleb. A story of accepting who you really are and being free. It's a story about family, friendship, love and freedom.
Caleb's story is relatable to EVERYBODY. All of us, whatever gender you might be in, we are all experiencing hardships just like him. Just like Caleb we have been through keeping the best act we have because we don't want to disappoint people we love. Just like Caleb, we got our heart broken. And just like us, Caleb and other gay/lesbian are human. They get hurt too. That's why I give 5 out of 5 dazzling stars Miss Agay Llanera's Another Word For Happy. Thank you po for sharing Caleb and his wonderful story!
A story of love and acceptance that we should all read. A book with imperfect and realistic characters. All that i liked caleb was those thoughts and reflections. Caleb e sun chico of 17 years who is homosexual and he believes that the people of his environment will not accept him for that and it is something that is seen in the development of history. What you find in this history is music, poetry, life and love.About the colors caleb, a talented pianist with a penchant for colorful bow ties. Ginny and her ever-changing hair colors. https://loslibrosdetuvidaa.blogspot.p...
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This line and everything inside the book is a gem! OMG!
Agay your story made me happy, sad and it touched deeply until my soul. Caleb is such a talented angel that I want to give a bear hug. He reminded me so much of my best friend. All of your characters also shine in your story, I super love them!
My heart is overflowing with emotions while reading the book. I believe this is so far the best LGBT Young Adult novel that I read.
I do think it's a cute story, but it's really held back by its novella length. That's the reason why I chose not to rate it any higher.
This was a very, very quick read for me. I think I finished it after a little over an hour? The events that occur seem to come off as super condensed for me, which detracted my immersion in the story. It felt like everything got resolved pretty quickly, like the events just flew by without being thoroughly expounded on. Same goes with all the characters that were introduced I guess. You don't really feel attached to them because they go in and out of the scenes pretty quickly without getting a good sense of who they are.
I strongly feel that the story's theme of coming-of-age as a gay young adult, could've used probably a hundred more pages? Most LGBTQ YA stories tend to be around that length. Like, the extra pages could've been used to fill in the gaps where the events occur and add onto the conflict the protagonist experiences with his mother. It was nice to see that she had a change of heart and character, but like I mentioned earlier, it came off as too abrupt and conveniently resolved by the end.
Caleb is a thoughtful and careful boy. A classical pianist just starting college and finally coming to terms with his sexuality and with other people's expectations of who he is. This is a gentle story, low on the angst, but it drew me in and kept me invested all the way.
this was a really cute book. I don't read many LGBQT books but this one focused on a boy named Caleb who was gay but hasn't came out yet. I enjoyed it. Didn't like how Franco played him for selfish reasons but he allowed Caleb to be able to come out to his mom. It gave him that courage.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
The book honestly felt eh to start off with. I'm not the biggest fan of in media res, which is how it started, but yeah. I was generally super confused, especially in the beginning. I didn't feel emotionally attached to any of the characters, so it took me forever to read. The imagery was good I guess though. The ending was cute, which was the only thing that saved the book. It was also not own voices so yeah.