Plain Vanilla by Ines Bautista-Yao
Despite her quirky name and equally quirky family, 16-year-old Tempest Juan knows she's ordinary. After reading a comment on Facebook which likened her to vanilla ice cream, Tempest decides she has to do something about it or be forever branded as plain, lukewarm, and well, vanilla. It doesn't help that the comment was made by Paco Lorenzo, her cousin’s cute friend (no longer cute in her book!). When she happens upon a book of dares, she decides to attempt each one, no matter how hard. This is her personality at stake, after all. But somehow, Paco, the cause of all this, finds a way to be at every dare Tempest attempts, confusing her and forcing her to question what’s really going on inside her heart.
“But what about Margarita?”
“She sped off in another direction.” He shrugged, still pulling her along. But this time, he wasn’t holding her arm anymore. His hand found its way into hers. And she told herself she didn’t let go because it was dark and she didn’t want to trip on anything.
When they got to the covered courts, they didn’t bother to find a place to hide. It was so dark, it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Paco sat on one of the benches and pulled Tempest down next to him. She was tempted to pull her hand away, but he still hadn’t let go. What was the protocol when it came to something like this? Do you let go when you’re about to do something like look at your watch or scratch an itch? Or do you just keep holding on till both your hands get too sweaty? And why did it have to be so complicated?
“I think this is awesome, what you’re doing.” He smiled at her. Or at least she assumed he was. It was too dark to tell.
“Sitting in the dark, holding your hand?” Tempest couldn’t pretend it wasn’t happening, so might as well call attention to it.
Paco surprised her by squeezing her hand and still not letting go. “Well, yeah, this too.” He laughed easily. “But I was talking about the dares. I mean, daring other people is something Marga and I do all the time, but daring yourself is cool. Why didn’t you tell me about it last night? I could have helped you do some of them while we were just hanging out. What’s on your list anyway?”
Tempest didn’t tell him that the dares had only materialized today because of him. “Well, nighttime hide and seek, sleeping under the stars, and glow-in-the-dark bowling are part of it. That pathetic excuse for chalk art this afternoon was too.”
“That wasn’t pathetic.”
“Whatever.” Tempest snorted. “There’s also doing a color run which I am seriously thinking of swapping with something else, running through sprinklers, flying a kite, making a slushie—”
“You’ve never made a slushie?” Astonishment.
“I lead a very dull life, okay?”
“Or flown a kite?” More astonishment.
“Fine, Mr. I’ve Done Everything Fun in the World, what haven’t you done? If you were to give yourself a list of dares, what would you put on your list?”
“Well, I wouldn’t mind breaking into an all-girls high school after dark and playing hide and seek.” She could hear the smile in his voice.
“Boring. I’ve done that already.”
Paco burst out laughing. Tempest’s insides began to feel all warm and gooey. It felt good to make him laugh. And to have his complete attention. And to still be holding his hand.
Buy it now! Buqo
As expected, this was a truly fun read!
I guess there's a time in everybody's life that they feel like plain vanilla in a sea of Baskin-Robbins. And I guess that's why I couldn't help but root for Pesty as she undertook one dare after the other. Maybe all we need is a little push to discover that we aren't as 'plain' as we thought we were :-)
Pesty, in all her ‘normalcy’, was a character that was easy to relate to. Loved the little details, like her super-organized, but rarely used art desk. And the Juans are just so crazy-fun! I laughed out loud at her brother’s ditties and at her cousins’ antics. Paco was perfect . . . he's sweet and supportive all throughout. And it was adorable how patient and persistent he was with Pesty :-)
I just loved how the narrative takes the reader up and down . . . through kilig, disappointment, confusion, and finally back to happy kilig. Thought the ending was just right . . . liked Pesty all the more for being so level-headed about it all. And Paco’s surprise is something to watch out for ;-)
But seriously, I want to read more about the Juans. Perhaps a story about Clara or Marga? *wink, wink*
About Ines Bautista-Yao
Ines Bautista-Yao is the author of One Crazy Summer, What’s in your Heart, and Only a Kiss. She has also written two short stories, “Flashbacks and Echoes,” which is part of a compilation called All This Wanting and “A Captured Dream,” one of the four short stories in Sola Musica: Love Notes from a Festival.
She is the former editor-in-chief of Candy and K-Zone magazines and a former high school and college English and Literature teacher. She is also a wife and mom and blogs about the many challenges and joys of motherhood at theeverydayprojectblog.com. She has recently launched The Author Project, a section in her current blog devoted to the stories in her head: http://theeverydayprojectblog.com/inesbyao-author-project/