Review || Chasing Mindy, by Carla de Guzman

Title: Chasing Mindy
Author: Carla de Guzman
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Copy: Digital

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Jasmine “Mindy” Capras, born right in the middle of eight, equally unique siblings, has been dreaming of exploring Paris on her own. No crazy (but totally well-meaning!) family. No generic tours and boring tour guides. Unfortunately, when Mindy finally gets to go to Paris for a week, her mother insists that she meets up with Javier Tiangco, who happens to be studying in Paris for his MBA. The same Javier her mother, together with Javier’s mother as a faithful accomplice, has been trying to set her up with.

But while Mindy is dramatic and has a tendency to yell at things when her siblings are brought up, Javier is taciturn and boring. The two of them spending a week in Paris together? It doesn’t sound like the best idea.

As I explicitly mentioned in my monthly synopsis, I intended to impose a strict, month-long reading ban on myself. However, after reading the review of Chasing Mindy from Kate @ The Backwards Bookshelf, my already pitiful self-restraint evaporated completely (Everyone, be warned. Kate is a total enabler. Proceed with caution). That’s how I ended up breaking my reading ban on the first day of April no less. Check out the Twitter thread below for more details:

But I digress. Chasing Mindy was such a delightful read that I never, not even for a second, felt like I made the wrong decision by breaking my self-imposed reading ban.

If I’m being totally honest, I initially struggled with liking Mindy’s character, which seems to totally contradict my previous statement – but hear me out! Although the synopsis already warned me that Mindy had a flair for the dramatic, I was still a bit irked by it; however, in hindsight, that’s probably just because her aggressive, spontaneous, and outright bubbly personality is such a stark contrast against my own. Nonetheless, I quickly learned to appreciate Mindy as I kept reading because the more I read, the more I realized that we weren’t so different after all.

For one thing, Mindy and I share similar experiences. In the story, she decided to quit from the University of the Philippines (UP) law school, and since then, began to struggle with anxiety, war flashbacks of her experiences in the hell that is Malcolm Hall, and self-identity. As someone who left the UP College of Engineering (and shifted to the UP College of Mass Communication), can I just say – UP trauma is too real. I, too, have firsthand experiences with toxic learning environments and equally problematic college cultures. I could also really relate to the feelings of hopelessness, shame, and frustration that Mindy felt. Much like her, after veering away from the career path I used to dream about, I felt incredibly lost, and even on my good days, I could not help but feel like a failure and a disappointment.

I really admired how, despite all these things, Mindy made an active effort to heal on her own and at her own pace. She was not moping around, wondering why she wasn’t able to power through law school like she initially wanted. Even in the face of other conflicts in her life, Mindy took action. She was not flawless or faultless by any means, but she was trying – and that in itself was remarkably brave.

As a love interest, Javier really excelled in sweeping Mindy and myself(!!!) off our feet. I would definitely, without question, want my own Javier to tour me around Paris. He was every bit as flawed and broken as Mindy was – not in a romanticized way, but more like, an inherently human sort of way.

Really, Mindy and Javier were just so cute and undeniably precious together. Well, if I were their friend and I had to accompany them on their dates as a third wheel, I would probably spend half the time gagging (both pretend and actual) from all the cutesy affection and the other half finding amusement in their bickering and bantering. Still, I loved their seamless transition from dislike to mutual respect to love. They constantly brought out intensity, vulnerability, and honesty in each other, and I was utterly fascinated and engaged as I watched (read?) their relationship develop and flourish.

There are a lot of remarkable elements and themes in Chasing Mindy that I don’t think I have the time to cite them all, but I will specifically point out that I really appreciated the inclusion of large families in the story. Although I’m the eldest of three daughters, I know that large families with five or more children are pretty common in the Philippines, so reading about a family with that sort of setup was great. The execution was equally great, too! Although I initially felt overwhelmed by all the names being tossed around (which is the natural response to meeting a big family, in my opinion), every Capras sibling had a distinct and dynamic personality, and by the end of the book, I just wanted to learn more about all of them! Plus, I thought it was fantastic how the Capras family effectively represented the essence of a Filipino family.

Quite frankly, what I loved the most about Chasing Mindy was not the romance aspect, which basically constituted the primary plot of the story. Instead, what I loved the most about Chasing Mindy was the dynamic, multi-layered character growth of both Mindy and Javier as individuals – watching them both navigate and negotiate between who they are outside of the shadows of other people and who they can be, in order to figure out whom they want to become. Underneath their personal battles with inner demons lies a really powerful and empowering message which, I think, can resonate deeply with everyone.

Chasing Mindy is a cute, heartwarming romance set in one of the most magical places in the world and manages to thoughtfully explore struggles with self-image and self-identity. Carla de Guzman’s latest book is definitely a read I’d recommend, especially to people, like myself, who still have tons of shit to figure out.

Quick disclosure: I received a digital advanced reader’s copy (ARC) of Chasing Mindy from the author herself in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to Carla de Guzman!

[Review also available: Goodreads]

Excerpt from the book:

Where Paris was all about controlled white spaces and patterned trees in their garden, Monet let his senses run riot in the gardens of his estate. To Javier, who had grown up in a house that had very few plants in it (his father had been all about feng shui and fortune), it was almost too much. But given the look on Mindy’s face and the slow smile that curved her lips, to her, it was just right.

Rows and rows of flowers spread out neatly in every direction, creating a great many walkable paths. But what made Monet’s garden interesting was that all the flowers were arranged by color, depending on the direction you decided to walk. To walk to the left would take you to the area of pinks; the collection of different flowers ranged from bright neon pink to deep, dark rose. In front of them, straight ahead, were flowers in yellow and orange, beckoning them to walk the path that led to the greenhouse. Close to the purples on the other side, the gradient moved toward blue. Monet was a painter who was very particular about his colors, and his garden was a reflection of meticulous planning and careful consideration. Everything was patterned chaos, like a painter’s palette.

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First of her name. Queen of lists and spreadsheets. Protector of books. Breaker of norms. Iskolar ng bayan.

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