Quitters Never Win

, by Janine M.

Grace and AJ are like Christmas lights—off and on, again and again. But their last breakup was devastating. It was enough to make Grace want to run him over in her pale pink Beetle. She even composed 12 steps to quitting him, which wasn’t easy because he admittedly was her first love—the boy she lost her heart to when she was still collecting Hello Kitty stationeries; the boy she never stopped loving since. But something happens that changes Grace’s life forever. Now it’s time for her to reevaluate everything she has going for her and make a decision. Is this the end of Grace’s life as she knows it? Or is she finally going to have the happy ending she so desperately needs?

Attention: This review contains spoilers.

Nothing can drive you crazy like your first love.

So declares the front cover of Faye Ilogon's book 12 Steps to Quitting AJ.

The statement alone has led my mind to stray for a while, recounting the times I've had with my puppy love. Which then led me to thinking about my new flame who I consider my first (and hopefully last) true love. Ours is an "it's complicated"-Facebook relationship status-worthy situation, which I prefer not to divulge to the reading public. :P

Initially, I thought this was about Grace being impregnated by someone else, falling in love with that other man, and she's torn because she thinks she still loves her first love AJ (Andres Jose Bonifacio). I thought she sought comfort from someone else because AJ was such a jerk. That was basing from the summary. Having this scandalous expectation in mind, I started to read.

The plot has a few elements of surprise (but of course I already knew AJ didn't care about Grace being adopted but I didn't realize yet that he got her pregnant intentionally to finally settle down with her) and succeeded in most of its attempts at being humorous. I was laughing every now and then that my mom thought I'd gone off my rocker.  All of the drama naturally comes from the main character Grace, mulling over whether she should tell AJ about her Moses issue or not, and if she'd have a good future ahead knowing she has to sacrifice her laid-out plans. I like Veronica though she appears only very briefly as a surprise support character towards the end, eventually helping Grace make a decision. Though I highly doubt that this "instantly formed sorority between exes on a chance meeting" can exist in our society. Not unless the people involved are very open-minded and have no insecurity or trust issues. I love their gay friend Martin! Just read it to know why. :P

Indeed, theirs is a relationship no different from modern Filipino young couples. All the drama, the tampuhans, balikan ng regalo, sunugan ng litrato occur on any face of the archipelago. AJ is quite interesting to me though, because he hates any form of communication apart from seeing each other in person, let alone express lover's sentiments and affection via phone lines or a text message. The really touching part of the novel was when the love letter AJ wrote was revealed to the readers. Here's an excerpt (which is actually his ENTIRE letter to Grace. Faye please forgive me):

The One and Only Letter

I'm not good with words, I never have been. I can try to be for you, but I will never be half as good as you when it comes to choosing the right words to say. You see, when you're not acting nuts, you do have a way of putting words together. You make me want to buy whatever it is you're told to write about.

A few months ago, we watched that CSI: Las Vegas episode where Sara Sidle writes a sad love letter to Gil Grissom. I thought I'd use some of her words to write you my first attempt at a love letter, but I've worked so hard to make sure that it will be just as honest as hers. Honest enough to prove to you that I'm in this for keeps.

Here goes...

You know I love you. It seems that I’ve loved you forever. Maybe that love had to change over the years and I had to fall in love with other girls before I could find you again. But I love you.

Lately, I haven't been feeling very well. There's all this stuff with my parents wanting to go off to live and serve some godforsaken town. I worry about them and sometimes I've taken it out on you.

Anyway, I've realized something and I haven't been able to shake it. You scare me. You bring out all my fears. I am scared of losing you in sort of the same way I've always been scared that my parents will leave us for some bigger cause. My brother dealt with it by falling in love and starting his own family as soon as he could. I dealt with it by rolling with the punches. You know, never letting anyone see me sweat. My parents think I can hit the ground running all the time. I just really want to have a normal life and do normal boring things.

I have that with you. We're normal and boring and I absolutely like that. By "boring", I mean that I won't be shocked to know that you've left me to start a livelihood project somewhere. It's selfish and so middleclass but that's my version of a happy-ever-after. You and I both know we can do good without disappearing on each other or making too many sacrifices. My family is all about sacrifices and I'm obsessed with being normal. You know what I mean, right? Yes, I'm rambling already. But I know that you get me. So, now, I'm more scared of losing you. A lot of things can happen and you'll run into men who will be able to pamper you and say sweet things to you in French.

I'm not exactly broke, but I won't be able to give you a fancy car or a mansion. I'm bad at European languages and the only foreign-sounding endearments I can say to you are in Cebuano.Gihigugma ko ikaw.

Despite that, I've realized that it's time for me to bury my stupid insecurities and my god-awful issues. I know nobody else can love you like I do. They can try but I'm the only one who can say that I've pictured you fat, toothless, and old in my mind and I still find myself smiling...and getting dirty thoughts.

Know that you are my one and only. I know this won't make any sense but our being together is the only home I've ever really had. I wouldn't trade it for anything. It's been three crazy years and I'm in it all the way.

I love you. I always will.


I also loved that it was written not in chronological order, but has Grace thinking of the past, making the readers understand her little by little. I have this newfound love for cute "lists" which in this novel were trivia, tips, "categories of exes" and of course Grace's 12 Steps to Quitting AJ. Prior to reading, I thought the 12 Steps was the highlight of the novel, but to my surprise it wasn't. I could use some of the tips on myself so that my guy won't be running away from me but instead come running into my arms. :P The Betty and Veronica comparison and the Martin-coined-painting-footbridges-and-fences-pink-idea were two of the funniest points in my opinion.

If your love life can be compared to blinking Christmas lights, realize that no step-by-step plans of action nor rules are necessary to keep your beloved. Honesty, trust, faithfulness and a hopeful heart are the best things you can give and you deserve to get. If you want to win at love, never quit without trying.

And oh, this novel is close to my heart because I have a brother named after THREE national heroes.

 Rating: ♥♥♥♥


  1. Judy Marie SantiagoJuly 5, 2010 at 6:29 AM

    OMG. The sweetest love letter i've ever read. :_) Aww. There's so much love in that letter, that made me think Kevin have already written something like that for me. HAHA :D Thanks for sharing this book, Nin. I know it's a very interesting read, but because I'm busy, I can only rely on blogs and just fall in love here. Haha. Thanks! This blog will be awesome since it already is now. :D I'm happy you're taking time to write down your thoughts and emotions, it's the best way to do it. :D And of course, I will always read them all... Same as I will always listen to you whenever you speak... I miss you tons, Nin! I miss you so much! Mwaah... I love you!

  2. Aww Judy! Thanks so much for the sweet words. Made my night! I'll read yours too. Just promise me to put more content other than Kevin ha? CHOS! I know he's the most important person in your life right now kaya natural lang na siya bukangdaliri mo lagi. Labyuuuu!!!

  3. hi..i love your book..FIRST LOVE but i failed to buy the second part..the HEARTBREAK..can you please help me..
    where can i buy one..please reply..haha thanks


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