That Kind of Guy

That Kind of Guy by Mina V. EsguerraThat Kind of Guy by Mina V. Esguerra
Publisher: Summit Books
Number of pages: 170
My copy: paperback, won from the author’s contest

Good girl Julie never expected her hot former-player boyfriend to propose marriage. But when he did, she turned him down for reasons even she couldn’t figure out. Will she settle for a nice, safe guy instead? Or will she let him find his way back into her carefully guarded heart?

* * *

Back in college, I was friends with two girls in my org, and we were often called as the Powerpuff Girls because we were always together. Our little group was also known to be the “ate‘s” or the older sisters of the other younger members of the org, which was kind of why we had a kind of impression on others that we always laughed about when we were talking amongst ourselves. Privately, we call ourselves manang‘s (another term for older sisters in some Filipino dialects, but colloquial use refers to being old fashioned older women) because we all have our own levels of being…well, manang. We had levels of being manang based on how people often approach us: one was the ultimate manang because of her strictness (and also because she’s an officer of our org), I come in second because I’m not as strict but not everyone finds it easy to approach me and finally, the last member of our group is the least manang because she’s was just naturally friendlier and the younger members find it easier to confide in her.

Fast forward a few years later, and it’s no surprise that the least manang among all of us is married. The remaining two — well, we’re still pretty manang. :P

I can’t help but remember this particular college memory while I was reading Mina V. Esguerra’s latest book, That Kind of Guy. Julie has always been a good girl, and has always done what was expected of her. How she ended up with bad boy Anton was a mystery, even more when he popped the question to her. The only obvious thing to do when he asked her to marry him was to say no — after all, she wasn’t even sure if she knew Anton well enough after 11 months of “dating”. Julie figures there are enough safe guys out there that fit her personality better, but does she really want that?

Okay, of all of Mina’s heroines, I find Julie both the easiest and hardest to relate to. I can relate to her manang ways, obviously — about how she does the right things, how she tries to be honest and tactful, about how she tends to play safe. I also couldn’t relate to her because unlike Julie, I’m not exactly friendless because of my (attempts at) honesty. I don’t know if that makes me less of a manang then? Anyway, I think Julie can be either likable or unlikable depending on the reader’s POV, but like Mina’s other heroines, her voice still sounds so authentic that it feels like I’m just hearing a story of a friend over a meal. The hero in the story is a familiar one for those who have read Mina’s old books — he was mentioned once in Fairy Tale Fail and was one of the secondary characters in No Strings Attached. I liked that he showed another side in this book, one that wasn’t really expected based on how we were introduced to him in the previous ones. You don’t need to read the two books to really get into this, though, but it’s nice to be surprised at the depth of his character in That Kind of Guy. While Anton is still not going to top my favorite Mina guy (Lucas of FTF — who has a teeny mention here, squee!), I was surprised at how much I ended up liking him in the end.

I think That Kind of Guy will be able to speak to a certain kind of girl who rarely has a starring role in chick lit books — the good girl. This isn’t about a good girl deciding to be bad, or a good girl getting into scrapes that she didn’t deserve because hey, she’s good. It’s about that kind of girl who wasn’t sure what kind of guy she really wanted, if she would take the risk or go for the safe choice. The fun thing about this is that Julie never really had to change much about her being a good girl, even if she tried to be not. Julie didn’t have to change to someone too wild or too careless for her story to move forward. The growth of her character came not from a shocking revelation because of her sudden wild changes, but from the things she proved that she already knew but just needed to be brought out. In the end, That Kind of Guy was really about being certain of your choices and acting on it, even if the outcome is not really guaranteed. To quote (this one is really more specific about those choices):

Next time, just say something. It doesn’t have to be the first date. Maybe the third or the fourth. Don’t wait a year if you’re sure. Certainty is sexy. And owning up to your attraction is sexy, too, and if you do it right and you’re not creepy about it, I bet she will respect you for it anyway even if she does not like you back. (p. 157)

It’s no surprise that I really liked That Kind of Guy. :) I think it just proved Mina’s strength in drawing out characters that different readers can relate to. I really liked the epilogue too, and I’m curious if that new character will have her own story eventually. If she does, then I can’t wait to find out what Mina has in store for her. But even if she won’t have her own story, it doesn’t change the fact that I am still going to read everything that Mina writes. :)

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