Title: What Kind of Day
Author: Mina V. Esguerra
Age Range: Adult
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
It’s a bad day for Ben. After years of earnest work, he’s been fired from his job as a speechwriter for a Philippine senator. Name tarnished and bridges burned, he steps into what he thinks is a shuttle ride home, and accidentally joins a tour of his own city.
It was supposed to be a good day for Naya. Her passion is traveling, her hobby is discovering cool things to see and do, and taking people on tours of Metro Manila is her only job right now. An extra person at the last minute isn’t ideal, especially if the person is a former colleague and the subject of the day’s hottest political trash fire. But work is work, and she decides to let him stay in the tour.
She’s hoping she won’t regret it. He’s hoping his day turns around. What kind of day could it be? Maybe the best kind.
Content Warnings: Explicit sexual content
I went into this book expecting it to be like a Before Sunrise or That Thing Called Tadhana situation, but it turned out to be so, so, so much more.
Ben is one of those government workers that are so prevalent nowadays: millennials in their mid-twenties to early thirties who just wanted to contribute to nation-building, to something bigger than themselves, and are very quickly becoming disillusioned with the machinery in charge of our country. Naya, on the other hand, is sick of compromising her dreams and desires in order to fit into other people’s ideas of success and comfortability, and just wants to live out life on her own terms. The two fortuitously meet when Ben, after resigning in the wake of a political scandal, mistakes her tour van for a UV express shuttle. All great adventures begin with, ‘Why not?’ and Ben’s is no different. Instead of getting off and finding the right shuttle, he forks over the money, videos a legal waiver absolving Naya of any liability should anything happen to him, and goes off on the tour.
First, let me talk about the premise: Naya’s “alternative” tour of Manila. As someone who has a love-hate relationship with this city, Naya’s passion for showing a rarely seen side of Manila really hits home for me. She’s not afraid to show what’s terrible about it: the traffic, for instance. But neither does she subscribe to the idea that there’s nothing to do or see in Manila. What makes Manila the city that we all love and hate in equal measures is a mix of history, people, and culture who all have a story to tell. Naya’s tour taps into those stories and gives its participants a deeper, better understanding of the city. It doesn’t try to change your mind about Manila’s problems – in fact, it shows those problems up close and personal – but it does try to tell you that there’s more to Manila than meets the eye. Whether that’s bad or good is up to you to decide.
Internally, Naya has her own hang-ups to get over. This is what she’s good at, and what she wants to do. But doing it on her own terms means financially struggling, and all the attendant worries regarding health and happiness, as well as, of course, her own family’s health and happiness. It’s a struggle to balance what you really want to do with the necessities and realities of life, and to make a choice between doing what you love and doing what you need. Naya’s struggle tells us that there is no wrong choice. What matters is that you do what’s best for you.
But what really struck me about What Kind of Day was Ben’s story, mostly because I can hella relate. After a political scandal rocks the senator for whom Ben works, Ben offers to resign as the one with the least amount of political clout in that senator’s camp. Everything about Ben’s troubles really resonates with me. He believes in his work, and he likes the thought of contributing to something bigger than himself, but being in this industry opens you to the possibility of being thrown, unforgivingly and without a second thought, under the bus.
This is something that every single government employee who is not powerful or well-connected feels. We joined the civil service because we believe in the Philippines, and in serving the Filipino people. But more often than not, these lofty ideals are either twisted until they’re unrecognizable or we get trodden upon and exploited by those in higher positions willing to use our hope and our idealism to advance their own interests. I loved reading about how Ben managed to deal with his belief that he could really be and do better, and handling the politicking that is inherent in government work.
Despite featuring a steamy sex scene and an adorable story of two people being what the other needed at the exact moment, what I really loved about What Kind of Day is how Ben and Naya’s life experiences are those of every millennial right at this moment. We tend to think of millennials as older teenagers or people in their early twenties, but the truth of the matter is the majority of millennials are in their mid-twenties and early thirties, are gainfully employed, and are struggling with life and with who they are and what they want to be. This is a book for people who are struggling to find the happy medium between stability and happiness. For people who want to believe that everything will be okay even when everything and everyone else tells them otherwise. This is a book to read when you feel down about your career, your choices, your mistakes, anything and everything in your life that people will judge and critique you for. This is a book to remind you to make good days. (You’ll understand the in-joke when you read!)
What Kind of Day by Mina V. Esguerra comes out on May 31! Pre-order it here.