If there is one sport that I enjoy playing, it will be volleyball. I am not exactly the sporty type or a huge fan of sports, but at least I can throw a (satisfactory) volleyball serve or stop a spike. If it weren’t for my myopic eyes, I would have readily joined our elementary volleyball team. It is, therefore, not a surprise that I became interested in joining this blog tour for Agay Llanera’s newest novella, Once Upon A Player.
Gorgeous college senior Val Fabian is a player in every sense of the word. She’s the star spiker of her university’s volleyball team, and she never runs out of dates. But it seems that this year, she has finally been bitten by the commitment bug. She sets her sights on an unexpected target–the unassuming yet ultra-cute Jake Clementia. al is used to getting what she wants, and is sure she’ll snag him before graduation. But in the process of winning his heart, she is sideswiped by a surprise move that sends her tumbling from her pedestal.
I must confess that I when I was thinking about joining the blog tour for this book, I wasn’t particularly excited about the romance. I was more interested in reading about volleyball. And I was not disappointed. I had my dose of the sport and the book adequately portrayed the growing popularity of the volleybelles. Once Upon A Player brought back fond and funny memories from high school when I was such a huge volleyball fan of my younger sister who was in our school’s elementary team (she was the one who continued my dream haha). The first chapter really piqued my interest as the book opened with a very exciting game. I was instantly hooked.
The main character, Val Fabian, is not a very likeable girl. In fact, she is not likeable at all, period. Her self-centeredness really annoyed me. But this was at the start. As the story progressed, I find myself trying to sympathize with her and growing up with her. Her struggles to fit in and maintain her popularity may be sometimes pathetic and she may appear whiny, but I found her character to real and believable. Val was not one-dimensional, and I like that about her. I like her “unlikeability.” What I also loved about the story was because it delved into the intricacies of various human relationships — friendships, family, and romance.
It’s good to have a goal. It’s good to always aspire to win. It’s also good to be motivated to reach our goal. What is not good is when we get too focused on winning that we lose sight of what really matters, and in the process, hurt the people who love us. This is the huge mistake that Val did, but I am glad that her realization came sooner, and that she was motivated to win back the thing that is the most important and that is people. More than anything, relationships — good relationships with people — are what really matters in life. They are more important than any material wealth or fame or status. For it is with people that we can really feel how it is to be loved.
If I enjoyed Vintage Love, which is the first book of Agay Llanera that I’ve read, I enjoyed Once Upon A Player more. The balance between Val’s volleyball career, her relationships with her parents, and her friends is something very hard to maintain but the author was able to successfully pull it through. The romance is also just right, not too cheesy, not too bland, and it kept me guessing as to who Val will eventually end up with. Although the story line may not be that novel, and the themes are not far from other novellas out there, I still highly recommend this book for those who want a light and easy read but with enough substance.
It is not always that I get to read a local novella that left me satisfied the way I was when I finished Once Upon A Player. My usual complaint of abrupt endings in novellas like this is not present because the ending is just nicely tied up.
Wars are fought, ties severed, lives shattered in the name of love.
What is love, anyway? It was a loaded question, too complicated for Val to answer. But she tried. It wasn’t just the feeling of forever at the sight of the one guy you thought was meant for you. It was beyond a fatherly impulse to get in touch with a daughter years after he left her.
Love was not selfish. It ran deeper than whims and fancies.
Love was a daily decision: to scrimp and save whatever one can while doing the same things day in and day out, year after year: teaching, checking homework and exams, drafting lesson plans, making dinner, buying your daughter hot bread each morning, watching her games, raising her up on your own.
Love was also admitting defeat, asking for forgiveness, and saving a friendship. Maybe this wasn’t the kind of love story she had originally aimed for at the start of senior year, but it was a story that deserved a better ending.
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