Book Review: Never Have I Ever // A lyrical and haunting anthology inspired by Filipino folklore and legends

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Title: Never Have I Ever
Author: Isabel Yap
Genre/s and tags: Short stories, Anthology, Science Fiction Fantasy, Speculative Fiction, LGBTQ+ Filipino folklore and mythology
Publisher: Small Beer Press
Publication date: February 23, 2021
Content warnings: Violence (mild), gore, sexual assault, blood, casual homophobia, deadnaming, misgendering
Goodreads synopsis: 

“Am I dead?”

Mebuyen sighs. She was hoping the girl would not ask.

Spells and stories, urban legends and immigrant tales: the magic in Isabel Yap’s debut collection jumps right off the page, from the joy in her new novella, ‘A Spell for Foolish Hearts’ to the terrifying tension of the urban legend ‘Have You Heard the One About Anamaria Marquez’.

PicsArt_05-02-02.12.14

Hello book nerds! It’s a tour stop day! Today is my stop for the Never Have I Ever Bookstagram Tour hosted by Pride Book Tours! For those of you who don’t know it yet, Pride Book Tours is an amazing bookstagram tour service promoting LGBTQ+ books. I couldn’t be happier to be a part of one of their tours. Especially, this tour in particular!

Our featured book for today is Never Have I Ever by Isabel Yap! When I found out it’s by a queer Filipino author and is an anthology of science fiction short stories inspired by folktales and urban legends, I knew I had to sign up for the tour. And here we are, and all I can say after reading this book is WOW.

Never Have I Ever is a lyrical and haunting anthology inspired Filipino and other Asian folklore and legends that will delight and fascinate you. (Make sure to visit me on Instagram to see my Bookstagram stop and the whole tour!)

My thoughts on Never Have I Ever

First of all, let me just say that Isabel Yap’s writing is simply extraordinary. This whole book was lyrical, and humorous, and terrifying, and fascinating all at the same time. Yap knows how to entice you with her words, build an atmospheric setting and imagery, and keep your mind running and wondering about the magic and the world.

Here is an overview of the short stories included in Never Have I Ever along with my thoughts:

Good Girls – This one was a bit confusing at first, but the second person point of view from the manananggal was haunting and I loved it.

A Cup of Salt Tears – Okay, this was both nice and weird at the same time. I liked that the story was also melancholic in its own kind of way.

Milagroso – This one was so good and so interesting! Somehow, it combined an alternate future with miracles and inner nostalgia that one cannot seem to grasp. This was great.

A Spell for Foolish Hearts – Hear me out, this was so cute and so gay, I loved this so much! There was a comment about being “the perfect definition” of bisexual that rubbed me the wrong way a bit, but otherwise, this was really good.

Have You Heard the One About Anamaria Marquez – This is such a classic ghost story in Filipino culture, so I can’t help but love it. There was kind of an offhand comment about “looking anorexic”.

Syringe – Okay, this was brilliant! So unique and original all together. And it was so interesting to see a robot nurse achieve some sort of human empathy/understanding.

Asphalt, River, Mother, Child – This one has got to be one of my favorites. So incredibly-written! It was all so heartbreaking and awe-inspiring and moving. I loved how the author blended Bagobo mythology and the realness and ugliness of the extrajudicial killings happening in our society. What a story. I’m sure this will impact other Filipino readers as well. (TW: deadnaming/ misgendering)

Hurricane Heels (We Go Down Dancing) – Well, this was fun, sad, yet hopeful. I kind of wish this was longer.

Only Unclench Your Hand – Another classic take on a Filipino folklore story liked this one. (TW: casual homophobia)

How to Swallow the Moon – Another one of my favorites! This was so beautiful and poetic. And again, we see the author taking Filipino mythology (bakunawa), and blending it now with queer romance.

All the Best of Dark and Bright – A modern retelling of the legend of Malakas and Maganda, this was simply awesome. Not the most thrilling, but it really makes you wonder as a reader.

Misty – This one was dark and haunting, and I loved how it had the vibes of a Filipino horror movie. That ending was such a cliffhanger though!

A Canticle for Lost Girls – This was just incredible. It perfectly encapsulates what it’s like growing as a woman in our society, growing out friendship, and men taking advantage of young girls. Add a hint of the supernatural, and you have this unforgettable story. (TW: sexual assault, blood, a little bit of gore)

Overall, Never Have I Ever was such a great read. Bookworms who love speculative fiction, folklore, and legends will enjoy this one. It was also especially enjoyable as a Filipino reader, seeing Filipino culture in this creative stories. Some of these stories are the stories I grew up hearing, but now with unique modern twists. I love that the author was able to transform these stories. This was an incredible reading experience.


Buy Never Have I Ever

Amazon | Book Depository | Bookshop | Barnes & Noble


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4 thoughts on “Book Review: Never Have I Ever // A lyrical and haunting anthology inspired by Filipino folklore and legends

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