Book Review

Review: Cities by Carla De Guzman

The Backlist Revival Project is a fresh initiative to bring life to #romanceclass books that have been around for a while. For the month of March, the project features Cities, the debut book of multitalented, exceedingly artistic author Carla de Guzman.

Celia has dreams.
She dreams of going to Seoul for that scholarship she never took, of leaving everything behind and moving to New York.
In all those dreams, she finds herself attached to Benedict, the boy she has always loved, who didn’t love her back.

Ben believes in parallel worlds.
Worlds where the things you didn’t do come true—worlds where he went to London and fell in love with Celia, where he shows up on the day she needed him most. He believes that dreams are glimpses into that parallel world, and it’s not a coincidence that Celia’s been having them too.

It’s the day of Ben’s wedding, in the middle of a typhoon in Manila. How will these dreams and unmade decisions change their lives? Will they bring them closer together, or just drive them further apart?

What if all the ‘what ifs’ you ever had actually existed in different planes and you’re just not aware of it? What if in this reality, he loved someone else, while in the other, he loved you back?

De Guzman’s Cities is rooted on this intriguing premise, of multiverses that exist next to each other, of multiple lives one person could be living in different planes of existence. It felt very abstract to me, and at times I found myself being stopped by thoughts that go ‘wait—what?’ But a few pages in, I decided to stop overanalyzing everything and just settle into enjoying each story.

Celia, Ben, Vivian and Henry have loved each other in many different ways, and in different permutations. In each of the three cities, their love stories start differently, progress differently, and conclude with scenes that shift in abrupt takes, much like rapid blinks of the eyes in dreams. Seoul is fun, flirty and swift, propelled by the urgency of young love and the classic obstacle of rich-man-loves-common-spunky-woman. London is a slower, more potent brew of friends and flings. New York is brisk too, but there is a level of comfort there, a warmth against the big city’s inherent zing; even the lines of conflict felt familiar. But Manila is where it all begins and ends, on a wedding day that defied a storm.

Cities does not try to answer the ‘what ifs?’, but instead tries to explore one after another. Each city provides a colorful backdrop that sets a unique tone to each multiverse. I would have wanted a more consistent POV—the head-hopping jars me out of the narrative at times—but De Guzman’s prose is friendly, and the depth of her imagination pushed me out of the safe borders of my reality. Read it, and like Celia, maybe you too will be consumed by the question: what if in another universe, you loved me too?

About the author

Carla de Guzman had horrible handwriting as a kid. That didn’t stop her from writing, though. Riddled with sleep apnea and a vivid imagination, she started writing every midnight. She grew up with her toes in the sand and her bags packed and ready to go on adventures. These books are chronicles of her journeys, with a silly love story mixed in.

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