Book Reviews Books

“21 Questions” uses a tried-and-tested formula for YA and misses the mark

21 Questions is a book about two high school teenagers, Brock and Kendra, who despite their differences form a meaningful relationship with each other and grow as individuals because of their bond. The book explores themes of grief, love, and friendship – all through the lens of the characters themselves. 

The book is set in Laguna Beach in California. This setting is important because Kendra is training to become a professional surfer. Her brother, who died before the book begins, was primed to enter the professional surfing sphere before he died of a drug overdose. Kendra has been experiencing anxiety attacks ever since. Surfing and meditation are what help her get through it.

Brock, on the other hand, could not be more different. His parents run a successful drug-dealing operation and Brock has been roped into the family business. He sells to classmates and friends. When we first meet Brock, it is clear that although he seems to enjoy this life, his first love is music – something he cannot pursue because of his parents’ expectations. When Brock and Kendra meet, they have an undeniable and immediate mutual attraction. The chapters alternate between Brock and Kendra’s points of view, giving the reader more insight into their thoughts and motivations.

I have mixed feelings about the style of language in this book. I admire the switch in the tone of language between Kendra’s and Brock’s points of view. Brock’s chapters are narrated the way he thinks – with a lot of slang and curse words, while Kendra is less angry and shyer. However, the excessive slang and text language make the book hard to read at times.

The novel is full of tropes. The underlying themes of this book are predictable. The bad boy male protagonist charms the straight-as-an-arrow female protagonist. He teaches her to relax and she teaches him to be a better person. It’s a formula that’s been applied many times before. Kendra is Brock’s muse in the sense that she is his motivation to stop selling drugs and play music. This is not to say that such formulae cannot be used – after all, they are so popular because they mostly work. But I personally do not think that was the case for 21 Questions.


Although it was heartening to see the characters learn and grow, I did not feel that inexplicable sympathy a reader needs to root for the characters. Kendra’s thoughts veered towards the ‘I’m not like other girls’ territory, throwing the feminism of the book into question. In fact, all the characters seemed to be one-dimensional. The girls who are not Kendra are overly superficial. Brock and his friends seemed to be obsessed with sex and not much else. Brock’s love for music does add another layer to his personality – but the troubled musician character is not one that I have patience for after reading and watching him so many times.

The story is on the whole predictable but is not without its surprising twists and turns. I would not have much of an issue with the plot if only it was told better. Two teenagers who have past family traumas that they are trying to get over in order to live their own lives. As a reader, I would have liked to root for the main characters a little more. Perhaps if they had more depth this would have been easier. I also felt that the epilogue was entirely unnecessary, but I will concede that I have a personal disinclination towards epilogues.


If you like knowing what the characters are up to in the future, then this book has a comprehensive epilogue that ties up the characters’ journeys nicely, albeit rather self-indulgently. By the end of the book, the characters have grown up. I just wish the same could be said of the book itself.

Want to give this book a try? Buy it on Bookshop or Indiebound and support local bookstores.

Movies Pop Culture

7 movies you need to watch if you think you were a mermaid in a past life

Although we are land creatures, some of us are born with an inexplicable passion for water; most specifically, salt water. In my case, I was born close to the ocean in the Caribbean region of Colombia, which meant that I was usually sun-kissed, and had permanent pool/sea hair. In the land of the endless summer (the place I call home), events by the beach were the usual, but not everyone had such a deep connection with the ocean like I did.

[bctt tweet=”Do you have a passion for water?” username=”wearethetempest”]

When I moved to Boston, things changed a bit. I switched from the land of the endless summer to the one with the endless winter. But I wasn’t as far from the ocean as I thought I was. I soon discovered that a few miles away from my school was the Harbor, what soon became one of my favorite places in the city. Whenever I smell the salt water I feel a warm feeling in my heart, a moment of pure bliss combined with nostalgia. It takes me back to my childhood when I pretended to be a mermaid, or even further back, when I was actually one in my past life.

[bctt tweet=”Who else was a mermaid in a past life?” username=”wearethetempest”]

1. Aquamarine

I used to watch this movie all the time when I was in my early teens. But it kinda became a “classic” and I still watch it from time to time when I feel like remembering my past life. If you’re all about believing in miracles, love, and eternal friendships (yes, all the corny stuff), then this one’s for you.

P.S.: If while watching it you understand Aqua’s struggles (like being tired of all the mermen), then there’s a good chance you were a mermaid in a past life.

2. Fool’s Gold

This one’s indirectly related to your other life. While these people spend years finding “treasures,” you remember the good old days when finding gold was as easy as a simple look in your backyard. Also, ships and yachts make you remember what it’s like to sail the oceans.

3. Blue Lagoon: The Awakening

If you’re all about romance by the sea, you will love this re-make of the 1980 classic. In it, two very different teenagers somehow end up stranded on an island where they struggle to survive. Of course, we all know what happens when you mix hormones with salt water… Romance?

4. Free Willy

A childhood favorite of mine. I mean, I’m all about freeing my water mammal friends. If you’re like me, you’ve met many dolphins and whales in your past life and you’re not cool about the captivity thing. The truth is, you would’ve freed Willy too.

5. Lilo & Stitch

Living in a place like Hawaii is perhaps the closest you can get to the “beach vibe.” You can surf (or try to) every day and relax by the beach. This movie has everything you need to feel that connection to the ocean, including fun music. If you truly were a mermaid in a past life, then you know that swimming feels like the tune of this song. Also, it is a friendly reminder of the importance of family, whether you live underwater or on land.

6. Soul Surfer

If you were a mermaid in a past life, chances are you like to swim, sail, or surf (or wish you could). I watched this movie when it came out and it was life-changing because it taught me that it’s possible to overcome obstacles in order to pursue one’s passion. It is hard to watch sometimes but it’s totally worth it. Although salty tears are likely to come out of your eyes (I know, you are still getting used to this on land), they will be because of sadness but also joy.

7. The Little Mermaid II

Growing up, you had to balance your love for land and sea. If you’re like me, then your mom and dad had to take you out of the water at some point (in my case, it was around 7 p.m.). Ariel’s experience with her daughter Melody (half mermaid, half human), might’ve been helpful to my parents. Anyhow, this movie will inevitably remind you of your stubborn nature as a child when you wanted to defy your parents and stay in the water indefinitely.

Little did they know that you simply, just simply, missed your past life as a mermaid.