Review: My Fate According to the Butterfly by Gail Villanueva

My Fate According to the Butterfly

Title: My Fate According to the Butterfly
Author: Gail D. Villanueva
Format: ARC
Publication: Scholastic Press, 30 July 2019
Read: May 2019

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Light and deep, smart and funny, crushing and hopeful all at the same time, My Fate According to the Butterfly will open your eyes to both the world’s potential for magic, and to its harsh realities.

When superstitious Sab sees a giant black butterfly, an omen of death, she knows that she’s doomed! According to legend, she has one week before her fate catches up with her—on her 11th birthday. With her time running out, all she wants is to celebrate her birthday with her entire family. But her sister, Ate Nadine, stopped speaking to their father one year ago, and Sab doesn’t even know why.

If Sab’s going to get Ate Nadine and their father to reconcile, she’ll have to overcome her fears—of her sister’s anger, of leaving the bubble of her sheltered community, of her upcoming doom—and figure out the cause of their rift.

So Sab and her best friend Pepper start spying on Ate Nadine and digging into their family’s past to determine why, exactly, Ate Nadine won’t speak to their father. But Sab’s adventures across Manila reveal truths about her family more difficult—and dangerous—than she ever anticipated.


Disclaimer: I received a review copy of My Fate According to the Butterfly in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to Gail Villanueva and Scholastic for this opportunity!

I vaguely remember the very first time I heard of My Fate According to the Butterfly. It was Gail’s publication announcement. There’s something about the combination of “soon-to-be 11-year-old Sab” and “realities of Manila and the war on drugs” that seemed unusual to me. A large percentage of our country’s population don’t even want to talk about the realities of the drug war. And here comes this woman who wants to make it one of her book’s central themes. Bold.

Sab may be young, but she is very insightful and observant of her surroundings. Her curious nature almost put them in danger more than once, but it also made her ask the right questions. Sab is also a sweet little one, as evidenced by her relationship with her best friend Pepper. Sab loves Pepper so much that what she thinks of her is very important to Sab. Pepper, likewise, is a very loyal and understanding friend to Sab.

Sab’s pet duck, Lawin, is also a great addition to the cast. I get it, it’s a duck, but it’s cute! It also reminds me of Gail’s own ducks, Quackie and Sundae.

Ate Nadine, Sab’s older sister is an intern journalist for a national newspaper. She cares deeply about Sab even though she doesn’t show it much, and she patiently explains the realities of life to her. It kind of made me wish I had an Ate Nadine figure in my life while growing up.

With these characters, Gail shed light to topics not often discussed such as colorism, colonial mentality, non-traditional family setups, and of course, drug abuse, and the drug war in the Philippines. Seeing these things through the eyes of 10-year-old Sab and watching her process and weigh things, we get a glimpse of how these issues affect the minds of our youth, especially the children.

I remember sending pages worth of excerpts to a friend because I had to share my feelings with someone, anyone. One time, his response was, “Wow, like everything wrong with the Philippines.” Gail really painted a dark but realistic picture of the political climate in the current-day Philippines.

I met Gail for the first time at the Bookworm Unite PH’s event in Ateneo last year. She showed us the draft cover of her book, and oh boy, as simple as it is, I’ve never felt as represented in a book cover as I felt that day. Aside from Sab’s unapologetically brown skin, I could swear I used to have the same hairstyle and same white sando when I was younger.

Moreover, some of the scenes from the book could easily be actual footage from my everyday life. I felt that scene in the MRT where Sab was steered into a train car by “the sealike current of human bodies.” There were war flashbacks from when I was still an intern in Ortigas and every time after that when I had to ride that godforsaken train line.

When Sab, Pepper, and Ate Nadine were in the salon, the television was on showing the president giving a speech. While attending to them, the salon employees watch and give comments about him and the country’s current affairs. It’s funny because I used to go with my lola whenever she got haircuts and manicures, and this actually happened more than once.

Familiar places like Mang Larry’s, and foods such as kare-kare, dirty ice cream, and kwek-kwek warmed my heart and made me feel at home.

Overall, I loved My Fate According to the Butterfly so much and I look forward to reading Gail’s next projects. I salute her for writing a story that Filipinos can relate to while opening the eyes of young readers to the harsh realities of our country.

About the author


Gail D. Villanueva is a Filipino author born and based in the Philippines. She’s also a web designer, an entrepreneur, and a graphic artist. She loves pineapple pizza, seafood, and chocolate, but not in a single dish together (eww). Gail and her husband live in the outskirts of Manila with their dogs, ducks, turtles, cats, and one friendly but lonesome chicken. Her debut novel, My Fate According to the Butterfly, is coming from Scholastic Press on July 30, 2019.

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Blog tour schedule

ButterflyTour Blog Tour Schedule

21 July 2019

  • My Fate According to the Butterfly blog tour launch from Shut up, Shealea
  • Review from Your Tita Kate
  • Blog tour launch, and review from The Little Miss Bookworm

22 July 2019

23 July 2019

24 July 2019

25 July 2019

  • Review from Bookish Wisps
  • Review, excerpt and moodboard from R E A (D) I V I N E
  • Review, moodboard, and excerpt from The Last Reader
  • Review, author interview, and excerpt from Chrikaru Reads
  • Review, and creative feature post from The Ultimate Fangirl
  • Review, quote graphics, and excerpt from Tale Out Loud

26 July 2019

  • Review, and favorite quotes from Flipping Through the Pages 
  • Review, quote graphics, and excerpt from The Night Faerie
  • Review, author interview, excerpt and favorite quotes from Fil-Am Learners
  • Review, aesthetics/moodboard, and quote graphics from The Bibliophile Confessions

27 July 2019

  • #ButterflyTour Twitter chat hosted by Caffeine Book Tours (@CaffeineTours)
    • 9:00 AM Eastern Standard Time (EST)
    • 9:00 PM Philippine Time


Twitter chat

ButterflyTour Twitter Chat (1)




6 thoughts on “Review: My Fate According to the Butterfly by Gail Villanueva

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