Blog Tour: Sugar and Spite // A Powerful Middle Grade Novel that Explores Privilege, Grief, Friendship, and Filipino Culture

Hello friends! Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for the lovely middle grade novel Sugar and Spite!! A big, big thank you to TBR and Beyond Tours for organizing this tour and helping me receive one of my first ever ARCs!! 🤩

Today, I’ll be sharing with you my review of Sugar and Spite and my favorite quote.

Let’s jump right in!

About Sugar and Spite

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary Fantasy
Release date: April 20th, 2021

Can a bully be defeated by a magical love potion?

Jolina can’t take Claudine’s bullying any longer! The taunts and teasing are too much. Though Jolina knows she’s still in-training to use her grandfather’s arbularyo magic, she sneaks into his potions lab to get her revenge. Jolina brews a batch of gayuma, a powerful love potion.

And it works. The love potion conquers Claudine’s hateful nature. In fact, Claudine doesn’t just stop bullying Jolina — now she wants to be Jolina’s BFF, and does everything and anything Jolina asks.

But magic comes with a cost, and bad intentions beget bad returns. Controlling another person’s ability to love — or hate — will certainly have consequences. The magic demands payment, and it is about to come for Jolina in the form of a powerful storm…

Magic and reality mingle in this brilliant new middle-grade novel by Gail D. Villanueva that asks whether it’s ever okay to take away someone’s free will.


What Worked For Me


  • Sugar and Spite is told from Jolina’s point of view, but Ms. Villanueva makes her and every other character so compelling!
  • Jolina was so easy to root for, and I enjoyed seeing her grow and develop throughout the story.
  • I was curious to see how Jolina would deal with Claudine’s bullying prior to making the gayuma and was pleasantly surprised by how restrained she was, in the interest of protecting her mother who worked for Claudine and her mom’s resort.
  • Jolina tried to keep her emotions under control when talking to Claudine because she didn’t want her mom to get in trouble, especially as her family wasn’t in the best circumstances financially. It doesn’t seem like much, but it was really impactful.
  • Claudine was a fascinating character too! I wasn’t sure what she would be like as the bully, but her character was more complex than I’d imagined, and early on, seeds were planted that made me think there was more to her than the casual arrogance she sashayed around with.
  • Even when she was under the gayuma’s influence, I felt that there were genuine moments of compassion she shared with Jolina, and I think Ms. Villanueva did wonderfully at balancing this!
  • Jolina had a lovely support system with her grandfather and Kidlat – our adorable pup! – that was heartwarming to see as well!

Writing Style

  • Jolina’s thoughts, dialogue, interactions, and emotions – they felt very realistic to her young age, in a great way of course!
  • I did feel that some of Jolina’s concerns about giving Claudine gayuma grew a little repetitive, but it wasn’t a real biggie.


  • Sugar and Spite weaves in Filipino culture seamlessly.
  • The belief in sagip, respecting your elders through honorifics, the different kinds of food like yema balls (!!) – all helped make the world of Sugar and Spite, a contemporary, feel all the more real.
  • In her Author’s Note, Ms. Villanueva talks about how sagip is commemorating of the bond between a human and pet. Her portrayal of sagip was very touching and definitely made me emotional.
  • I really enjoyed learning more about Filipino culture, and I could relate to the respecting of elders and familial ties.
  • I also ended up wanting a bowl of yema balls…they sound amazing and I don’t know, made me think of tangyuan 😀
Yema balls! They look delicious!


  • Sugar and Spite effortlessly tackles several themes, namely those of privilege, grief, and friendship.
  • Together, Jolina and Claudine learn what real friendship requires. The end of the book sees Jolina learning how to let go. And throughout the book circulates the question of privilege, especially since Jolina and Claudine are on opposite sides of that spectrum.

What Didn’t Work For Me

As I mentioned earlier, a few of Jolina’s concerns about giving Claudine gayuma felt repetitive to me, and influenced a couple of scenes so they weren’t able to pack that full punch. However, this wasn’t really a biggie, and did not really affect my overall enjoyment of Sugar and Spite.

Favorite Quote

Final Star Ratings and Conclusion

Rating: 4 out of 5.

My rating is 4.5 out of 5 stars!

Sugar and Spite is a heartwarming and beautiful read. Jolina and Claudine were complex and wonderfully developed, and the story was unique and well plotted. Filipino culture was woven in smoothly, and so were themes like privilege and acceptance.

About the Author

Gail D. Villanueva is a Filipino author born and based in the Philippines. She’s also a web designer and an entrepreneur. 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 (Scholastic, 2019) was named a Best Book of the Year by Kirkus Reviews, an Amazon Best Book of the Month Editor’s Pick, and a NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People. Gail’s next book, Sugar And Spite, will be published by Scholastic on April 20, 2021.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Facebook

Where to Find and Buy Sugar and Spite

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound | Indigo

Click here to access the full tour schedule!

And that’s a wrap!

Thank you so much for reading, lovelies. I hope you enjoyed my review of Sugar and Spite, one of my favorite middle grade reads of the year. And I hope that when you read this book, you’ll have a wonderful time – just make sure to have some delicious treats next to you!! Thank you again…


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