Rod Pulido’s debut, Chasing Pacquaio, will help raise the next generation of queer Asian kids to feel secure in who they are, giving them the strength to stand up for themselves. This book will sends the message that queerness and Asian culture do not have to conflic, and it is an instant classic in my heart.

The story follows a young lower-class Filipino American boy, Bobby, who struggles to be open about his sexuality and relationship with his boyfriend, Brandon, due to rampant homophobia in his community and severe bullying at school. He must overcome many hardships and become a much stronger version of himself — both figuratively and literally — as he navigates a complicated home life, interpersonal relationships, new romance, harsh school environments, and his challenge to win a boxing match against his sworn enemy. 

Chasing Pacquiao is a refreshing take on the contemporary mainstream YA queer novel, which typically features a privileged white main character whose circumstances aren’t always relatable to BIPOC readers. Pulido understands the importance of representation to young readers, as he explains in his acknowledgments that it has been the “fight of his life.”

The also chose to include many commonly used phrases in Tagalog, providing a much more comforting experience to not only Filipino audiences, but also many others who may have grown up in America speaking other languages at home.

I was moved by how beautifully Pulido illustrates that his story centers and celebrates Filipino characters, because even as an Asian American of a different nationality, I still felt more seen by this novel than I ever had with what stories were accessible to me growing up.

As far as storytelling, I loved the vessel of boxing as a way to convey the fight to be your true self and build self confidence while facing adversity. It’s quite literal, but the way Pulido broke down the elements of boxing throughout the training period for Bobby’s big fight spoke to how it feels to build self confidence, which is so important for many young readers’ personal development.

Aside from some pacing issues where the story felt very slow during low action scenes and rushed during a few important plot points, Chasing Pacquiao is a gorgeously written story that feels so genuine in its dedication to its target audience: queer Filipino kids. 

I greatly appreciated that the protagonist’s parental figure was supportive of his sexuality and it didn’t focus on trauma at home, because queer kids don’t need to be told their families might be unaccepting. This is a story of triumph — not just another queer story for cisgender, straight people to consume.

Pulido handles many difficult issues successfully, such as acknowledging that even though the bully can also be a victim in the cycle of violence, it does not excuse that behavior or absolve him of responsibility for his actions.

This story is so important because it deals with problems many kids may run into, like understanding the nuances of intergenerational trauma or when role models betray them with bigoted personal views. I genuinely believe this is the coming-of-age queer Asian story that kids need to see right now. 

I am rooting for Rod Pulido’s success, as he has done great work to represent his communities in a positive light, and I am looking forward to seeing more of his work in the future. Eventually, I would love to see Chasing Pacquiao receive a film adaptation. More than that, it better get one, or I’ll take Hollywood in a boxing match myself.

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