All seventeen year-old EJ Ramos wants is to be more like his older brother Charlie. Charlie is popular, athletic, and about to go to Harvard. Plus he’s their dad’s favorite kid—he says so at Charlie’s going away party, in front of all their family and friends, much to EJ’s horror. Unlike Charlie, EJ doesn’t want to go to law school. He wants to study graphic design, but knows it’s not an option as long as his dad is around.
When EJ’s Nanay (grandma) dies, his dad drags him to the Philippines for her funeral. It is EJ’s first trip to Asia and he’s stunned when he sees the one-room shack where his dad grew up. He has to deal with non-existent plumbing, being eaten alive by mosquitoes, and surviving the Filipino custom of keeping a deceased loved one’s body in the house in the days leading up to the funeral. For the first time in his life, EJ feels like he finally understands his father, if only a little bit.
While going through Nanay’s things EJ’s dad finds a list of Filipino landmarks and other places his mother wanted to visit and asks EJ to work on the list with him. As EJ helps his dad with Nanay’s bucket list and bonds with his cousins, he learns life—and people—always have the ability to surprise you.
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