This YA Rom-Com Novel Puts the Spotlight on Filipino-Chinese Teens

It's written by young up-and-coming Filipino author Mae Coyiuto.
by Leana Vibal
May 28, 2023
Instagram/ Mae Coyiuto Warren Espejo

( Young adult romance as a genre of fiction is a tricky playing field. A lot of people would often harp at the category for being too juvenile, rose-tinted, and at its worst, unbelievable. But let's face it—YA as a genre is also very relatable. Everyone has gone through that awkward age filled with romance, angst, and the great unknown of adulthood. This is the very reason why despite having a lot of detractors, the genre persists. Every now and then, we get gems that perfectly capture what it is to be young, but often, as Filipinos, we don't get to read about our experiences and our stories in the mainstream, let alone the Western book market. But on March 2023, Penguin Teen dropped Chloe and The Kaishao Boys, a YA romance novel by Filipino author Mae Coyiuto and dare we say, finally, our story is out there.

PHOTO BY Instagram/ Mae Coyiuto

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Here's why the young adult book Chloe and The Kaishao Boys should be on your TBR list:

Chloe and The Kaishao Boys (CATKB) follows the story of young Filipino-Chinese 17-year-old Chloe Liang, who dreams of studying animation abroad. In the novel, we see Chloe struggle with the desire to follow her dreams, discover young love, and make her family proud. Sounds like your generic YA plot, but within its pages are references, scenes, and realities that are all too real for any Filipino reader. Reading CATKB oftentimes felt like going back in time to our own teen years, and we're not mad.

Okay, you may argue that Coyiuto's novel is not exactly the first YA fiction with a Filipina lead, nor the first to be set in Manila, but if you ask us, Chloe and The Kaishao Boys is one of the few that paints a realistic picture of what it means to be a young adult in Manila, plus points for all the insight into being Filipino-Chinese. Finally, we can read a book that tells the story of a typical middle-class Filipino teen. One that is set in places we can actually picture, like an all-girls Chinese-Filipino school, a recreational mall-cum-after-school date spot, or the crowded school gymnasium—fictional spaces that are all too real. A novel whose plot brings to light the desire to spread our wings and live on our own but also acknowledges the family dynamics that make it hard to do so. A narrative that includes dialogue like "sige na nga," "nag-MOMOL kayo noh?", "tara" and the like without needing to explain itself. The novel not only felt real, it felt organic. Chloe, Auntie Queenie, Peter, and Cia are people we know. They are real, and we are Chloe. 

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Is Chloe and the Kaishao Boys for everyone?

As a Filipino reader, it felt refreshing to see our reality take center stage. But it begs the question, will it be relatable to other cultures? Is Coyiuto's novel so real that it's alienating? 

Speaking with, Coyiuto explained that she, too, was worried about alienating a specific audience, whether it's the general Filipino community, because of all the Fil-Chi references or even foreigners because of how Filipino the jokes and dialogue can be, but she is glad and highly appreciative that the content appeals to a large audience. Coyiuto adds, "I was so worried before that I would get pushback from like editors. Maybe this is too Pinoy. I mean, it's already set in Manila. And then with characters you don't normally see in Western books, but I never got any pushback like that." But lucky for her, the timing was ripe and Asian stories were gaining the attention they deserved. This significantly helped Coyiuto find an agent and get publishers on board. "I think the timing worked out for me because I feel like when I was trying to get this represented, that was the time when Crazy Rich Asians and To All The Boys I Loved Before became a hit. So I think people in the States were like, wait, people like these types of stories, or like they're open," Coyiuto tells

Mae Coyiuto asked a friend to create these stickers based on the book. Yes, these are all references in the book. Yes, they are relatable.
PHOTO BY Instagram/ Mae Coyiuto

Despite numerous references to Filipino pop culture like Ben&Ben, Got 2 Believe, Rico Yan, and Chickenjoy, to name a few, many online commenters still found the story endearing and relatable.  Based on reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, Coyiuto's Filipino-Chinese tale of young love and growth struck a chord with readers from all over the world. This is something Coyiuto is extremely grateful for.


Is Mae Coyiuto, Chloe? How much of the story is based on real life?

PHOTO BY Instagram/ Mae Coyiuto

Writing Chloe and the Kaishao Boys was not something Coyiuto did overnight. She started the novel back in 2017 and had her first version ready for pitching by 2018. But the story we finally get has changed plenty since then, too. It took Coyiuto years and many late nights to get the story down pat. To say how much of the original piece is still in the final novel, Coyiuto laughs and says that she feels that almost 80% of the first draft was changed, but she didn't feel bad. It was, after all, part of the process. She did, however, maintain that all the important details in the story, Chloe's dream to be an animator, her family dynamics, and most notably, the ending with the family, pretty much stayed intact as these, to her, were the core of the novel. "I think the bigger love story here is with her family.


So I think that's why that was the one that stayed constant," Coyiuto tells

So if family and friendship are at the root of it all, just how much of Chloe and the Kaishao Boys is real? Did Mae Coyiuto also get her kaishao moment? Short answer, yes. But really, Coyiuto feels that the only way she relates with her titular character is with their dream to pursue something in the creative arts. Of all the characters in her novel, Coyiuto felt connected the most with Chloe's cousin Peter. "I feel like with Peter, I kinda relate to him. I think he's a little socially awkward, and then he just tries his best, but sometimes it doesn't come out that way. But I think high school me then was a little more, so concerned about grades and stuff like that. So I know Peter. Peter is very familiar to me," Coyiuto quips. Coyiuto maintains that while her own coming-of-age and high school experiences greatly inspired the novel, it's also loosely based on the collective stories of her friends. "I wish my love life was as exciting as Chloe's," Coyiuto says as she laughs.


What's next for Chloe and the Kaishao Boys?

If you've read the book, you must be asking yourself, what's next? TBH, the ending felt so open-ended that it seems a sequel is just inevitable, but based on our discussion with Coyiuto, that's not necessarily the case. "I'm always worried because it ends on such a happy, hopeful ending for everyone. I feel like if I write a sequel, I have to unravel all those things because I need a plot for a new book.
So I feel like maybe I'll revisit it later on. So maybe in the future, nothing yet, but I'm open to it," Coyiuto shares. We also asked if she's been approached for an adaptation. Coyiuto tells us that there hasn't been any explicit interest yet, but she's game to have her story told in a different way. When asked if she had any top-of-mind actors for Chloe, the Liang Family, and her boys, Coyiuto couldn't give any specific names, but she did offer a nugget of casting wisdom to anyone hoping to bring the novel to life: "When I watch these adaptations, especially of young adult books, I feel like the chemistry between the love interest is so important. So I think to cast this, I feel like it's very important to me that with Chloe, and the eventual love interest, I feel like they need to click." 


Chloe and the Kaishao Boys (Penguin Random House, 2023) by Mae Coyiuto is available on Lazada, NBS online store, Fully Booked for P595.

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