Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Release Date: May 8, 2018
Received From: NetGalley
From the author of I Believe in a Thing Called Love, a laugh-out-loud story of love, new friendships, and one unique food truck.
Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn’t so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind?
With Maurene Goo’s signature warmth and humor, The Way You Make Me Feel is a relatable story of falling in love and finding yourself in the places you’d never thought to look.
GENDER: presumed cisgender
SEXUALITY: presumed heterosexual
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: presumed heteroromantic
TROPES: class disparity
TAGS: young adult, contemporary, Korean character, Chinese character, Asian characters, Black character, Mexican character, Latinx character, POC characters, Asian authors, POC authors, interracial relationship
WARNINGS: ableism, suicide joke, racism, slurs, gendered slurs, slavery mention, blood, physical injury, mental illness (anxiety), underage drinking
As I sit here trying to figure out a rating, and how to write a review, for this book, I find myself struggling. Because while I had issues with it, and probably wouldn’t ever re-read it, the book isn’t bad. It’s well written, there’s a wide variety of characters who are interesting in that no one is the same, and the overall plot is enjoyable. There’s just a few things–mostly centering around the main character–that made this book really difficult for me to read.
First, I’ll talk about the things I enjoyed.
My favorite characters were Rose and Adrian, Clara’s father. They were both fun, interesting personalities, and I enjoyed getting to read about them. And I liked the way that Rose’s anxiety was explained in the novel. I found the way she talked about it to be really relatable to my own experience, so it was nice to see that within the book.
Also, I really enjoyed the scene at the end with Clara and Hamlet on top of the food truck. A bit earlier in the novel, he tells her that he loves her and she just doesn’t respond in her shock, and not long later, she runs off to Mexico with her mother. But in this scene, Clara talks about how she cares about Hamlet but isn’t yet ready to return the “I love you,” and while she notes he looks a little sad or hurt, he accepts this and says there’s no rush and she can move at her own pace. In novels that involve romance, no matter the target age group, there always seems to be a lot of pressure to say “I love you,” and it oftens seems to be a all or nothing situation, where the characters may break up if the sentiment is not returned. When the fact of the matter is, not everyone moves and develops feelings at the same pace, so one may be ready to express their emotions, while the other may still be days, weeks, months away from feeling like they can reciprocate. So I really liked that Goo included that in this novel and that it was handled well.
The scenes involving the food truck were also really fun, and I enjoyed getting to see the characters’ involvement in the day to day process of running the business, as well as participating in the food truck competition at the end. And speaking of the competition, I really enjoyed that whole sequence, and what resulted at the end of it.
And now, for the things I disliked about the novel.
I had difficulties connecting with Clara, the main character, from the very beginning. At first, I attributed it to the fact that, as a 25 year old, I am not the target audience for this book, which I still acknowledge and which has been taken into consideration when deciding on a rating. But as I continued to read, I was really bothered by Clara’s completely lack of empathy for anyone. Clara is introduced as a prankster, which is fine and has the potential to be funny, but it ended up…not being so great. After she and Rose got in trouble at prom, there’s a moment in the narration where Clara is listing off “prank” after “prank” that she’s pulled on Rose over the years, and the list was disturbing in that several of the things were potentially dangerous for Rose, and Clara just…didn’t care.
And not only that, but the way she treats her own father is really uncomfortable to me. At one point, early on in the novel, when she’s mad at her father, she mentions that he has trypophobia and intends to intentionally trigger his phobia in order to “get back” at him. In no way shape or form is this even remotely funny or quirky. Triggering someone’s phobia, especially intentionally, is dangerous, harmful, and a really terrible thing to do to another person. She mentions that she’s done it before, so she obviously either doesn’t get that or doesn’t care. And other than that specific instance, she’s just really mean to her dad throughout the whole novel! That doesn’t change until the last thirty pages.
I don’t know. Clara supposedly grows over the course of the book, but really the only change until those last thirty pages, is how she views Rose and the rest of her friends. She still has little to no regard for her father and his own feelings. In normal circumstances, I’d say that is a natural side effect of being raised by her father while her glamorous mother traipses around the world, leading a seemingly fun life, but Clara just takes it way too far in my opinion.
As I mentioned, I know I’m not the target audience for this book, so where I think Clara is kind of immature and takes things too far, a teen may relate to her and her circumstances. I’m a little stuck on how I should rate this, so I’m going with a 3 star rating, dropping it right in the middle of what I think and feel.
Maurene Goo grew up in a Los Angeles suburb surrounded by floral wallpaper and piles of books. She studied communication at UC San Diego and then later received a Masters in publishing, writing, and literature at Emerson College. Before publishing her first book, Since You Asked, she worked in both textbook and art book publishing. She also has very strong feelings about tacos and houseplants and lives in Los Angeles.