The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo
Published by Farrar Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: May 8, 2018
Point-of-View: First Person
Genres: Young Adult
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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.
I’ve been in the mood for some diverse characters and am trying to put together a list of romances featuring Polynesian characters but in the midst of putting that list together, I came across this book. A contemporary YA set in LA, featuring an Asian lead? Count me in.
So, this book features Clara Shin who is a junior at Elysian High School in the Echo Park part of Los Angeles County. She’s known at school as a prankster and she’s always at odds with straight-laced Rose Carver. When things go a little too far at junior prom, Rose and Clara are sentenced to working off their fight on Clara’s father’s food truck, called the KoBra where they serve Korean and Brazillian influenced food. Clara is not happy about this as she’s not one for working over the summer but Rose will whatever it takes to not have this on her permanent record so she’s in.
From the very beginning, Rose and Clara butt heads. And they butt heads over everything, big and small, they argue and then fight and Clara’s Dad has had it. He’s going to make sure that they learn their lesson so he trains them and then he leaves them on their own to run the food truck. Being stuck on a food truck with your least favorite person in town is pure hell and continues to be that way for Clara until they start to get to know each other.
Seeing Clara really come into her own and take a hard look at the way that her life has been up until this point was refreshingly honest. I really enjoyed Clara’s character. Her personality was so L.A. and seeing her grow closer and closer to Rose was fun and meeting Hamlet then seeing him and Clara circle each other was great.
This book was well written. Goo’s depiction of Los Angeles was real, authentic and true. There is a huge Asian population in San Gabriel Valley and it didn’t surprise me at all that Hamlet played basketball (Ha, I’ve been to many an Asian League basketball game in SGV and could totally picture Hamlet there). I even pictured Hamlet as one of my daughter’s friends. The way that Hamlet was described fit my daughter’s friend description really well. I was nodding along to pretty much all of the L.A. bits because L.A. is my hometown and I thought all of that stuff was spot on.
It was really easy for me to connect with this book because I’m a huge fan of Los Angeles and coming of age stories. Clara was a great lead character and I really loved seeing the friendship blossom between her and Rose. I also really enjoyed the little romance that she had going with Hamlet and the positive parenting thing going on??? YESSSSS!!! Far too often, I see a lot of absent parents in YA books so it was nice to see parents who were involved in their children’s lives and showed genuine love for them. All in all, I really enjoyed Clara’s journey of self-discovery in this book and I will definitely be reading more from Maurene Goo. I recommend this book if you’re in the mood for something cute, sweet and funny. This fits the bill quite nicely.
Grade: 4 out of 5