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.
Listen. Nobody is more disappointed than me. I saw the adorably cute cover, with a Asian model on it looking fabulous!!, I heard great things about it, I saw that there was food involved (always a plus), and I was super excited. But alas, I really, really, really didn’t like this book.
The premise of this book is absolutely adorable! It’s about two girls, mortal enemies really, who end up spending the summer working together in a Korean-Brazilian food truck. There are strong themes of family, since Clara’s parents aren’t together and have a weird relationship, friendships, and even a super cute sign spinning Chinese boy! There is so much descriptions of mouth watering food, Koran and Brazilian inspired since Clara’s dad is ethnically Korean but grew up in Brazil and now lives in the US (in LA no less!), and food is always a perk.
Unfortunately, the characters do not make me equally happy as the premise. Namely: Clara. I hated her with a burning passion. Clara is entitled, whiny, selfish, egocentric, and cruel. As I started reading this book, I started realizing that I really hated her, and that made it basically impossible for me to like this book. I noticed a lot of reviews have said that they love Clara because she’s funny and sarcastic. Unfortunately, I didn’t think her jokes were funny at all, but rather downright cruel. Here are a few lovely examples:
–The book opens with her making a complete joke out of prom, becoming prom queen, pouring fake blood on herself, and basically setting the gym on fire. She thinks this is hilarious, but I mean…just because you think prom is stupid doesn’t mean you have to ruin it for anyone else! I would be seriously freaked out if I saw someone covered in blood, fake or otherwise, and people spend hundreds of dollars on prom only to have it ruined by this.
–Clara is “mortal enemies” with Rose, a very studious academically inclined student, because she’s…studious and academically inclined? She relentlessly mocks her for things such as studying biology during the summer, taking notes, asking questions when she’s being taught about her work. Honestly, I’m a total nerd myself and related to Rose most of anyone in this book, and I’ve been mocked like that, so I basically personally hated Clara. She also mocks Rose for watching what she eats because she’s a dancer and needs to stay healthy, says lovely things like “ask Rose. She’s unbiased, like Fox News,” apparently organized a flash mob at Rose’s dance show, and orders her around at work even though they’re equals with the same job.
—She’s incredibly insensitive to other people, and even other religions! At one point, she starts cooking a vegetarian meal in a pan that was cross contaminated with pork. When Rose tells her that she shouldn’t because some people can’t eat that for religious reasons, Clara says: “What they don’t know won’t hurt them. They’ll just have to wonder why their food is suddenly more delicious. Hint: pork.” I think this should speak for itself on how horrible she is. She also further bullies Rose for being, in her eyes, uptight about the meat/vegetarian pan.
—She’s constantly being mean to random people. At one point, her friend accidentally knocks over a woman’s hat, and the woman snaps at him. This prompts Clara to make fun of her and throw leaves into her hat because she “deserves it.” Maybe the woman wasn’t the nicest, but there’s no reason to stoop to her level! Besides, you never know what she’s going through: maybe she’s having a really terrible day and was rude this once even though she’s typically a great person; does she still deserve to be bullied then?
Anyways, those are just a small selection of the many reasons that I hate Clara. Now, keep in mind that this book is sort of about a flawed, unlikable character becoming a better person over the summer, as she and Clara go from enemies to friends. The thing is, she improves a little, but she’s still very unlikable by the end, so there’s certainly not enough growth to make me like her. And worst of all is that she never apologizes. She never apologizes to Clara for bullying her, never apologizes about being terribly insensitive to other religions. She becomes better, but never seems to accept and take blame for being terrible before. And I really didn’t want this monster to get a happy ending.
As I said, I really liked Rose. I related to her a lot, and I liked watching her and Clara’s relationship develop over the summer, or at least I liked seeing her get a friend (even if I wasn’t so happy it was Clara the terrible). I think the relationship between these two girls was definitely the best part of the book.
The love interest, Hamlet, was basically a cardboard cutout. I really can’t say what any good traits of his are besides being able to make good coffee and spin a cardboard sign well. He was really flat, and for a book called The Way You Make Me Feel there was shockingly little romance. Honestly, this book would definitely have been better if the romance was between Clara and Rose instead of Hamlet, or if there was no romance at all, and it was solely about the friendship between the girls.
At least, the one redeeming point for this book was the diversity! Clara and her parents are Korean, and they grew up in Brazil, Hamlet is Chinese, and Rose is black. There were some wonderful Asian moments and culture things thrown in there that I could definitely relate to and I really loved seeing in a book!