The Way You Make Me Feel
By: Maureen Goo
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Publication Date: May 8th, 2018
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.
Followers of this blog know how often I read and post a contemporary review–once in a blue moon, approximately. My favorite genres have and probably always will be a tie between fantasy and historical fiction. But I picked this book up at a book sale a little while ago after a friend heard Maureen Goo speak and told me she sounded really cool. And, you know what, this book was an excellent read. It was cute, quick, with something I could get behind (food), and I really enjoyed some of the examinations of teenhood and multiculturalism.
Admittedly Clara, the main character, is a bit hard to get behind. A don’t-care prankster with a single father, she’s coasting through life doing as little as she can get away with, unless it involves annoying her nemesis Rose Carver. But when a prank at the high school prom goes way too far, both Clara and Rose are sentenced to a summer working on Clara’s dad’s food truck, the KoBra. There were definitely parts of Clara’s personality that I struggled with (admittedly, I have more in common with Rose than just a name, in that I was also a high-achieving goody-two-shoes in high school). But as I read, I realized that a lot of Clara’s dismissive, flippant attitude was some deep-seated abandonment issues–her mother had left her when she was 4 and never really come back to Clara in any significant way.
But I really enjoyed so many other parts of this book. Clara and Rose’s enemies-to-besties progression was great, and I loved how they both learned to understand where the other was coming from and balance each other out. By the end, I loved how Clara helped Rose chill out, whereas Rose helped light a fire under Clara. I thought that Clara’s crush Hamlet, adorkable and sweet as he was, was also just a wonderful person. I loved how, together, Rose and Hamlet helped show Clara that it was worth caring about something, even if caring meant you were opening yourself up to be hurt.
And I thought that some of the discussions of multiculturalism and what it meant to stand out was amazing. I loved how a lot of Rose’s issues came from an understanding that, as a black woman (to quote Scandal) she had to work twice as hard to be seen as half as good. I thought that Hamlet’s self-consciousness about not having been born in the US, and his feeling torn between China and the US, was also touching. And I thought that Clara’s own heritage–Korean by way of Brazil–was fascinating. (If you want to know more about this, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_Brazilians explains that there are about 50,000 Korean Brazilians, and that there’s been a recent emigration due to Brazil’s economic issues).
Which brings me, at long last, to the food! All things about food delight me, and I loved the descriptions of the KoBra’s offerings–I mean, korean-spiced Brazilian-style beef? Pasteles with kimchi and cheese? Lime sugarcane juice? I also loved how all of the descriptions of food tied into this celebration of heritage, like when Clara and Hamlet left this overpriced restaurant to go eat homemade Szechuan food with his grandparents.
So, to summarize, this was a really cute book because it a) was a silly high school contemporary book that also addressed how it’s a good thing to care about things, even silly things like a food truck b) celebrated multiculturalism and heritage while also making it clear that these things were difficult to reconcile with in America, and c) fooood. AKA it’s a great, lighthearted book to read if you’re in the mood for such.
Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.