Book Review: The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo
“And keep doing what you do. The first woman president has to happen in my lifetime, or I’m going to light this entire planet on fire.”
I picked up The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo from the library on the recommendation of several people I follow on Twitter. I’ve recently started reading YA again, specifically YA rom-coms, and this one has been highly recommended and praised. Clara Shin lives in Los Angeles with her dad, who owns a Brazilian-Korean fusion food truck, KoBra. When Clara and her arch-rival Rose Carver are almost suspended for a prank gone wrong, Clara’s dad Adrian insists Rose and Clara work all summer on his food truck to pay the school back for the damages. As Rose and Clara spend their summer working closely together, they realize they may have been wrong about each other. And when they meet Hamlet Wong, Clara’s summer takes an interesting and unexpected turn. But will this summer help Clara take things seriously or will she run when things get too hard?
I have said before how much I love books centered around food, and The Way You Make Me Feel is no different. I honestly have not had a lot of Brazilian or Korean food, but my mouth was watering the whole time Goo described the food KoBra served. So now I need to go and find either fusion food trucks or stake out the best Korean restaurants on Buford Highway in Atlanta. I loved how much food played a part in Clara’s life. Her parents were only eighteen when Clara was born, and then ever since her mom left, her dad has been trying to start his own restaurant. The food truck is doing really well, but his real dream is for his own restaurant. I love how his passion has spilled over into Clara’s life. When she and Hamlet start dating, she does not shy away from sharing her favorite food trucks and restaurants with him.
I really enjoyed reading a YA rom-com where most of the book actually focused on the protagonist’s family and friendships. Clara and Rose are complete opposites; Clara is the class clown, never taking anything serious, while Rose is the class president, a very serious, ambitious student and ballerina. And while their differences have caused issues for them in the past, their close proximity at KoBra forces them to work together and begin a truly delightful friendship. As much I adored the relationship between Clara and Hamlet (who is precious), I was much more invested in Clara and Rose’s relationship. Rose is African-American and comes from a very well-known family. Her parents are both lawyers, and her mom has recently become famous for some of her cases. Her family is very tight-knit and driven. I appreciated Rose’s anxiety about her future and doing whatever she can to make sure she gets into the best school, best internship, etc. I was extremely studious and involved in high school, so it was refreshing to read a character like Rose, even though she is not the main character. I love how Clara brought Rose out of her shell and helped her have fun, while Rose showed Clara that caring about things doesn’t make her weak. The two girls’ friendship was lovely to witness.
Clara is by no means a perfect character; in fact, The Way You Make Me Feel is a much better book because of Clara’s flaws. Her relationship with her parents is one of the most interesting aspects of the story. Generally, when the protagonist lives with one parent, the other parent is either dead or long gone and there is no real relationship. However, Clara’s mom Juliana is a social media influencer and travels the world documenting all of her sponsored trips on social media. The two have a close relationship, but they go without seeing each other for long periods of time. It doesn’t help that Juliana and Adrian don’t have the best relationship, but when it comes to Clara, they make an effort to get along. Juliana and Clara are supposed to spend a week in Tulum as a mother-daughter trip over the summer, but Adrian refuses to let Clara go after the stunt she pulled at school. However, Clara is used to talking her dad into things, partly because he is only eighteen years older, so his dad role is less of the disciplinarian and more of a friend. But over the summer, Adrian becomes more of a disciplinarian. At first, Clara is pissed, but she eventually comes to realize how important her relationship with her dad is and how she may have been idolizing her mother in ways that were not completely deserved.
If you are looking for a fun YA romantic comedy, I cannot recommend The Way You Make Me Feel enough. (Side note: The Way You Make Me Feel is my favorite Michael Jackson song!) I am trying to read more diversely, and Maurene Goo’s characters are incredibly relatable. I definitely will be picking up her previous book, I Believe in a Thing Called Love. I give The Way You Make Me Feel 4 stars.
Who are some of your favorite authors of color?