on May 8, 2018
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Maurene Goo’s The Way You Make Me Feel is a fun and lighthearted book that is filled with my favorite three F words: friendship, family, and food. The story follows Clara Shin, a teenager who thrives on her reputation at school as the class clown. Clara lives to disrupt school and pull pranks on unsuspecting people like uptight class goody two shoes, Rose Carver. Rose and Clara loathe each other, and Clara loves every opportunity that presents itself to get under Rose’s skin, which leads her to devise a prank that is so outrageous, it’s sure to push Rose over the edge. Clara’s prank not only goes terribly wrong, but it also manages to land both she and Rose in hot water with the school administration, and with their parents of course. The principal initially plans to suspend both girls from school, but Clara’s dad comes up with an even better punishment: he proposes that Clara and Rose work together all summer aboard his food truck and that the wages they earn can be used to pay for the damage done to the school by Clara’s prank and the aftermath caused by Rose’s reaction to it.
What could possibly go wrong? But that said, maybe something could actually go right…
Clara and I got off to a rough start because I wasn’t a fan of her fondness for pranks and disruptions. I immediately worried that this might end up being an issue for me since I’m the type of reader who really needs to like or somehow relate to the main character. I’ll expand more on my issues with Clara in the ‘Dislikes’ section of my review, but for now I’ll just say that I was able to move past them fairly quickly so that I could enjoy the story and by the end, I really liked Clara.
Why the change? Mainly because she grows so much as a person throughout the story. I quickly realized that most of Clara’s clowning around was her way of protecting herself. She is afraid to open herself up to others for fear of getting hurt and so she wears her humor like a suit of armor, keeping all but a select few at a safe distance. She walks around acting like she doesn’t care about anything because it’s just easier that way. Realizing this about Clara made it much easier to connect with her, mainly because I wanted her to take a chance and open herself up to something real, whether it be friendship, romance, or a bit of both. It probably sounds cliché but I wanted her to not just laugh, but to live, laugh and love, which brings me to the fabulous relationships in this book.
The relationships in this book were what really made the book for me. When Clara is initially forced to work with Rose all summer long, she thinks it’s going to be an absolute nightmare because they can’t stand each other. What they realize over the course of their summer together, however, is that maybe they aren’t as different as they thought they were. If you’re into the idea of enemies becoming friends, this is a relationship that will certainly appeal to you. Even though I truly thought Rose and Clara were going to kill each other early on in the book, I soon found myself really looking forward to their scenes together as they friendship started to take off. It was so cute, since it became clear that neither of them had had this kind of friendship before. In that sense, it was a journey of discovery for both Clara and Rose.
On a similar note is Clara’s relationship with Hamlet. Hamlet is absolutely precious. He’s a Chinese American teen who works at a coffee cart at one of the spots where Clara’s dad likes to park his food truck. Hamlet is clearly enamored with Clara as soon as he meets her, and he’s so sweet and cute and funny, that he starts to work his way into Clara’s heart, no matter how determined she is to keep that armor of hers in place. It was just so cute to watch their relationship grow. Even though I’m not a romantic at all, I wanted Hamlet to get the girl so badly I couldn’t stand it, lol.
In addition to her budding relationships with Rose and Hamlet, I was also an especially huge fan of Clara’s relationship with her dad, Adrian. Adrian isn’t perfect by any means. He makes mistakes like all parents do and he realizes he has probably been a little lax in the way he disciplined Clara over the years, but he’s still just such a great dad. I loved that he came up with the idea of making her work on his food truck all summer and even though she was livid at the beginning, it was fun to watch them work together and to see Clara learn to appreciate just how hard her Dad is working to try to make all of their dreams come true.
I also really appreciated all of the sacrifices that he made in his own life in order to always be there for Clara. And the more we learned about just how much he really did for Clara, the more I adored him. He really makes up for the fact that Clara’s mother is basically a dud of a parent. Seriously, what kind of a person just abandons their family because they’d rather be a social media influencer and live the posh life. (As I’m sure you can guess, I was not a fan of Clara’s mom, especially since I have a feeling that she’s the reason why Clara felt like she needed to protect herself from getting hurt).
The Food: This might sound silly, but one of my favorite parts about The Way You Make Me Feel was the newfound appreciation it gave me for food trucks. I guess it’s because we don’t have many here and the ones we do have are basic, but I had no idea what truly incredible meals you could get from a food truck. Goo’s vivid descriptions of the Korean-Brazilian dishes that Clara’s dad served from his truck had my mouth watering every time he or the girls cooked and made me wish that his KoBra truck was a real thing so that I could stop by and try his delicious, spicy concoctions.
I have to admit that even though I ended up really liking Clara overall, I found her class clown routine in the opening pages of the novel to be so obnoxious and juvenile that I almost didn’t continue reading. It’s probably a personality thing with me because when I was in high school, I never found the class clowns to be very funny either. It always seemed like they were trying too hard to be funny and that was the same vibe I got from Clara. The humor just felt forced. Thankfully, once she began serving her “sentence” working on her dad’s food truck, Clara toned down the class clown bit and became a much more enjoyable character for me. She was still funny but the humor felt a lot more natural than her juvenile pranks did.
Even though I had some issues with Clara in the beginning, she really grew on me and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend The Way You Make Me Feel to anyone who enjoys lighthearted stories about friendship, family, and first loves. If you’re looking for a great summer/beach read, give The Way You Make Me Feel a chance. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
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.