Welcome to my review of The Way You Make Me Feel! This was April’s pick for Tiffany’s #SubtleAsianBookClub. It was cute and very much needed after all the stresses this “Stay at Home” order has caused.
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?
This one was fun. I didn’t love it as much as Loveboat, Taipei but it was fun nevertheless. Our story centers around Clara Shin. She lives in LA with her dad while her mom lives the jet set life as a Social Media influencer. When we first meet Clara, she’s snarky but not in the good way, and loves to cause trouble. Honestly, I wasn’t really a fan because it seemed like she enjoyed being mean just to do it. People like that have always irritated me. I understood that she had a chip on her shoulder, but still. It was rude. 😑
As a joke, Clara’s friends enter her into a competition that pits her against her high school arch nemesis, Rose Carver. Miraculously, Clara wins and orchestrates a whole prank a la Stephen King’s Carrie which then goes horribly wrong. Let’s just say that fire trucks were called and Clara and Rose were almost suspended. But this event is the spark that really gets our story started.
As punishment, Clara’s dad (with Rose’s parents’ permission) has them both working his food truck, the KoBra, all summer. A fusian of their heritage, the KoBra combines flavors from both Korea and Brazil. 🤤 Forced into a mobile tin can all summer with the person you hate on visceral level does not make for a great time and both girls immediately hate the idea. Initially it’s a disaster (no surprise) but as time goes on, the girls have no choice but to get to know each other. If they want this thing to work, they have to work together. This is where the magic happens. God, I love when people communicate!
Through her new relationship with Rose, Clara begins to see that sometimes things aren’t as perfect as they look on the outside. Clara’s arc is further driven when a boy from their route, Hamlet, makes her want to care about things she’s long since given up. But is all this worth it? What will she have to sacrifice and come to grips with if she chooses to fully embrace this new Clara?
(As a side note, I loved how Hamlet was a mixture of mature and naive at the same time. Like he was more or less taking care of himself, working multiple jobs, helping his “grandparents”, all while his parents were back in China. But when it came to Clara, he was a googly-eyed boy still unsure of himself. 🥰)
It was interesting to see all the lessons that were subtly weaved through this story. Things like “we are who we surround ourselves with” and how Social Media and stereotypes can obscure the real lives of people. There was one powerful moment when Clara and Rose were talking and Clara wanted to know why Rose was so over-the-top with everything. Her parents had a lot of money and she was super smart. What did Rose have to stress about? Rose said it was because she had to be 100% all the time to prove herself to the world. To be valued. Not just as a girl, but as a black girl too. Despite Clara being Korean Brazilian, it never occurred to her that prejudice can come from all sides.
I fully believe that the diversity in characters helped drive a lot of these points, and more, home too. It was brilliant how Ms. Goo, almost without us noticing, slipped the messages into the story. I finished this book a couple days ago and I’m still discovering them as I turn the book over in my mind.
With everything, I’m going to give this book ⭐⭐⭐ 1/2, rounded up to ⭐⭐⭐⭐. Like I said, it was cute but not a favorite read for me. Plus, there were a few things that I think weren’t handled realistically. Like when Clara steals her Dad’s credit card and hops a plane to another country without telling anyone. I’d be dead if I did that! Sure, it was to her Mom, but still. The fallout that should have happened just didn’t. Everyone more or less forgave Clara because she had this huge epiphany while away. That’s all fine, well, and good but the trust doesn’t come back that fast. Especially in a new relationship like the one Clara was building with Hamlet. I would’ve liked to see it handled a bit differently or even discussed more but it seemed liked the end was rushed for the sake of wrapping up the story.
(I’m also hoping, at least in my mind, that Felix and Patrick come around too. I’d love to see all 5 of them as friends and lift each other up into better lives.)
All in all, I’m glad I was introduced to Ms. Goo! I think I’ll be reading a few more of her books. 😊
Have you read this The Way You Make Me Feel? What did you think?
I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn is the May pick. You should join us!