Also by this author: I Believe in a Thing Called Love
Published by Farrar on May 8, 2018
Pages: 336 •Goodreads
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.
The way this book made me feel was definitely hungry! I am 100% here for all foodie related books so I was stoked when I heard that this story focused on a Korean Brazilian food truck in my beloved Southern California. The Way You Make Me Feel did not disappoint in the food descriptions or in its portrayal of a summer in LA (Maurene Goo truly captures the essence of the beautiful smog filled summer skies). However, the wonderful setting and delicious descriptions were offset by a protagonist who made me facepalm more often than not.
They Way You Make Me Feel follows high school prankster Clara who gets into one shenanigan too many and is forced to work on her dad’s food truck with her arch nemesis all summer to pay off the damages from her latest prank gone wrong. Classic enemies to frenemies to friends plot line, for sure. I loved getting to know Type-A Rose who was Clara’s foil in practically every way and seeing how they bonded over the work of running the truck (sometimes even on their own!) I loved learning the inner workings of the food truck and learning how the prepped the dishes, sourced the ingredients, and strategized their stops- food truck culture is such a big thing in the US and it was so cool to get a behind the scenes look at what it is like being involved in that culture. The dishes both on the truck and off of it (made by Clara’s awesome dad) were mouth watering in their descriptions. I also want to take a moment to talk about Clara’s dad, who is a “young single dad,” a trope I feel like you don’t see a lot in media or YA books, as it’s usually the “young single mom.” It was so cool seeing how close Clara and her dad were and how he transcended a lot of the masculine stereotypes about what it means to be a dad to be there for every important life event for Clara. Though Clara’s mom isn’t completely absent and does make appearances, I really appreciated the focus on a strong father figure in this story.
There was also a romance (isn’t there always in contemporary YA?) that I actually really enjoyed! Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) was a total cinnamon role of a character and just so earnest and eager and I LOVED him. I loved his sign waving moves (which we’re all familiar with, when you’ve seen one of those sign waving people on the sidewalk advertising for a store who gets SUPER into it), his relationship with his “grandparents” and his unabashed passion for the things he loved at an age where so much of what one chooses to say and do and disclose is in the pursuit of being cool. Actually, I’m starting to think I honestly really loved all of the characters in this book aside from the protagonist…
It’s not that I completely hated Clara, she was just not for me. She definitely had an ARC, but I feel like she was just rude and really insincere for so much of the book that I had trouble connecting with her once she did learn her lesson. She definitely wasn’t the worst YA protagonist I’ve ever read, but I feel like there’s this growing trend in YA lit lately to make really plucky, sassy main characters, which isn’t a bad thing- I feel like it’s a foil to the boring, quiet, pale skinned-brown haired protagonists who dominated the genre for so many years during the mid 2000s. However, sometimes I feel like protagonists can veer into the realm of irritating and hard to sympathize with. I can literally list three major characters who I would be interested in reading spin off novels for before I’d pick up a sequel about Clara.
Overall: While protagonist Clara wasn’t my favorite, I really enjoyed this story and the way it really captured the feeling of living in LA. There were some really fantastic secondary characters, and some really great family feels, especially regarding father daughter relationships. There’s also some interesting smaller discussions surrounding the current era of “social media influencers” which I wasn’t expecting but appreciated. All in all I (and my stomach) enjoyed reading this!