The Way You Make Me Feel is one of the best YA contemporary romances I’ve ever read. It had everything I want from this genre: memorable characters, developed romantic and non-romantic relationships, diversity, a fresh premise and atmosphere.
It’s been a while since I’ve read a book that made me smile so much, and it was exactly what I needed. It’s a light read – I finished it in less than two days – and a well-written one.
What makes this book stand out are the characters. Clara Shin is a rebellious, flawed teenager who is always getting into trouble. At the beginning of the story, she’s very immature and irresponsible, which could have been irritating, but it wasn’t: I understood her, and I loved her narration as much as I loved her development. Clara’s character arc was really interesting, especially because it wasn’t tied to the romance – it was mostly about Clara’s relationship with her family and her friendship with Rose, an overachieving black ballerina who is her “enemy” at the start of the book. Clara and Rose are forced to work together in a food truck, the KoBra, and I loved their scenes.
The romance was also really cute – every conversation between Clara and Hamlet made me smile, and there was an emphasis on consent, which was great. The only thing that could have made this book better would have been an f/f romance between Clara and Rose; I couldn’t help but feel like there was some wasted potential for a hate-to-love romance.
Clara’s dad, Adrian Shin, is a single dad, the owner of the KoBra truck and one of the best dads in YA. There’s miscommunication, but him and Clara truly want the best for each other. This is one of the few contemporary books I’ve found in which the character’s family, their frienships and their romantic relationship are as well-rounded.
I also could visualize the setting perfectly. This book is set in LA, and I’ve read many books set there, but few of them made me feel as if I were there with the main character. The food descriptions were as good – Clara works in a truck which sells Korean-Brazilian food (Adrian was born in Brazil from a Korean family, Clara was born in the US), there was a food truck competition, and I’m hungry now.
There was only one scene I truly didn’t like – the one in which Clara texts triggering photos to her trypophobic dad on purpose. Yes, we’re supposed to think Clara is immature, but this is… so not ok it should have been brought up again later. This kind of behavior can have ugly consequences; phobias are not a joke.
My rating: ★★★★½