As the weather gets warmer, I’ve noticed that I’m in the mood to read more YA contemporaries. Maybe it’s the sunshine, my daydreams of driving to the beach, or just that indescribable summer feeling… ☀️🌊 Whatever it is, it’s got me eager for cute, romantic reads. And it turns out that Maurene Goo’s latest book, The Way You Make Me Feel, was exactly what I needed! 😃
Not sure what this book is about? You can find a short synopsis here! And FYI: There are a few small spoilers in this review.
What I Liked: This book is both adorable and heartwarming, and I honestly didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. (Despite my sudden desire to read more of them, YA contemporaries can be somewhat hit-or-miss for me.) Clara is a fantastic protagonist, and she’s just like Hamlet describes her — hard on the outside, but soft and gooey on the inside. 😊 Her cynicism and stubbornness might be off-putting to some readers, but she’s also hilarious. Like most teenagers, she makes bad decisions and screws up big time. But she also learns a lot about herself and figures out what — and who — matters most to her. I liked Rose for many of the same reasons. While she and Clara are very different, both have their own struggles, and both are trying to figure stuff out. Both girls learn that there’s much more to one another than they first assumed, and this realization helps to strengthen their friendship.
It’s not a huge part of the book, but we learn that Rose struggles with anxiety. And the way she describes it is so spot-on — at least for me.
“Sometimes, I can’t… live in the moment. I’m always thinking of what-ifs and the terrible things people could be thinking about me… I always think everyone’s mad at me. All the time. And it’s like, I don’t really care? But I do. It’s hard to explain.”
“You mean, like your parents?” I asked.
She shook her head. “No. I mean, yeah, of course I worry about what they think. But literally everyone. Like a stranger on the street. If I say something dumb to a barista, it bothers me for weeks. If someone doesn’t respond to a text or email right away, I’m convinced I did something wrong. I feel as if my brain’s trolling me.”
“Your brain is a jerk.”
She laughed, the sound filled with relief. “It is.”
While Rose doesn’t say much else about it, this moment felt so important to me. It gives the reader insight into Rose’s personality — and why she is the way she is — and it acknowledges just how hard it can be to deal with anxiety.
Hamlet really is a Labrador — enthusiastic, warm, a little intense, and quick to love. That last one sort of threw me for a loop, because I’m not typically a fan of insta-love stories. But that’s the thing about Hamlet. He’s crazy about Clara and he just can’t hide it. He really does wear his heart on his sleeve, and I actually found that endearing rather than annoying. And they are just SO CUTE together. Like when they’re swimming in Rose’s pool together. SWOOOOON. ❤️
Hamlet kept one hand supporting my back. My bare back. “You good?” he asked.
I nodded. “Yeah.” Then I touched his hip underwater, grazing it gently with my fingers. His eyes met mine, and this time his smile was slow.
THAT HIP TOUCH. THAT SLOW SMILE. Hamlet is totally, 100% book boyfriend material.
I also really liked Clara’s relationship with her dad (and her mom!) and how it changes over the course of the story. It was realistic, and there was a good balance between their usual banter and more serious moments. This book is very diverse, and I can see it resonating with both teens and adults. And the food trucks! Goo really killed it with the delicious descriptions. Picanha and lombo grilled churrasco-style, kimchi-and-cheese-stuffed pastels, toothpick lamb with Sichuan peppers, shaved ice, carnitas tacos, naengmyeon… My mouth is watering just typing this. 🤤
What I Disliked: Not much. It seemed a little weird that Clara’s dad wasn’t angrier with her about using his credit card to buy a one-way plane ticket. But she was with her mom, she was safe, and there really wasn’t anything he could do about it after it was done… So I kind-of-sort-of understand not making it a bigger deal. Besides that, part of me wanted Clara to confront her mom about not telling her that Tulum was more of a work thing than a mother-daughter vacation thing. Also, while she was in Tulum, Clara was allowed to get super drunk and grown adults posted videos of her online without her consent? (And I think she had taken her shirt off by then, since she had jumped in a pool and was soaking wet. 😳) WHAT?! And all her mom says is, “I got an earful from Adrian this morning.” That’s… hard to believe. And possibly illegal?
Overall, this book was a delight, and I think it’s perfect for summer! If you’re looking for a story with more serious, poignant moments, perhaps look elsewhere. But this would be a great poolside read, or even just a sitting-on-your-porch-and-soaking-up-some-sun read. It’s definitely one of the best YA contemporaries I’ve read lately! 😄
**Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group for providing me with a free eARC in exchange for an honest review. All quotes are excerpted from the final release — not the ARC!