The Way You Make Me Feel
By Maurene Goo
Published August 2018
I borrowed this book from my local library’s young adult section. Get a library card and use it!
This review may include spoilers. I don’t do “number” or “star” ratings because I think those systems are arbitrary and vague.
The first half gave me the warm and fuzzies about friendship, the second half made me kick my feet and squeal like a teenager because it was so cute!
First of all, this book was such a quick read, I wish I had more. With that said, I appreciate that it was fast paced and didn’t drag on and on. There was one break right in the middle where the tone shifted in the plot. I noticed it as when Clara’s problems were shifting from friendship themes to romance themes. Of course the end tied it all together into Clara’s coming of age and maturation, but the shift was definitely noticeable. I actually had blazed through the beginning, put the book down for almost a week, then picked it back up and blazed through the end. This isn’t a bad thing, just something I hadn’t done before in a book that was so much fun. I knew after I picked the book up again, the tone would be different and I didn’t think I was ready because I’m not a huge fan of romance.
Now with romance, Goo did it right. There is no hint of toxic masculinity in Hamlet’s characterization and that is so refreshing from other male romantic leads. He’s cute, awkward, soft, intelligent, kind, understanding, an overachiever that isn’t portrayed as nerdy, and actually cries and isn’t shamed for it. He’s the kind of character teen girls can fall in love with and know he’s a healthy portrayal of masculinity. I wish I had more Hamlets in my media growing up.
The main character Clara was exactly what a main character should be, relatable but provides a point of view that the reader may not share. Often, many lead female characters are a caricature of a female hero that girls have been told they should be or a fantasy girls have about what it means to be a “strong woman.” Often with romance plots, they are generic enough that any reader can put herself in the shoes of the heroine. With Clara, this is not the case.
Clara is abrasive, unattached, obsessed with not being “real” with people and I couldn’t stand her for most of the book. While I didn’t like Clara, she was relatable and that made me invested in her life. This made her such a strong character. Clara even grew on me as she grew throughout her summer experience. As Clara matures and you see her for who she is, not who she wants to be, she becomes more likeable.
Another thing about Clara: she is so obviously a teenager it’s refreshing. She’s not overtly introspective. Most teens between 14 and 18 are subtly introspective. How many teens or even young adults stop and think, “now why did I do or say that?” So many characters in young adult fiction are unrealistically introspective. Clara is introspective, but in a way that’s real. She does something immature and she’s like, I probably shouldn’t have done that but that’s just the way I am. It’s not until the end that she starts to realize “why” she’s “like that” and takes steps to make amends and grow. She grows throughout the book, but not overtly or consciously. She’s a great female lead because she’s so real, gives the reader a new perspective, and isn’t trying to be a character that she isn’t.
I have never seen more of my personality and feelings in a character than I have in Rose Carver. She is so relatable to me its scary, all the way down to her thoughts on dating. I really rooted for Rose from the beginning because in high school, I was Rose. I was driven, anxious, a perfectionist, and ambitious to a fault. I even had a pixie cut when I was 17-18! It was borderline creepy, and seeing so much of myself in Rose was probably why I had such a hard time warming up to Clara. I felt like Clara’s attacks on Rose’s personality were personal, obviously I got over that.
You already know my thoughts on Hamlet!
My first thought when it ended was: “Oh no, its over!” I wanted more. I know the characters would figure everything out, but I wanted to be there when it happened. I needed more Clara, Rose, Hamlet, and Adrian. I thought this book was a wholesome coming of age story with snark, appropriate and timely memes, and lovable characters. I would, and have already suggested this book to friends I am in a book club with.