I Hate Clara: The Way You Make Me Feel by Maureen Goo

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From the author of I Believe in a Thing Called Love, a laugh-out-loud story of love, new friendships, and one unique food truck.

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.

Source: GoodReads

I just cannot get into Maureen Goo’s books.  In theory they are everything I should like light hearted contemporaries with a diverse protagonist, but at the end of the day I just can’t.  The weird thing about The Way You Make Me Feel is that if it wasn’t for the God awful insensitive and just all around terrible human being of a protagonist, I probably would’ve liked this book.

I have been writing a slew of negative reviews lately, so I think I’ll start this one off by at least talking about the good points.  I liked the idea of the food truck being a central plot line to the book.  The food in this book made me hungry and as a result this book inspired me to make some fusion corn today-okay, no it really didn’t.  I had the fusion street corn planned since I got my copy of Milk Street in the mail last week but I digress.

Street Corn

A Brazilian/Korean food truck sounds amazing and I enjoyed reading the food descriptions.  I also liked some of the side characters.  The dad character was great.  And I liked Rose.  Hamlet wasn’t terrible either, if a little bland (save for his name).  I mean, if you would’ve taken out Clara this book might’ve been a winner for me.

Hell, I wanted to read more about Rose.  She was interesting.  She wasn’t a douche canoe and she was definitely more relatable than I’m Gonna Be a Stupid Idiot Clara.

But I said I was going to talk about positives first, right?

I thought the dad character really was done.  Rather, than pitching this like a summer romance (which from the blurb it totally looks like it’s going in that direction.  I think this book would’ve been a lot more successful pitched as a general contemporary.  The father/daughter relationship was the strongest aspect of the book while the romance was the weakest.  And in a way I’m glad.  Finding a YA book with strong parent/child relationships is hard, but I really sort of didn’t get why they pitched it so hard as looking like a rom com when Hamlet is maybe a secondary character at best.

I also liked the fact that the book tried to do a storyline about strong female friendships.  The only thing was that I felt the friendship between Rose and Clara came out forced because Clara is such  jerk and I just don’t see a girl as strong as Rose dealing with her shit.  Also, I hated that while Rose was important at the beginning of the novel she merrily fell into supported best friend role as the story went on.

Which brings me to the crux of the problem with the book: Clara.

Going into this book, I knew she was going to be an issue.  My friend, Nenia, was reading this book the other week and based on her status updates I figured it was going to be a DNF for me.  However, somehow I think the advance warning made me ready to deal with it. Still though, Clara is one of the most absorbed twits I’ve read about in awhile and I really don’t think she grew as a character.  More or less, the other characters gave into her.

If you’re going to have a bratty heroine and the story is character driven (as it was in this book) you need to make sure your character grows and isn’t an obnoxious brat all the time like Clara is.

There were several jaw dropping moments of her stupidity.  I think the most notable one is where she is okay cooking a vegetarian’s dish in pork fat.  That’s no tokay.  There are religious, ethical, and health concerns with doing that.  But Clara brushes it off like she does with pretty much the rest of her life as one big funny haha joke and gets away with it.

After a slew of God awful books, this one is hardly the worst one that I’ve read in awhile. I do think Goo is improving.  If Clara wasn’t so insipid, I probably would’ve rated this one higher.  It did have some stuff I liked, but God did I want to punch Clara’s stupid fictional face in.

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Overall Rating: I’m giving it a C+ take away the punchable MC and it’s a decent book.  However, the MC does bring down the story a lot.  If you can’t stand stupid jackasses this probably isn’t the book for you.

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