Book Review: The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene G

The Way You Make Me Feel
by Maurene Goo
Goodreads | Amazon 
Series: no
Published: May 8th 2018
Rating: Frickin' awesome
Times read: 1
Recommended by: I auto-bought it because Maureen Goo

Co-read with Gabrielle because I live a charmed life like that. In The Way You Make Me Feel sixteen year old Clara's class clown way of life if sidetracked when she has to work in her dad's food truck with her worst enemy all summer.

Well, Clara is certainly an extrovert. I am always way more judgy of extroverts. I don't mean to be but because they approach the world in a completely different way that I do I need some damn good writing to make their motivations and actions understandable and not just attention seeking. Maureen Goo manages that deftly. Clara is completely unlike Desi from I Believe in a Thing Called Love. She is much less introspective and much more concerned with outside events. The Way You Make Me Feel is a more broadly comedic and less "thoughtful" but maintains the same level of charm and warmth. My only real complaint about this book is that it did feel like the ending was a bit abrupt and I wanted more closure.  Or just more. 

The Way You Make Me Feel hits all of my YA sweet spots diversity, vivid setting, excellent characterizations, and a large amounts of food. Ermahgerd, the food. I will confess that I have a strong dislike of all things kimchee. It has to do with the pickle/brine thing. I can't stand saurkraut, pickles, or olives in my food for the same reason. I still want one of the Kimchee Pasteles from this book. I would be making them at this moment if I knew where to find kimchee in Beijing. 

The disruption and mayhem fed my soul, and I looked around the auditorium triumphantly.

I love that Clara is not a model student who is hugely concerned what her parents will think of her if she doesn't overachieve. Not every Asian high school student loves the academic part of school. Or is good at it. She is slightly over the top and dramatic, but she is also never mean-spirited. This was a concern because she does tend to want to be the coolest person in the room. This contrasted with Rose, Clara's nemesis, who is hampered by the need to please every person that she comes in contact with. It is an odd couple type of situation and it was beautifully done. They have to get over their issues both with one another but also learn to deal with the issues that they have with themselves. I love when books portray the way that positive frienships enrich lives. 

Multiculturalism was portrayed in this book was *chef's kiss. Clara is American of Korean decent by way of Brazil. There is a complexity there that reflects real life. As someone whose hypothetical child would be half American, half German by way of China I definitely appreciate this. The secondary and tertiary characters are all authentically and casually diverse making Clara's LA that much more reflective of reality. Speaking of LA. I am a huge fan of books where the setting is in itself a character. 

Hamlet Wong is frickin' adorable. He is earnest and slightly nerdy. He genuinely cares about other people and sees through Clara's brash facade to the interesting and special person underneath. I know that I shouldn't want a high school summer romance to last forever but this one better stick. 

Clara's dad Adrian Shin is everything wonderful in this world, and I need him to have an adult romance novel to himself. I'll wait. But not patiently. Please get on that Maureen.  Heart eyed emojis is forever! 

Seriously, Maureen Goo deserves a round of applause and for this book to be read by everyone. Cute, funny, romantic, and the perfect antidote to every day of the week feeling like a Monday.

From Goodreads:

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.

Book Review: Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Amal Unbound By Aisha Saeed

Amal Unbound
By Aisha Saeed
Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Series: no
Published: May 8th 2018
Rating: solid MG read
Times read: 1
Recommended by: I first saw this on twitter

I preordered Amal Unbound months ago because of the cover and because of the Pakistani setting. A few weeks ago I read Written in the Stars by the same author, which renewed my interest. I still hadn't read the blurb when I started reading it, so I went into it having no idea what sort of story to expect. A story of drama and intrigue, a rom-com, historical? It turns out it was none of the above.

Amal is a girl living in a small village in Pakistan who wishes to become a teacher. She is pulled out of school to take care of the family when her mother suffers from postpartum depression and ends up accidentally making an enemy of the powerful man who owns her village.

Amal Unbound is the sort of book that really highlights how vital #ownvoices writing is. I don't think that that this book could or should have been written by someone who is not part of the Pakistani community. Amal Unbound tackles classism and indentured servanthood in Pakistan, and it takes someone with both an intimate knowledge and love of Pakistan, and it's people to portray both of these realities accurately.

Or maybe I would do all these things. I knew now that one person could hold many different dreams and see them all come true.

This is a very short book.  Or maybe it felt very short because it was so readable. I read half of it last night and half of it today. As far as I know, Amal's age is never given. Somewhere between 12 and 17 is all I can say for sure. There is a clarity of writing and story that will make this book accessible to younger readers.

This is definitely a "plot" book. All of the stories energy goes into fleshing out what is happening rather than "world building" or characterization.  The writing is slightly spare, and there are no lush descriptions of Pakistan. There was a forward momentum to the book that discouraged lingering over words or characters. It was very much a book of the hear and now of the story. I find that I read books like this very quickly because I am so anxious to find out what happens. But because I am reading so fast, I don't always pay enough attention to the writing.

Amal is a strong and admirable character. I love how dedicated she was to learning and how determined she was to save herself. She was also a slightly blurred character, and I wonder if that has to do with the fact that she is also written as a representative character.  Amal has a specific history and struggle, but she is also emblematic of the many girls and woman around the world who are living this reality. I love that there is a message of hope and positive outcomes through action. 

Aisha Saeed is masterful at writing complex secondary characters. None of them are all good or all evil. Even characters who could almost be cartoonish in their villainy *cough Jawad Sahib *cough are portrayed as humans with human emotions and fallacies. 

Amal Unbound is highly recommended if you are interested in diverse books, contemporary books set in non-English speaking counties, or books that look at the lives of girls and woman in the developing world.

From Goodreads:

Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal's Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she's busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when--as the eldest daughter--she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn't lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens--after an accidental run-in with the son of her village's corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family's servant to pay off her own family's debt. 

Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal--especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal's growing awareness of the Khans' nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realizes she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams.

Book Review: The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding

The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding

The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles)
by Amy Spalding 
Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Series: no
Published: April 3rd 2018
Times read: 1
Recommended by: Gabrielle, the power librarian

Cute cute cute cute. This. This is the book that I have been looking for. This is a sweet, funny, touching summer story about seventeen-year-old Abby who is starting out a new internship, making new friends, and falling in love. 

Abby is more how I wanted Leah from Leah on the Offbeat (even though I really liked that book) to be. Abby is so relatable. I think that we have all been that person who forgot how to stand or walk normally. Is this how I hold my arms? Why am I so aware of my young now? There are a few parts where Abby misses part of a conversation because she was daydreaming and oh man, have I ever been there. I am not gay but omg I was so Abby as a teenager. There is a scene of holding hands, and she is trying not to think about it too hard in case it isn’t happening. The way to loud inner dialogue, awkwardness, and self-doubt. So real.

I have a friend who told me once that she would love it if she didn’t have a body. That she wishes that people were just floating masses of energy or whatever. Reading about Abby’s struggle to be in front of the camera modeling the clothes that she loves reminds me of that. I also love that she has a complicated relationship with how she looks. One the one hand she is good with it in some setting and on the other it is her kryptonite, a secret, vulnerable spot that can easily hurt her. 

The human condition is bullshit.

The balance of Abby’s gayness seems just right. I like that this isn’t a coming out story. It is just a part of who she is, but it also affects a lot of things in her life because... reality. It is there but not the ultimate cause of drama.

I think that this is the first time that I have read a book about a fashion blogger and had a crystal clear idea of their style. Full skirts, fruit patterns, and belts. I am here for it! It is also clear that the author actually knows how social media works. 

The secondary characters in this book are all well defined and rich. You can imagine them having lives that are happening off the page. Abby and her best friend, Maliah are struggling a bit with balancing friendships and realationships. They are both seventeen and in their first relatioships. Of course, that is going to happen. It is sensitively and realistically explores the desire to stay as close to your best friend as you always have and the desire to be with this new person that you are in love with. I appreciate that Jax becomes her friend. He is that almost “stereotypical obnoxious boy from high school” but he manages to be sweet and funny and supportive. 

Food is very important in this book. It was interesting to see how different everyone's relationship to food and cooking was. Abby's mom is fixated on food but not the comfort that it can bring. Jordi's family makes empanadas together as a way to become closer. Abby and Jax scour Los Angeles in the search for the perfect burger. 

I have had some trouble finding f/f books that I actually liked and shipped. There are a bunch where the writing was found I was just not getting invested in the love story. So many of them read like really unhealthy friendships. So much angst. So I ha e have been questioning myself about internal biases because generally, I don’t have that problem with m/m books. Do I just have different standards for these books? Is it too much to just want something adorable as an option? I have been making an effort this year to read at least one f/f book a month. The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles) is the first book that I have been 100% on board the relationship. Like, I will go down with this ship. Abby and Jordi are meant to be, and I will hear nothing to the contrary. Do not @ me you are wrong. Pardon me while I squee over them a bit.

From Goodreads:

Seventeen, fashion-obsessed, and gay, Abby Ives has always been content playing the sidekick in other people's lives. While her friends and sister have plunged headfirst into the world of dating and romances, Abby has stayed focused on her plus-size style blog and her dreams of taking the fashion industry by storm. When she lands a prized internship at her favorite local boutique, she’s thrilled to take her first step into her dream career. She doesn't expect to fall for her fellow intern, Jordi Perez. Abby knows it's a big no-no to fall for a colleague. She also knows that Jordi documents her whole life in photographs, while Abby would prefer to stay behind the scenes.

Then again, nothing is going as expected this summer. She's competing against the girl she's kissing to win a paid job at the boutique. She's somehow managed to befriend Jax, a lacrosse-playing bro type who needs help in a project that involves eating burgers across L.A.'s eastside. Suddenly, she doesn't feel like a sidekick. Is it possible Abby's finally in her own story?

But when Jordi's photography puts Abby in the spotlight, it feels like a betrayal, rather than a starring role. Can Abby find a way to reconcile her positive yet private sense of self with the image that other people have of her?

Is this just Abby’s summer of fashion? Or will it truly be The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles)?