Clara Shin poses on the cover, her eyes glinting in a seductive gaze. While cover judgment is typically discouraged, Maurene Goo’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” invites just that sort of temptation.
Goo’s book thrives not on elaborate insights but on lightheartedness. In her love letter to Los Angeles culture, Goo depicts a (not-so) typical father-daughter relationship with witty lines and laughs along the way.
“I knew I wanted this book to be about summer jobs and set in Los Angeles, the city where I was born and raised and that I love so much,” Goo said in an email interview. “So — a food truck was the perfect way for these characters to work and travel through the city at the same time.”
Meet Adrian — first-generation Korean-American immigrant food trucker, raised in Brazil. On top of that, he’s single-handedly raising his daughter, Clara Shin. Clara’s no angel, but she’s no devil, either. She’s just an attention seeker who doesn’t admire her dad’s magic the way everyone else does.
If anything, what Clara looks forward to is beach getaway resort days with her celebrity mother. But an incident caused by her ignorance changes everything when Adrian makes his mark and mandates her to take up a summer job. This summer job isn’t just anything — it’s weeks of taking orders on dad’s portable food truck, the KoBra, in the sweltering summer heat. The experience is a pendulum, much attributed to Clara’s moody personality.
Clara’s job journey unravels in sarcastic remarks that simultaneously defy silence and paint a picture of sacrifice. At the forefront is Adrian, the restaurateur who grapples with identity through food.
Other dynamic personalities lace the pages, as well. Hamlet and Rose are the try-hards who constantly defy racial barriers to seek the triumph. Mae, Clara’s mother, is a plastic personality, social-media influencer who exemplifies how Goo has striven to strike chords of relevancy.
“Social media is huge right now. I loved the idea of (Clara’s mom) being an influencer,” Goo said. “It’s kind of glamorous and aspirational, but I imagine that it can also feel a little hollow sometimes.”
Through her life experiences, Goo brings out a lively discussion on how to make “caring” shine through, particularly through cuisine. The personalities she depicts are not a careful arrangement, but a jumble of emotions trickling from the pages. They pour out sooner or later, manifesting into a common goal of the never-ending quest for identity and purpose.