Blog Tour: Tell Me How You Really Feel by Amina Mae Safi
- Genre: YA contemporary/romcom
- Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
- Publication Date: June 11, 2019
Sana Khan is a cheerleader and a straight A student. She’s the classic (somewhat obnoxious) overachiever determined to win.
Rachel Recht is a wannabe director who’s obsesssed with movies and ready to make her own masterpiece. As she’s casting her senior film project, she knows she’s found the perfect lead – Sana.
There’s only one problem. Rachel hates Sana. Rachel was the first girl Sana ever asked out, but Rachel thought it was a cruel prank and has detested Sana ever since.
Told in alternative viewpoints and inspired by classic romantic comedies, this engaging and edgy YA novel follows two strongwilled young women falling for each other despite themselves
Disclaimer: As part of this blog tour, I read an ARC of this book. All opinions are my own. Thanks to the publisher.
First of all. THIS COVER. I understand that, unfortunately, it’s not an “under the radar” book that closeted kids can freely read without others scrutinizing them for it. But. Also. Blatant desire and joy between two girls?? Hardly seen before. Not to mention they’re both POC. I kept staring at the beauty.
This book is billed as a hate-to-love f/f romcom, and while I’m not much of a romcom connoisseur, I do think that description might be a little limiting. The tropes are definitely there, and when the story gets there, the attraction/desire is palpable. But there’s a little bit more than what you might expect from a romcom (though perhaps that says more about society’s biases than romcoms)–character development and broader discussions/messages.
I do think the writing style was a little clunky with too much description or information that bogged it down, especially early on (and the smaller-than-usual-for-YA print wasn’t helping), which didn’t contribute to the quick reading style I expected. Once I got into it, though, I found that it flowed better. I think it helps that the POV switches become more frequent when they’re together and understand each other better.
Sana and Rachel as characters first appear in clear types albeit with clear motivations, but then they become more fleshed out. These are two very ambitious and strong-willed students. Rachel the dedicated film student seems to hate Sana because she’s a cheerleader, but actually it turns out they have more of a history that reveals Rachel’s insecurities. Sana is basically Rory Gilmore (the dedication pretty much confirms this), but desires something a little different from the path she’s been on her whole life. They work together to move past the “girl hate” and have very cute and honest discussions. We get to know them as they get to know each other.
I appreciated how Mafi didn’t bother to explain Persian Culture 101 (the family celebrates Nowruz together, a Zoroastrian holiday, but otherwise Sana does not appear to be particularly religious), so the representation isn’t there to “teach” white readers. There’s a nice mention of Rachel’s Mexican Jewish community and how that is a resource to her, and Sana finds that her upper-class Persian family tends to ignore that she likes girls. Rachel and Sana discuss how they fit into Hollywood and films, and Sana’s mother has worked herself up from the bottom in the industry. So if you’re something looking to feel represented by this book: there isn’t that much discussion of identity, but it’s still woven throughout, and it doesn’t focus on pain or hardship.
Ultimately, I liked the themes that emerged from this story as a result of Sana and Rachel’s relationship. They discuss the differences between feelings and ambition and the importance of making their own choices in their live.s Feelings vs. ambition… Making choices. Writing your own story. This character development almost takes precedence over and compliments their relationship which I really liked. As a result the emotions of the relationship are light in a way, but at the same time deepened because we know so much about them? It’s different, but I liked it.