Ever since the start of the year when I started reviewing ARC’s on this here blog, I’ve become harsher in my critiques. I used to just read a book, think it was fine, and then never think about it again. I’m now looking at things more critically —putting all those college literature classes to good use. While in the past I might have rated a book a four or five with no real thought behind it, now I’m getting strict.
Title: Tell Me How You Really Feel
Author: Aminah Mae Safi
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publication Date: June 11th
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.
First—this cover is groundbreaking. Having two women—women of color—in a loving pose on the cover of a YA novel. Its beautiful.
Now for the actual book: this had so much potential! A hate-to-love f/f romance, taking place in Los Angeles? Sounds perfect! And while I did think these were some fascinating characters that had the groundwork to be really compelling, there was a lot that didn’t work for me. The writing at times was very clunky and often extremely repetitive.
This was dual perspective following both Sana and Rachel, which would have been great if the characters got equal representation. I felt like I learned so much about Sana—about her family, her feelings, her relationships—but barely anything about Rachel. Even during the “Rachel” sections, perspective would slip to Sana. They had such great chemistry as they worked through this kind of one sided hate-to-love journey, but I wish there was more focus on Rachel to balance the tons of exposition that was on Sana. And when it did focus on Rachel, she was a very angry girl. This could have been really fun to explore, but all we got was very surface level. The set up to their relationship is based on a simple misunderstanding that Rachel has fully blown out of proportion. She seemed to be overreacting and quite childish.
Probably too much exposition, to be honest. There were a few instances that seemed like the reader was coming in at the end of a scene, when the two characters are talking about what just happened. I would much rather had seen what happened then to hear the characters talk about it. I felt like this happened a lot with the filming of Rachel’s project. Speaking of Rachel’s project, I still can’t tell you what exactly her movie is supposed to be about other than a modernized version of The Odyssey?
There seem to be plot lines that got dropped as the story went on. At the beginning, Rachel set up a deal with Sana that she had to watch movies of Rachel’s choosing, and they would watch them together. I thought this would be such a great opportunity to see the growth in their relationship as the story progressed. It was done maybe twice and then they were kind of just dropped from the storyline. The two girls really didn’t seem to spend a lot of time together on the page. Then you have the character of Diesel—who I thought was going to have a much larger role in the story. He kind of got dropped almost instantly, only to pop up again for a second 2/3rds of the way through the book.
In all, I think the initial story and these characters had the potential to be a really compelling story, but it was just not executed well. I have Aminah Mae Safi’s debut sitting unread on my shelf, and now I’m doubting whether to read it or not.
I was sent an e-arc from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.