Title: Tell Me How You Really Feel
Author: Aminah Mae Safi
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Review Copy: ARC from publisher
Availability: Available now
Summary: 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 strong-willed young women falling for each other despite themselves.
Review: This lovely contemporary novel is all about honesty. Not just being honest with others, but being honest with yourself. Despite “Tell Me How You Really Feel” being a hate-to-love romance, I feel like the main lesson these two teens learned was that they needed to be honest with who they are, what they want, and not being afraid to ask for it. There is power in taking ownership of your life, and when one is on the brink of adulthood it can be scary, as it is for Sana and Rachel, but also freeing when one finally decides to proclaim “this is me”.
One aspect I really loved about this story, which helps with both Sana and Rachel being honest with themselves, is that both are already out. While coming out stories are very valuable, it is equally valuable for teens to read about LBGTQ characters who are already out and are struggling with major life decisions such as Sana is about whether or not she really wants to attend Princeton and become a doctor. Rachel is stuck with her movie and needs to finish it in order to not lose her scholarship to NYU. Both are struggling with acceptance of a different way as they are trying to find the balance of making the right decisions for themselves, while also trying to please the adults in their lives. Of course, trying to satisfy both is impossible and through their initial friendship, then romance, they learn more about each other and about themselves. This is definitely a novel where the person you love becomes the one who challenges you and pushes you the most and I loved this novel for it.
I also thought the “hate-to-love” trope worked here because it was actually one sided. Despite being rejected by Rachel when they were freshmen, Sana still has a crush on Rachel, so all of her interactions were always very awkward, however Rachel saw them a different way. This is where the two perspective of the story really work well because the reader is able to see how one interaction can been seen different ways. And it also really worked to see how Rachel eventually became to understand Sana and how their relationship was able to blossom into love. These awkward interactions had me giggling at the beginning, then turned to warm fuzzies as their feelings towards each other grew and became “awww” moments of sweetness.
“Tell Me How You Really Feel” is a wonderful summer romance that we all need.