Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi is a YA, opposites attract, enemies to lovers romance about letting go of your fears and discovering what’s really important in love and in life.

All the confidence that comes with being the head cheerleader, the popular girl at school, accepted to Princeton and on track to becoming a surgeon…and Sana Khan can’t even manage to effectively ask out the girl she’s completely crushing on. It’s not that she didn’t try, she just failed miserably somehow and ended up creating an enemy for life in the process.

Rachel Recht is nobody’s fool. When the most popular girl in the school asks her to go out, she knows it is not on the up and up. She is not going to be made into the biggest laughingstock in her school. Besides, better she focuses on her senior project anyway; the movie that is going get her accepted into NYU. At least, it will if she can ever finish filming it. Unfortunately, time is running out and strong leads are hard to find. With the deadline looming, her teacher gives her a dreadful ultimatum: Cast Sana as the lead in her film and get it finished, or she will withdraw her recommendation for Rachel’s scholarship.

Forced to work with her nemesis, Rachel soon discovers that Sana is not only the perfect lead, but that there may be much more to her than Rachel gave her credit for.

The Characters

Sana is Indian and Persian and comes from a very wealthy family. She is the head cheerleader of her school, incredibly popular, and has been accepted by Princeton to study medicine. She is the quintessential girl next door and hard not to like.

Rachel is Latinx and Jewish and more feared than popular. She is a talented and aspiring director that is only able to attend such a prestigious school via scholarship. Eschewing much of the social side of school, she is extremely focused on her future. Her insecurities cause her to react vehemently in certain situations which occasionally seems over the top until you gain a better understanding of where she is coming from.

So yes, the opposites attract trope is strong in this story (though the enemies to lovers trope is the heavyweight by far). However, as the book progresses, we discover more profound similarities shared between the two young women which helps create some great chemistry. They are both incredibly driven and know what they want to do with their lives. They each have family issues and struggle with their family’s expectations of them. Most importantly though, they are both toiling over how they will achieve their goals; by conforming to the status quo or by forging their own paths. This is where we see them really grow as characters and where the plot is most interesting.

The Writing Style

The story is thankfully told from the alternating viewpoints of both Sana and Rachel. A solid choice because lacking this firsthand insight into Rachel, I would find it hard to like her character. There is some great banter and humour throughout and the descriptions of Los Angeles are vivid and appealing. However, I did find the pacing of the book to be somewhat slow and the plot is not overly stimulating.

My Favourite Parts

The representation is wonderful and the different family structures and dynamics are interesting and heartwarming. But for me, the most enjoyable part of the book is the exploration of how, even if you know where your life is headed and your destination is firmly set, there are several paths you can take to get there and how the paths you choose will define who you are as much if not more, than the destination.

The Conclusion

The cover alone is enough reason to rush out and grab this book, but it also nails some classic tropes once you manage to tear yourself away from the beautiful image and start reading. Wonderful movie references abound, and quirky family relationships will bring you all the feels as you join these two young women in their discovery of themselves and each other.

Excerpt from Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi

Sana made her way out of the building, out into the early spring sunshine. It was the kind of day Los Angeles was famous for – sunny, but not hot. Blue skies and a small breeze. Sana inhaled – dust and smog and the faintest hint of eucalyptus. She dropped her shoulders, repositioned her backpack.

She’d done it.

She’d interviewed for a year abroad and nobody had found out. She probably wouldn’t get it. The competition to work in a genetics hospital – actually work, not just file paperwork or shadow a doctor – was fierce. But she‘d done it all the same. Without anyone being the wiser.

Including Mom. Including Princeton.

Sana had taken a few more steps when she caught sight of a figure moving across the lawn, weighted down with several cases and bags. Sana froze for a moment, watching.

Rachel Recht.

She must have been carrying camera equipment. That’s what all those bags and cases were. Sana squinted, just to be sure; it really was her. Rachel Recht, a film student so extraordinary that she was granted a scholarship plus special filming privileges within the high-walled hedges of the Royce School. Rachel Recht, who was the kind of girl who vibrated going places and doing things and get out of my way already.

Rachel Recht, who had hated Sana with every fiber of her being since they had met in October of their freshman year.

Sana knew she needed to unstick herself from this position before Rachel noticed her staring. She’d learned to turn away, to not look at Rachel for as long as she wanted to, over the years. Learned that Rachel sneered at her whenever she caught Sana looking. So Sana tried her best to ignore Rachel. Ignore her own urge to look. Ignore the way her heartbeat kicked up a notch. That was just the leftover thrill from having finished her interview, anyway. Sana grabbed both of her backpack straps and pulled, willing herself to turn away and keep moving.

And that’s when everything went haywire.

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Bits and Bobs

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Note: I received a free review copy of Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi. No money was exchanged for this review. When you use our links to buy we get a small commission which supports the running of this site

About the author

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I live in Ontario, Canada. If I’m not seeking out my own adventures, I am reveling in the reading of the adventures of others.