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Tell Me How You Really Feel

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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.

312 pages, Hardcover

First published June 11, 2019

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About the author

Aminah Mae Safi

7 books432 followers
Aminah Mae Safi is the author of four novels, including Tell Me How You Really Feel (Feiwel & Friends) and the forthcoming Travelers Along the Way: a Robin Hood Remix (Feiwel & Friends, 2022). She’s an erstwhile art historian, a fan of Cholula on popcorn, and an un-ironic lover of the Fast and the Furious franchise. Her writing has been featured on Bustle and Salon and her award-winning short stories can be found in Fresh Ink (Crown Books) and the forthcoming Freshman Orientation (Candlewick Press, 2023) among others.

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5 stars
1,432 (21%)
4 stars
2,524 (37%)
3 stars
2,015 (30%)
2 stars
561 (8%)
1 star
160 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,410 reviews
Profile Image for Gabby.
1,304 reviews27.9k followers
November 26, 2019
This was cute as shit. This is an adorable YA f/f romance that I didn’t know I needed until I read it. It’s hate to love and both of these two main characters were so fleshed out and this story gave me so much life.

We have Sana, this absolutely gorgeous cheerleader who is also a very out of the closet lesbian. She gets described in this book as a south Asian Elizabeth Taylor. Then we have Rachel. Who is taking a film class and she’s directing her first film for this project, and she absolutely hates Sana (because Sana asked Rachel out when they first met and Rachel thought she was making fun of her.) Rachel’s family is very poor, her Mom walked out on them and her and her Father are barely making it. Sana comes for a wealthier family because her Mother is a producer and she’s worked her way up in Hollywood, but she has a complicated relationship with her Father.

Because of a hilarious situation that happens in the beginning her film teacher requires Sana to be the lead actress in Rachel’s film, and this understandably upsets her because she’s her biggest enemy. But then the two start to bond and get to know each other, and it’s freaking cute.

I absolutely love movies as much as I love books so it was very fun to read about a character who also loves movies and is directing her own. (Not sure why she hates Tarantino’s films so much though, he’s a legend but whatever lol.) I’m also from Southern California so I love that this book takes place in Southern California. And this book describes the REAL Los Angeles, not the sugar coated la-la-land version that we so often see in fiction. Which I really appreciated, it talked a lot about the smog and horrible traffic and the god damn Santa Ana winds, ughhh. Those are the worst haha.

Their relationship was so cute and their banter was so freaking funny I loved it, and it was such a slow burn gaaaaahh it was killing me nothing happened between them for so long. I also appreciated how well fleshed out these main characters are, along with their families. I felt bad for both of their situations for different reasons and I just felt like they were so real.

I’ve just been waiting a long time for a great f/f romance and we finally have one so hooray!
Profile Image for Whitney Atkinson.
940 reviews14k followers
August 4, 2019
2.5 stars

This book wasn't awful at all, I just felt that it was weighed down by a lot of structural issues, and it was also steeped in a lot of film references, which is something I'm personally not interested in. I actually really enjoyed the characters and character development, which is what typically engages me best in books, so it did a good job at that. I liked how each girl had their own role at school and in their families, and you got to see both sides of it. The hurdle I couldn't get past, however, was how this book had very little flow. Maybe it was because the book only took place over one month so everything felt unrealistic or maybe it was just that random scenes were thrown together back to back, but this book just didn't read very smoothly at all. There was no gradual progression of the girls' changing and falling in love, even though they are very different people at the beginning and end of the book. The writing style itself wasn't necessarily bad, but I feel like it focused a lot on meandering inner monologue rather than scene description, which I was craving.

I would definitely read more from this author and I liked the relationship in this book, but this book was just barely 300 pages and was yet quite difficult to get into and difficult to want to pick back up because the way it was written just didn't capture my interest, even though the characters themselves were cute and interesting.
Profile Image for julianna ➹.
207 reviews268 followers
July 15, 2019
what time is it?? [checks watch] sad boi hour

Listen up, my 2.3 followers. I am most definitely not over the moon-- I am under the moon because I had hoped that this could be one of my favorites of 2019. It is not.

(Thank you so much to Feiwel & Friends for providing me w/ an arc of this in exchange for review!! This is an honest review. <3)

>> blog review

Nonetheless, three stars is NOT a bad rating! I actually really enjoyed this book and was thoroughly engaged for the majority of it! Therefore, I would like to list all of the quite good things:

🌷I mean, can we talk about the cover? I would like to devote 4 and a half sonnets dedicated to how amazing the cover is and how important it will be to readers to see themselves on the cover and the marvel that is the TWO BROWN LESBIANS ON THE COVER! YES!

🌷The sexuality within this novel isn't presented as something the main characters ever need to tackle with; it's completely natural and casual. Both the characters have already known for a while exactly who they're interested in: girls. And there aren't many extreme occasions of homophobia (but there are microaggressions).

🌷Filming is a huge part of this novel, and I think brown film-makers is something I've been seeing a lot (this novel + My So-Called Bollywood Life + From Twinkle, with Love) which I am so here for. I think that any person who's a fan of the story of Odysseus (but retold!) will really love those aspects woven throughout the plot!

🌷And, well, the premise itself is amazing. Enemies to lovers + poc main characters + brown author + poc on the cover + sapphic romance. This is enough to give me sustenance for the rest of my life.

However, the premise kind of... amped up my hopes? I'm really divided on my opinions on this novel, because they really changed from my first sitting to my last sitting.

Like, enemies to lovers, guys. One of the universally beloved tropes that guarantees the angst that we need and long for!! But I can't help but think that this book missed the mark on the enemies-to-lovers. I've seen other reviewers say this too, but Rachel Recht honestly seemed unnecessarily mean. I love brutally honest characters, but Rachel was always angry at everyone and just sniped at everyone, no matter what?

The groundwork for Rachel's distaste towards Sana was rooted in one of the biggest misunderstandings on the face of this planet, and listen. Listen. Even though it was an unrealistic misunderstanding— Rachel thought Sana asked her out as a prank— there was still room for me to be convinced by Rachel's train of thought. And... I wasn't convinced? I feel like this novel just failed to effectively get me to completely root for Rachel; Rachel had so much of a vendetta against "pretty people" that failed to garner my support.

Like, I saw where Rachel was coming from, but the narrative failed to convince me completely that her beliefs were totally reasonable; they just seemed like they were there to create conflict between Rachel and Sana and to make Rachel an "unlikeable" character.

Also, there was a lot of unrealistic dialogue, which really confused me. Some of the writing was really awkward and clunky, and I was in pain when I started noticing the writing and all of the unnatural sentences.

Listen... even though I was disappointed by this, I would like to give the go-ahead for any new readers venturing into YA to read this! I am extremely picky with both my writing and my contemporaries, so this is quite possibly a me thing.

edit: Something another reviewer brought up was that the book never used the phrases "queer" or "gay" or "lesbian" which they found to be hurtful, which is a completely valid complaint. So just be mindful of this if you're looking for go into the book! I don't want anyone to be hurt. <3

Trigger warnings for heteronormativity and sexism. (Ahhh this is definitely not a full list, but I'm editing this a couple months after reading it and I don't remember everything. I'll wait until other people post reviews w/ their lists so I can update mine.)

Specific representation includes lesbian rep (both the main characters), an f/f romance, a Jewish Mexican main character (Rachel), and a Muslim biracial main character who is half Persian + half Indian (Sana).

>> blog review
Profile Image for destiny ♡ howling libraries.
1,743 reviews5,283 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
June 1, 2019

I wanted SO BADLY to adore this, but these characters are... whew. I hated them both from their respective introductions and there's no reprieve in sight. They're both so arrogant and Rachel is legitimately a cruel-hearted bully from the first page we meet her on, and while I know a lot of readers will have fun watching the character development that I'm sure probably occurs later on in this story, I couldn't make it through well enough to find out firsthand. :(

Thank you so much to the publisher for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for Dahlia.
Author 18 books2,497 followers
December 17, 2018
Thank GOD this was as good as I wanted and needed it to be. This book is such a happy place and I'm so excited for fellow rom-com lovers to love it and ship Sana and Rachel as hard as I do.
Profile Image for Romie.
1,094 reviews1,270 followers
November 20, 2019
damn I really liked this one. I liked the writing style (something I know some people disliked), it helped me connect with the characters, Sana and Rachel. and oh how much I loved these girls. I loved Sana, someone who is so unsure about her future but who knows what she wants. she's someone who knows the final destination, she just can't figure out which way to get there. she's hardworking and true to herself. and I loved Rachel, my smol angry mexican jewish girl. I loved how angry she was, it was refreshing to see an author allowing a female character to be angry. it's usually something people don't like, but her being angry all the time was just so relatable. she's angry, and sometimes she doesn't know why, but she's using this anger, she's turning it into something productive, she's fuelled by it. this is such a beautiful book, with moments that broke my heart and quotes I had to write down. such a beautiful book. it reminded me a lot of everything leads to you, it had the same vibes and aesthetic. huh, just loved it.

“You can listen to that voice inside you. You don't have to keep going because you think you locked yourself into a decision so long ago and now you can't change your mind.”

small edit november 20th, 2019: I decided to give this book 5 stars and not my original 4.5 because since I've read it back in June, I just cannot stop thinking about it. and whenever I do think about it, it's as a favourite.
Profile Image for Reading_ Tamishly.
4,455 reviews2,406 followers
September 12, 2021
Amidst all the chaos and the urge to find an escape, this book welcomed me with all its amazingness!

And with the Pride month coming up, I am so glad I read this book. And it's just one review away before I keep nagging everyone with 'THIS BOOK IS SO FREAKING DAMN UNDERRATED!'

As someone who prefers reading more of MM romance, this came out as a big surprise! (There's nothing like I am against FF romance or anything like that but it's just that I am more into BL.)

This book is genuinely surprising to me. I am so glad I picked up this one after my fav booktubers (gabbyreads and Chelseadolling reads) recommended it.

I found this book to be really comforting. It's just not about the slow burn romance between Sana and Rachel, two very opposing personalities on the outside but too close personalities inside, I would say. It's the perfect young adult book to pick up. I was expecting drama and all the usual girl things to happen as it does happen in every YA book and movie but damn, this book stands out in a way that each of the character has their own personality which appear so realistic. The multicultural representation has been done so well. There are minimal assumptions and not overdone (as in most books where if an Indian family is represented, it's all about food, festivals, colourful, loud family members and relatives, arrange marriages and overprotective parents and either too overbearing or overly sweet grandparents). Sana's and Rachel's (Mexican origin) characters have been so well developed and their chemistry is way too realistic and so amazing! It's not the usual bantering hate-to-love or sudden attraction to each other and exploring their sexuality. Nope. Their relationship develops in a way you will find yourself watching them like it's bound to happen eventually. Like obviously! And not in a way of characters who are oh-so-confused and curious.

The best part is the conversations! I have never enjoyed a book in which the conversations are this engaging and entertaining. They have a lot of meaningful content in which the characters discuss and argue about their passions, films, projects, family and some other relevant topics.

I like how the family dynamics have been represented. Two different families, different backgrounds, different types of family members. Everyone involved was so involved in the plot. And I absolutely loved it. (As in most books, especially young adult fiction, the adults are so neglected in relation to the main characters.) Every character seem so genuine and realistic. This is so my kind of book. The romance is just slow burning amazing and genuine, mature and cute at the same time. The mutual respect and the caring vibes. Everything is done right I would say!

And the writing style! If it was some other book, I would just have had to DNF it because the chapters were long, the lines in the chapters were long at times. But the writing style is simply engaging. The humour is well done. The emotions are at the right places. And the book ended well😊

I feel so good after reading this!
Profile Image for tappkalina.
666 reviews414 followers
April 7, 2023
This book took me more than 2 weeks to read.

I honestly did not like the writing style, it was dry af. The places and the objects (the boring things) were decribed all the time, so I skipped them after a while, but when time came to the emotions, it was told me in two words how they feel and nothing more.

The characters are far from flat, they have personality and goals, but again, I just didn't care.
Also, I kinda understand why Rachel hated Sana, but why Sana liked her is beyond my capability. Who likes someone for 4 years if that person is mean to them that whole time? Like not even one good word or a nice glance.

I passed 70% when I started to enjoy it.
I like the basic idea, but that's it. Sorry, I can't give a book higher rating if I have no feelings for the characters.
Profile Image for Scott.
1,798 reviews130 followers
July 26, 2019
4.5 stars

Rachel didn't want anything to do with Sana . . . -- page 75

Tell Me How You Really Feel is author Aminah Mae Safi's sophomore effort, a very enjoyable romantic dramedy featuring two eighteen year-old students who are seniors at an LA prep school. At first it appears that they have little in common with each other, but we find out that's not the case at all.

Sana Khan is a conscientious student from a Persian-Indian family, working hard for good grades (she's considering medical school) while also a star of the cheerleading squad. Rachel Recht is of Mexican-Jewish extraction, an edgy film buff in the midst of directing her final project film. These two have a sort of (albeit brief) history, based on a simple misunderstanding from a few years ago.

After a 'meet-cute' incident - they accidentally walk into each other on campus, and cause minor damage to a film camera that was dropped - Sana finds herself cast in the lead role of Rachel's film. Although their initial interactions are uneasy and chilly (par for the course in this sort of story), a genuine friendship soon develops which then blossoms into a sweet but not overly syrupy romance.

I thought this was a nicely progressive story - although I might be mistaken, I can't recall the words 'gay' or 'lesbian' being used at all in the text, and the two leads don't face any harassment from fellow students or grief from family members about the relationship. Quite simply 'it is what it is,' and there are no tiresome plot complications about their orientation. (*I also appreciated the two mentions of Rachel wearing a Dodgers cap, but that's just my staunch fandom showing for that baseball team.*) Pleasingly, Tell Me How You Really Feel is really about these two young adults finding each other at just the right moment in each of their lives. The final chapter has honest exchanges of "I love you," and by then I couldn't imagine things happening any other way for the two of them.
Profile Image for mo.
198 reviews93 followers
Want to read
October 4, 2018
this book cover single-handedly cleared my skin, blessed my crops, and granted me lasting inner peace.

seriously, though, look at it. it's so warm and cute and tbh, i want to marry this book cover.
Profile Image for halfirishgrin.
288 reviews177 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
May 6, 2019
*Sigh* Apparently when you DNF one book, you start a streak.

I was legitimately so excited about this book. It's about two QPOC, one of them is Muslim, *and* it's my favourite trope: enemies to lovers. Unfortunately, it just...did not work for me.

Some of you may have seen me tweeting about the book that didn't use the word "gay," or "lesbian," or "queer" any variation of those words, and yeah, that's about this book! It felt like the author was really twisting herself into avoiding using these words. Not even labelling the characters (even though the characters seem to be pretty sure about their labels, just refuse to say them?), but it's just really uncomfortable and otherising to not use words that queer people are very comfortable using for themselves. It's unnatural and strange.

I could have maybe overlooked that if it wasn't for everything else that came with the book.

So, this book has been marketed as "If Rory Gilmore and Paris had got together" and that's...actually a pretty accurate description. This book is very Gilmore Girls, from the prestigious private school, the very driven female characters, and even the weekly dinners with grandparents. But...the reason why people (including me) shipped Rory and Paris is not just because they were enemies to lovers who had chemistry with each other, it's because they ultimately also really appreciated each other and had a lot of respect for each other. I hope that this book got there as it went on, but it was definitely not there AT ALL in the first 30% that I read.

And yes, it takes time for characters and relationships to develop but...Rachel is so obnoxious that if I were Sana, there is nothing Rachel could do make me like her. It makes no sense that Sana likes her, when Rachel is absolutely horrendous to every single person. She fires the people who work in her film, she is rude to her film teacher, she hates Sana because Sana asked her for her phone number once and Rachel decided this was some Stephen King Carrie situation FOR YEARS based off of that two second interaction, she hates every single person in her school, she hates Sana's friend because he's a jock. Is there anyone that Rachel likes? Certainly not as far as I can tell.

And yes, look. In GG Paris was awful to everyone as well, but her insecurities were also there to make us warm to her from early on, even if Rory could not quite warm to her. Also, we weren't seeing thing from Paris' point of view, as we are reading half of this book from Rachel's point of view. Rachel, so far, has shown very little insecurity or vulnerability. She just reads like someone who judges everyone just for not being exactly who she wants them to be.

Honestly, I am so disappointed. This book could have been amazing. It had so much potentially. But...unfortunately, I just couldn't stomach it anymore. The book has important rep...there are so few queer Muslim characters, but...anyway.

I hope that others will enjoy it more than I have!
Profile Image for Emma.
931 reviews887 followers
June 26, 2019
3.5 Stars

First, let me just say that I appreciate this cover so much it's unreal. It's not every day that you see two girls lovingly staring at each other on a YA cover and it was about time that someone did something about it!

Now let's talk about the actual book. In my opinion the pacing was a little bit off in the first half of the book, especially in Rachel's parts and when they talked about the movie.
Seeing Sana struggle was very hard but also extremely realistic and well portrayed. Sana's story takes clearly from Rory Gilmore's, their family dynamics are very similar, maybe a little too much for my liking.
This book has the enemies-to-lovers trope which is one of my favourites. I think that the groundwork for this one could have been done a bit better, there wasn't a lot to work on for this hate that the two girls were supposed to feel. But I liked how it was all resolved and how the two of them came to be together.
Profile Image for Lea (drumsofautumn).
622 reviews625 followers
February 16, 2020
Video Review

I fell in love with this book the minute I saw its cover and I'm happy to say that the content did not disappoint. TELL ME HOW YOU REALLY FEEL is a wonderful Contemporary with an incredibly well done enemies to friends to lovers romance and really strong, complex family dynamics!

Hate to love romances is one of my favourite tropes and whenever it is f/f, I am especially drawn to it. But for me these books often miss the mark on fully establishing the different levels of the relationships but this book succeeded at this and had some great development.
Rachel's reasons for disliking Sana make a lot of sense, while they might seem over the top and slightly tropey. But it's something that creates an easy conflict between the two but also is easy to overcome. It takes some time for them to develop into friends and then some more before we see any romantic attraction between the two and every level was so well established.
There is a really well done sex scene that is YA appropriate but doesn't fade to black. I always appreciate that, especially when it is a sapphic novel!

“A thought nestled deeply and immediately into Rachel's subconscious, taking root there: She likes this about me. It was strange, nearly foreign, to be wanted for what she felt so unloved for most of the time.”

Generally this book reads very much like your typical romcom, including some of the usual tropes and cliches but also all of the fun and wholesomeness. My heart is very happy every time we see a "typical romcom" with diverse characters, which then gives the genre a completely new flavour and lets marginalized readers see themselves in these "typical" stories.
In this book it is not only a romance between two girls but they're also both women of colour. Rachel is Mexican and Jewish, Sana is Muslim, and Persian and South Asian (definitely Bengali and Pakistani).

The novel had some feminist themes that I so very much appreciated. Not only does it deal with being a woman of colour in the film business, it is also about overcoming internalized misogyny. Sana seems like your stereotypical cheerleader and spending time with her makes Rachel really understand feminism in a way she hasn't looked at it before. That is reflected in Rachel's film project, that Sana heavily influences, but also in the way Rachel sees Sana. And in this vein this book also talked about being a femme girl that is attracted to other girls and how hard it can be to be recognized as queer. I appreciated this aspect so much.

“Because Sana Khan moved through this world trying to tell everyone in tiny, everyday ways that she was attracted to girls and nobody registered any of them. Flirt, touch, wink, bat her eyelashes. Be obvious in the way everyone could see but that nobody seemed to care about. Not if you looked like Sana. Sana wasn't trapped in a closet. Other people kept building one around her.”

Another very strong aspect of this book were the family dynamics. They were some of the most complex family dynamics I have ever seen in YA and definitely heavily influenced by the main character's cultures. It is about the high expectations that your family might place upon you, about your family wanting what's best for you and not understanding they're putting you under pressure. It shows that parents are only human and in no way perfect. It shows realistic fights, the ones that get so out of hand that you can hear hearts breaking but that strong families will always find their way back together.
I was truly so impressed with how these family relationships were written. These are really just a few of the aspects. This book focuses just as much on family as it does on the romance, if not even more, especially in Sana's case.

“Sometimes we get lucky. And other times we're face first in the mud trying to find a way to breathe while someone is trying to kick us in the ribs. Don't make me a heroine. Don't make me a villain. You'll be lucky enough to walk your own path.”

All in all, I highly recommend this book. It is so much fun, delivers on basically all fronts and leaves you with a really warm and fuzzy feeling. A perfect read for Summer and of course especially great for your Pride TBRs!

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I received an ARC through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for Nina.
792 reviews283 followers
July 18, 2020
I was so excited to finally read Tell Me How You Really Feel and thought I'd absolutely love this book. It sounds like such a cute, perfect and fun read and I expected to fly through this one in about a day. However, that wasn't the case. Instead it took me several days and a lot of perseverance to finish this book and not just put it down at some point. I just didn't care about either of the main characters and also had a super hard time distinguishing between the two because they sounded very similar and I often found myself thinking I read a chapter from Sana's POV when it was actually Rachel's or vice versa. The story itself unfortunately also was pretty boring and I hated the unnecessary conflict between the main characters towards the end of the novel. The final few chapters of Tell Me How You Really Feel were then extremely rushed and the book was wrapped up in only a handful of pages which was incredibly frustrating after having read a very slow 290 pages prior to that. Furthermore, I also wasn't a fan of the writing style which was unfortunately quite repetitive.

So all in all, this book wasn't awful because it had a few cute moments here and there but it unfortunately absolutely didn't live up to the expectations I had. I'm really sad about it because I wanted to love it so badly but now I'm just hoping my next read will be better than this one.

instagram || my blog || twitter
Profile Image for CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian.
1,156 reviews1,463 followers
May 26, 2019
Parts of this YA I loved, and others I feel iffy about. Two seniors at a fancy prep school, one a future doctor with rich grandparents and a "have-to-be-perfect-daughter" complex and the other a scholarship recepient and filmmaker with a huge chip on her shoulder.

Loved: enemies-to-lovers, sometimes unlikable girls, and ethnic/religious diversity (one is a Muslim girl with South Asian and Persian background, the other a Jewish Mexican American). I also thought the writing at times, where the author integrated movie making metaphors was fitting and cool.

Didn't love: the rushed ending and how the author seemed to be deliberately avoiding the words gay/lesbian/etc. I'm still feeling very puzzled about that last point. I just don't get it, and cannot think of any reason why! And the cover is so gay!! There were multiple instances related to both girls where they were described or described themselves as "not straight" and "liking girls" in a way and so many times that it felt weird and unnatural. If anyone can give insight on this I would love it! I am wondering if it's a cultural difference I'm not aware of.

I think this book is gonna be hit and miss with readers; the unlikeability of Rachel in particular for a large first part of the book is gonna put people off, as will the amount of time it takes to get from definite hate to maybe like to love. I was okay with both these things and could even appreciate them to some extent but I can definitely see them bugging other people, or even causing people to bail on the book.

Also there are apparently very obvious Gilmore Girls parallels in this book that went over my head because I've never seen that show.
Profile Image for Jacob Proffitt.
3,000 reviews1,643 followers
June 30, 2019
I'm dnfing this at about a third in. I just can't stand Rachel. She's mean and rude and assumes the worst in everybody. I can see why she has no friends. Frankly, I don't get what Sana sees in her or why she keeps giving Rachel breaks. It isn't like they've had any real interactions to overcome that really nasty personality problem.

Two other more minor irritants deserve mention. First, there's a pervasive misandry in the subtext of this story. Men have things easy and every woman succeeds in the teeth of all men can do to prevent it. Like there are secret men meetings where they get together to brag about how they keep those pesky females down and share secret opportunities with each other. It's almost what you might expect if the author was really a cishet guy trying to write to his imagination of what a feminist lesbian romance should be.

Second, the copy editing is truly atrocious. Lots of words in the wrong sentence position or even doubled in both a wrong and right placement. Which was really weird because those kinds of mistakes are easy to pick up even if you're normally a careless reader like myself.
Profile Image for Stephi.
581 reviews69 followers
September 1, 2020
Tell Me How You Really Feel is a sweet, sapphic hate-to-love romance with strong protagonists and believable conflicts. I appreciated how this book addressed that one can be feminist without hating traditional femininity and how others assume that stupidity and shallowness always accompanies beauty.

I connected much more with Sana than I did with Rachel. Her struggle between choosing what she wants to do (working abroad) and what her family expects of her (attending Princeton) was engaging and realistic. I wasn't a huge fan of Rachel and how often she jumped to conclusions.

One thing that was a bit confusing to me was why the book kept switching between 'mom' and 'Farrah' when referring to Sana's mother when in Sana's perspective. She thinks of her mother as 'mom', so the text should reflect that. I also found Sana's grandparents' personalities a bit inconsistent. Was she closer to her mamani or her dadu?

Overall, I enjoyed this book, but was a disappointed because I really wanted to love it.

3.5 stars
Profile Image for thi.
702 reviews86 followers
June 30, 2019

- Evidently, not even lesbians could make me like the hate to love trope
- sana: exists
- rachel: breathes fire
- Rachel is so mean .. like so mean and for no reason??? I just
- This is so strange, Sana is so well fleshed out, a girl faced with all these expectations to be met and standards she needs to uphold
- And Rachel is just????? Mean
- Their progression is ??? They instantly become “let’s hang out” without even liking each other that much (seemingly)
- The cursed high school set story, mcs are socially present but they don’t have any friends apparently — story
- Most of the story alternates between Rachel’s movie and sana’s cheerleading not so much sana BEING in Rachel’s movie ???
- Ending: rushed
Profile Image for Rida Imran .
217 reviews143 followers
Want to read
October 27, 2018
How did i just see this?

A beautiful f/f cover and of the girls is brown? Count me in!
Profile Image for Amanda Quain.
Author 3 books127 followers
January 19, 2019
Did you always wish that Gilmore Girls was more diverse, and also that Rory and Paris ended up together? Then WOWZER this is the book for you.
Profile Image for pipsqueakreviews.
585 reviews356 followers
February 2, 2022
Coming of age.

The audiobook is narrated by the author herself and I don't really like it. But I think it's more of a voice preference so my suggestion is to listen to the sample first to see if the audiobook suits you before purchasing it.

Storywise, this is not a coming out story. Instead, it's a coming of age, young adult novel where the main characters learn to figure themselves out. On the surface, Sana leads the "perfect" life as the pretty cheerleader who has a spot to study medicine at Princeton, but underneath it, there is a lot of self-contemplation. Rachel, on the other hand, has a chip on her shoulder and there's quite a lot of esteem issues for her to work on. The characters are interesting enough for me but I know that some readers have trouble liking Rachel because she's brash and rude. But I don't dislike her and I think Sana is a sweet girl. On top of that, there's a bit of cultural element to the story that I enjoyed as Sana's family is Indian.

I'm not sure if this can be considered an enemies to lovers story since Sana has been harbouring a crush on Rachel for the longest time, but they clash because of Rachel's self-defence mechanism and only got to know each other better working on Rachel's film project. I think the romance can be better developed and while I think a couple of their interactions is sweet, it feels much too premature to talk about love.

This audiobook was given to me for free at my request and I am voluntarily leaving a review.
Profile Image for kav (xreadingsolacex).
177 reviews344 followers
July 20, 2020
actual rating: 4.5 stars

“She isn’t just a face. Isn’t just the most beautiful woman in the world. She’s got thoughts and feelings and ambitions and drive. She’s got her own hopes, her own fears. The storytellers take away a lot of agency, saying she ran off because a goddess cursed her with love. But she could have stayed. You always have a choice, no matter what you feel. She made the choice to leave it all behind. To do what was unsafe and unexpected. She decided to be selfish.”

Tell Me How You Really Feel is Aminah Mae Safi’s sophomore novel, a sapphic enemies-to-lovers romance told in two different points of view: Sana, a Muslim Indian/Iranian cheerleader with goals of being a surgeon, and Rachel, a Jewish Mexican who is completed dedicated to her ambition as a filmmaker.

This novel has essentially been marketed as if Rory and Paris got together on Gilmore Girls, and it is exactly that, with women of color and executed in the best way possible.

“Sana cheered because she loved to. There were very few times in Sana’s life that she didn’t care what everyone else thought about her. But cheerleading was one of them. She didn’t care if anyone else liked her or they didn’t because of it.”

Sana Khan was born into a family that unintentionally expected her to be perfect. She has spent her entire life living up to this expectation of perfection, sacrificing her own personal desires for duty. And in her story, she and her family are forced to pay the price that this ideal of perfection has caused.

“For Rachel, there had always been something otherworldly about stepping onto a set, seeing all of the props and the set pieces and the camera equipment and thinking - I am the god of this world.”

Rachel Recht has dedicated her entire life to her passion - filmmaking. She will go to any length to further her path to being a director; she is filled with ambition no matter the cost. And in her story, her future as a filmmaker is put at risk unless she finishes her project on-time and perfectly.

Tell Me How You Really Feel is a tale of feminism and romance. It is a tale of feminism the way feminism is needed - in the eyes of women of color and gay women, of gay women of color. It is a tale of romance in a way that is beautiful and enjoyable and flat-out romantic.

Not to mention the brilliant parents in this novel. While Rachel’s mom is out of the picture and Sana’s dad is...not the greatest, Rachel’s dad and Sana’s mom are brilliant.

“You have no more control over the circumstances of your birth than who you love,”

Though Rachel’s dad is not in the majority of the novel, the impact he makes is lasting. His love for his daughter is obvious and it is beautiful.

“Sana knew her mother sympathized with female directors. As a woman who had clawed her way up from carpenter to art director to production designer, Sana’s mother couldn’t help but understand what it was to be in a woman in a largely male space. But Mom tended to say that the leeway was millimeters for women where the male directors got miles.”

Sana’s mom, Farrah Akhtar, is not perfect. But she is a brilliant example of feminism, of a hard-working woman, and a mother filled with love for her daughter.

“Option B involves my kissing you and taking it from there.”

“Option B. Please.”

And the chemistry between these two girls was palpable. I loved their romance. I loved their banter. I loved their journey. Two teen girls who are flawed but who have a connection and find each other against all odds is the romance I always knew I needed, and I finally got.

Also, I’ve seen a lot of criticism about Rachel’s character - that her hatred of Sana was uncalled for, but I disagree. 14-year-olds aren’t meant to be fully emotionally mature and intelligent, and Sana asked Rachel out when she was fourteen and insecure and dealing with a ton of family crap. Sometimes, teens make stupid decisions and hold stupid grudges and that’s not unrealistic. It is realistic for characters, teen characters especially, to be flawed and make mistakes and in my opinion, this book shows that in an absolutely brilliant manner.

My one issue with this novel was complete avoidance of the word “gay” or “lesbian” or “queer.” It is completely okay to choose not to use a label, but neither character makes a decision to not use a label. Rather, it feels like the author goes to any length to avoid any identifying term, and I really would have loved to read a story with two gay or two lesbian or two queer women of color. (This is the only reason I docked half a star.)

But otherwise, from way this novel screams women power, challenges microaggressions in reference to sexism and homophobia, and follows two ambitious teens - I loved it start-to-finish.

disclaimer: i received an ARC in exchange for an honest review, this in no way impacted my opinion.
Profile Image for Taylor.
486 reviews140 followers
February 9, 2023
“The nice thing about life, and not the movies, is that there's no curtains, no The End. You can always write your own story. You can always start over and begin again. It doesn't have to make sense or go in a straight line. It happens. You make it happen.”


This book was adorable. Honestly, Tell Me How You Really Feel would be a perfect Netflix romantic comedy, AND. IT'S SO GAY.

Sana Khan is a cheerleader and a straight A student. Rachel Recht is a scholarship student who dreams of becoming a successful film director. When Rachel is on a deadline, and has to make the perfect final project for her film class, Rachel is horrified to find the perfect lead for her film in Sana. And there's a problem: Rachel really hates her. When they were freshman, Sana asked Rachel out, but Rachel was convinced it was a cruel prank and rejected her. They've been enemies ever since.

Now, the two girls must work together in order to make Rachel's final project perfect, and it's pretty obvious that these two strong-willed women will fall for each other despite themselves.

I really liked this.

This is the sapphic rom-com we've all been waiting for. It's not tragic. It's not a coming out story. Rachel and Sana are very aware of their sexualities, and they're two kickass women-of-color in a pride-and-prejudice-like enemies to lovers romance. How could you not want to read this?

Aminah Mae Safi delivered on the deliciously slow-burn romance, but she also did a wonderful job endearing me to the characters. Sana is a beautifully complex character that I heavily related to, and I appreciated the relationships she had with her family. She and her single mom have a very Gilmore Girls inspired relationship, which was awesome, and the pressure she feels from her grandparents and other extended family was really relatable.

Rachel was tough to love at the beginning of this book, but I easily connected with her love of film. Also, I couldn't help but like her based on the fact that she thinks Quentin Tarantino is heavily overrated. In all seriousness, though, Rachel experiences a wonderful amount of growth in this book, and I loved seeing Sana crack open her prickly shell.

Great family dynamics, palpable romantic tension, and a moody Los Angeles setting culminated in an adorable queer rom-com that I loved dearly. This was adorable, and I highly recommend it!
Profile Image for charlotte,.
3,227 reviews873 followers
September 10, 2020

Rep: Jewish Mexican American lesbian mc, Persian-Bengali American Muslim lesbian mc

Some Thoughts (written down as i read it)

• firstly, rachel's reason for hating sana is so stupid! i get they're teens but at the same time, jfc!!

• and because that reason was stupid, combined with us getting sana's pov so we KNOW that's a wrong assumption, makes rachel seem like a bitch for absolutely no reason

• she has a chip on her shoulder, but no sympathetic reason for that

• can you use the word lesbian i'm begging, i mean, the way this book bends over backwards to avoid using it (or any label, really) is SOMETHING

• this is gonna be real picky but. i couldn't stand how they talked about the odyssey and other greek myth things? like. cassandra isn't "not believed because she's a woman". she's not believed because apollo literally curses her to be that way! and the fact that rachel can see cassandra as a victim but is so staunchly anti-helen doesn't really make sense. NOT TO MENTION "ATHENA PALLAS". if you know "pallas" then surely, SURELY, you know it's pallas athena.

• oh the plotline with sana and her dad...some good shit!! it reminds me so much of looking for alibrandi

• ..........have they really spent the whole book saying they're adapting the odyssey when they're actually doing the iliad

• very interested in the potential for sana's parents' second chance romance i'm actually a sucker for the whole "right people, wrong time" trope

• the ""break up"" was stupid like just sit down and talk will you

• stop i love diesel

• i think i would genuinely take this book as only from sana's pov, where the romance is secondary and it's about her family and that storyline

• not that rachel hasn't grown on me, but sana's part is the one i'm more interested in, like rachel seems a pretty two-dimensional character next to sana

• oh a love confession in front of literally EVERYONE i hate it
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