Skip to main content

What I Like About You Review


What I Like About You by Marisa Kanter
Overview: Kels is a popular teen blogger. On One True Pastry (OTP) she pairs cute cupcakes with her YA reviews. Over the years, she's gained the attention of the book world being featured in media articles and hosting major cover reveals. She's also found a community with her fellow teen book lovers and met her best friend, Nash. Sure, her IRL social life is close to nonexistent because she moves so often, but that doesn't matter as much. The only problem? Her latest move to Middleton, Connecticut puts her face to face with Nash. Her Nash- who doesn't know that he's staring at his best friend and crush because Kels is a pseudonym. Nash is meeting Halle for the first time. Will Halle be able to connect her two worlds before they destroy each other, or will she be too scared of being left to tell the truth? Overall: 5
(Get ready for this review cause it's going to be loooong. I have way too many thoughts on this book)

Characters: 5 From page one, this book scared me a little. I related to Halle in far too many ways. I don't think I've ever shared so much with a book character. First off, we're both YA book bloggers, and Halle voices her love, frustration, and conflicted feelings about the book community that spoke directly to my feelings in a way I've never experienced. She also wants to go to NYU more than anything. I had that dream for a long time. She struggles with her SAT score and the stupid math section. I did too.
I also connected with her on a deeper level. She's moved a ton because her parents are famous documentary film makers. We don't share that, but I did change schools a ton, so we both never ended up with a core group of IRL friends it seems like every YA character has. And Halle has an anxiety or insecurity throughout the book that made me realize I do the same thing. Every time Nash's friend group or Nash himself tries to get close to her, she thinks of a million stupid reasons they probably hate her or that she's not good enough. She has a hard time accepting that people could like the regular old Halle outside of the internet. I think it comes from not growing up with that core group of friends that are always there to remind you that you're likable and loved. At a certain point, it starts to feel impossible.
And then there's the added pressure that Kels does have friends and a community and people who value what she has to say. Kels also exists without the anxiety that Halle has in her daily life. There's a security in getting to be Kels. It's all the bold, self-assured, confident parts of herself manifested without the downsides. How can a real person live up to that?
I completely get where she was coming from. I use my real name on all my profiles, and I don't hide it here, but I do also get to be the person I want to be on here. Very few of the people who know me in real life know about my blog or even my personal Twitter. There's a freedom in that to be the person you want to be. Even if we're not beauty or travel influencers that flaunt a perfect life, we do all still craft our personas to be the people we want to be. We can be more passionate, bold, and exact with our words. I honestly couldn't blame Halle for feeling intimidated about living up to the person that she created. But, at the end of the day, Kels came from Halle and is a part of Halle. They could never exit separately.
What I don't have that Halle does is an IRL Nash, and I'm honestly more than a little upset about that. Nash is a graphic novel reviewer and creator of web-comic, REX. He's smart and funny and caring. He alway knows what to tell Kels as they stress about making the Book Con blogger panel and NYU acceptances. They talk about book world drama and vague happenings in their off screen lives. They've been friends for years. When Nash meets Halle, he does his best to include her in his friend group and make her feel comfortable in her new town, even as she gives him the cold shoulder. Nash is a great character, the perfect mix of a good soul with a fair share of flaws.
What I loved most about Halle and Nash's relationship was that it proved how real and powerful the friends and connections we make online are. He never drops Kels for Halle. He never thinks of his real life friends as more of his friend than Kels. For a lot of the book, Kels is the most important person in his life, and he doesn't let other people's opinions get in the way of that.
Then there's her friends, both online and off, who make the world that Halle lives in so much richer. We start by getting to know her online friends who keep an active group chat and support each other as they work through high school and college and on their own dreams to become published authors, win photo contests, or make the Book Con panel. I loved reading the scenes with their messages. As Halle gets more sucked into real life Nash's world, she also becomes part of Le Crew which she's not totally comfortable with. It seems like she's alway waiting for the moment they abandon her. But they love Halle too much to do that. I really loved Molly in particular. She's competitive and bold and focused. She doesn't let Halle get too far in her head, but she also keeps it real.
Molly also represents a really good other look the teen experience to Nash and Halle. While they're focused on their art and brand, Molly has taken an absurd number of APs and is valedictorian. But she still struggles with reaching the impossibly perfect SAT score that Ivy's demand. And when they all get their results, (possible spoiler) Molly represents a lot of teens. The ones who worked incredibly hard for their dreams only to not have it delivered. It feels like if you work hard enough, destiny has to deliver on your deepest hope. And then it doesn't. I liked that this moment was included because it was one of the tiny details that made the book feel real. And everything in the book felt so real.
I also liked that the book broke the trope of taking sides between friends. They want to hear Halle out when the Halle/Kels drama inevitably comes to a head. They are the proof she needs that not everyone is going to leave when she messes up.
Finally, there's Ollie and Gramps. Ollie is her fifteen year old brother, and they're super close from having moved around a ton. I really enjoyed their relationship. I feel like there aren't enough older sister-younger brother relationships in YA. I also liked the arch with her grandfather who is still grieving the loss of her grandmother. They start out as sorta awkward strangers, but over the course of the book, the little gestures build until they've reconnected and found a really beautiful place of understanding and healing together.
It still amazes me how this book managed to develop all the characters so fully and deliver satisfying outcomes on three complete stories of romance, friendship, and family. There's also a small thread about Halle learning more about Judaism and connecting more with her faith from a community aspect that is done super well. She doesn't have a spiritual awakening so much as an understanding of a new place willing to accept her into their fabric. I'd say more about it, but this is super long as is.

Plot: 5 There's a lot of plot threads here to go with the character archs, but I'll try to keep this briefer. The main one is this whole Halle-Nash-Kels strangest love triangle of all time. As Halle points out once, it's a love triangle where she's on both sides. I thought that this aspect was going to frustrate me to no end. Usually, these kinds of things do. It could be solved so simply if you just opened your mouth the first time, but here, I didn't have those thoughts. The approach to it was so nuanced and developed, I fully understood why Halle fought so hard to keep her Halle and Kels life separate. As it got increasingly messy, I couldn't be mad or frustrated. I just felt sad for her and where it was probably going. It all was justified, and that really impressed me. The confusion and the intense identity questions that were intrinsically tied into it were some of the best parts of the book.
There's also a thread about what it means to be a teen blogger and what that entails. Though Kels is far more popular than I'll ever be, I recognized a lot of her struggles to be taken seriously in the wider publishing world and how validating her little successes were on the way to bigger goals. I understand her fears and thrills and the ups and downs of it all. I loved watching her journey, and it was an incredibly realistic portrayal, probably due to the author's past.

Writing: 5 The thing about What I Like About You is that I didn't think about the writing at all as I read it. I was so firmly situated in Halle's head that it just felt like I was living her life. Nothing about the way that translated to the page took me out of the story or made me feel like these were approximations of teens. It hit all the right notes, including the remarkably real DM conversations that are peppered throughout the book. I just felt seen and understood and incredibly invested the entire time. It's a book that's clearly for teens very intentionally.

Some Notes: 
Most of the negative reviews I saw on GoodReads for this book are angry that the characters talk about how YA isn't for adults. This made me really hesitant going into it because I'm not generally a fan of people policing what others can and can't read. Here's the thing, though. There's one off handed comment that one teen makes that YA isn't for adults that's a little sharp, but it's also part of a major conversation about teen's place in their own community. She's rightfully upset because adults are dictating the market and placing their voices above the teens in the community. And, what she said isn't wrong. YA should be for teens before it's for anyone else. I love it when adults read YA, but it's not for them. They should interact as observers looking into a world instead of experts or people that stories about teens should be created for.
This is especially important to emphasize in light of a major dilemma in the book. Halle's favorite author makes a ton of insensitive statements about how she writes about teens instead of for teens and that she deserves to be taken seriously because of it. YA should be taken seriously as important work because it already is. Teens liking something shouldn't make it inherently bad or less than something for adults, and you shouldn't have to devalue your readership in the hopes of wider recognition. It's very nuanced how Halle deals with basically being rejected by the creator of the book that made her blog what it is today, that she's put so much time and energy into promoting.
Teens have less of a voice in the space as it is, and it's particularly painful when we're ignored in one of the few places that should be for us. It happens far too often. Like I said, adult readers are a great part of YA and contribute to the genre, but teen voices, teen opinions, and teen reviewers should be centered in discussions about YA and the books made for the category. I don't think it's a bad thing that these teens felt a bit resentful about being erased or that Kanter gave a voice to that on a major platform. There's a lot of awareness in the way that Kanter addresses the issue of teens place in YA, and I don't think that should be ignored.
I particularly like what Halle has to say at the end when she has to answer a question about what her place in YA will be when she's no longer a teen. It's exactly how I feel, and I think makes it pretty clear that the author isn't against adult readers.
"I'll always read and love YA. But it won't always be for me, you know? So then I have to make sure to advocate for the teens it is for."

This book meant a lot to me. It's definitely earned its place in my permanent collection and is definitely worth a read.

More Like This...

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Halsey's I Would Leave Me If I Could Poetry Review

  I Would Leave Me If I Could  by Halsey  I've started this review a couple times and scrapped all of them. I've written hundreds of reviews before, and this is the first time I have absolutely no clue how to review a book. It's not just because it's poetry. And it's not because I don't have thoughts on every single poem. I've read the book twice and scrubbed a million notes around her words and highlighted every poem on my second read through. I have so many favorites, and my heart feels like it's going to burst after finishing each poem. Halsey exceeded every expectation I had set to the high bar of her music. I almost feel like this book is too good for my review to remotely do it justice, so I don't even know where to begin.  This book is extremely vulnerable. Halsey has never held back on telling the ugly truth in her lyrics, but the poetry takes it so much farther. She has space to tell the entire story, fewer constraints than what will fit in

Blog Tour Stop: Like Home by Louisa Onomé

  Today, I want to shine the spotlight on Like Home by Louisa Onomé, which came out this week. That means you don't even have to wait to pick up a copy of your very own. Thank you to Turn the Pages Tours and Penguin/Delacorte Press for arranging this. So let's get into what this latest YA is all about! Synopsis: Fans of Netflix’s On My Block, In the Heights, and readers of Elizabeth Acevedo and Ibi Zoboi will love this debut novel about a girl whose life is turned upside down after one local act of vandalism throws her relationships and even her neighborhood into turmoil. Chinelo, or Nelo as her best friend Kate calls her, is all about her neighborhood Ginger East. She loves its chill vibe, ride-or-die sense of community, and her memories of growing up there. Ginger East isn’t what it used to be, though. After a deadly incident at the local arcade, all her closest friends moved away, except for Kate. But as long as they have each other, Nelo’s good. Only, Kate’s parents’ corne

YA You Need To Read: April 2021

It's already April! School has been super super hectic, and I'm starting my old job as a bookseller again, so I haven't had much time for reading lately (ironic, I know), but I did want to talk about some books coming out in April that I can't wait to read (one day) that might inspire you to pick them up. I particularly can't wait for My Epic Spring Break Up! It's been on my list for a while now (I mean, look at that cover), but I also found some new books that hadn't been on my radar while browsing around the internet that I wanted to bring to your attention.  Let me know in the comments what April books you can't wait for!  Zara Hossain Is Here by Sabina Kahn  April 6th Zara has lived in Corpus Christi, Texas for a while. She's always dealt with the Islamophobia that's rampant in her high school, but when the star football player gets suspended, Zara becomes the target of a racist attack by the rest of the team that puts her and her family'

Swimming Lessons By Lili Reinhart Poetry Review

  Swimming Lessons  by Lili Reinhart  Overall: 5 This is the first poetry book I've ever read in its entirety outside of Shel Silverstein, so I've checked off one of my reading goals for the year with this one. I've now read a graphic novel and a book of poetry. I've been anticipating Swimming Lessons  so long that I can't believe it's actually in my hands. I've been a fan of Lili since Riverdale, and I've continued to be a fan of hers even when the show got a bit too ridiculous for me to keep watching every week. I've been excited for the chance to get to see something completely created a controlled by Lili.  I'm not sure what I expected from Swimming Lessons . I think I had almost no idea what it would be like or the topics it would cover. After the first couple poems, I was completely hooked. In the intro, Lili prefaces the collection by noting that poetry has always given her solace in knowing other people felt the same specific emotions tha

Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi: YA Book Review

  Yolk  by Mary H.K. Choi Overview: Jayne is in fashion school in NYC. Well, she's enrolled. It's debatable how often she actually attends. June has a fancy job in finance, or that's what everyone thinks. But when June gets cancer, the estranged sisters are pulled together because June needs Jayne's identity to get treatment. By pretending to be her sister to get the life-saving procedure, June is forced to come clean and pull Jayne back into her orbit. Though their relationship stays rocky, they're suddenly glued together, forced to admit that their respective glamorous lives are actually filled with roaches and trauma and missteps. Overall: 5+++ This book made me happy cry (that's never happened while reading) and sad cry. Characters: 5 The book is told from Jayne's perspective in an extremely close first person. This book has plot. Things happen in the way that life happens, but it's mostly just characters getting split open and probed for all their w

Writing Morally Gray Characters: A Guest Post by Laurie Devore, Author of A Better Bad Idea

Laurie Devore is stopping by the blog today to talk about her new book from Imprint, A Better Bad Idea , which is out now! This mystery/thriller/romance fusion is Laurie's third book, and it's a new twist on her usual contemporary YA stories. For this guest post, Laurie talks about crafting morally gray characters that your readers will still feel attached to and cheer on. Here's her best writing tips:  I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of what people will do when they’re pushed to their brink. While my new novel, A BETTER BAD IDEA, may seem like a departure in some ways from my previous novels, I actually think their DNA is quite similar. The stakes are higher, but as ever, this book is about girls making unimaginable choices because of their circumstances, whether self-inflicted or not.   I’m constantly thinking about what it means to write morally gray characters, and I think the main takeaway from me is that I’m just much more interested in what people do and w

Fear of Missing Out

Fear of Missing Out  by Kate McGovern  Overview: Astrid has a form of brain cancer called astrocytoma that causes a star shaped tumor to form near her brainstem. Though she was in remission, two years later, the cancer comes back, and Astrid becomes convinced that she won't beat the disease. She starts to pursue options that will allow her to have a life in the future, namely, cryopreservation. After essentially freezing her body, she hopes to wake up when there's a cure for her cancer so she can rejoin the world and see some of the milestones she fears missing. On the road trip to tour the Arizona facility, though, Astrid makes other realizations about her life and eventual death that alters how she sees her original plan. Overall: 4  Characters: 4 Astrid is relatable. She has a touch of dry, witty humor that makes her relatable. She loves her friends and family deeply, but she also has a conviction to follow what feels best for her. I appreciated how she always tried t

They Both Die At The End

They Both Die At The End  by Adam Silvera (368 pages) Overview: Mateo and Rufus are both going to die at the end, but I'm guessing you got that from the title. The thing is, Mateo and Rufus don't know each other till the day they are going to die. After getting their calls from Death Cast, the new organization that lets everyone know that they are going to die with a call sometime after midnight. While trying to digest the news, they both turn their attention to the Last Friend app in search of finding another "decker" to spend their final day with. As the boys try to think of ways not to waste their final moments, they start to form a bond they never anticipated. Overall: 4 Characters: 4 I have to applaud Silvera for keeping his (mostly) duel prospective narrative voices so separate. Mateo and Rufus not only have different traits but totally different dialects. Mateo is Puerto Rican, quiet, and totally paranoid with a hyperawareness about safe. Both careful an

The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon: Romance Review

  The Ex Talk  by Rachel Lynn Solomon Overview: Shay Goldstein was born to be on public radio. She used to pretend to host a radio show with her dad when she was a little kid, and she was crushed when he passed away. Now that she's getting ready for her first hosting gig, Shay feels like she's making him proud. Well... mostly proud. He always loved the truth that radio brought out and her new show is built on a little white lie- the idea that she used to date her co-host Dominic Yun. Though they bicker like exes, they never actually dated (though they might be currently?). As the popularity of the show takes off, all of Shay's dreams are coming true, and she might actually have found her dream guy too. And then everything falls apart. But it's a romance, so I think we all know how this ends. Overall: 5 Perfect for: enemies to lovers fans  Characters: 5 I love Shay and Dominic and their show producer, Ruthie. They're all just great. Shay is super relatable. She's

As Far As You'll Take Me by Phil Stamper: YA Book Review

  As Far As You'll Take Me  by Phil Stamper TWs: disordered eating Overview: Marty is escaping Kentucky on a lie. Thanks to his dual citizenship, he's off to London to try to get a gig playing oboe in an orchestra an ocean away from his homophobic, mega church going parents. They think he's at a prestigious music school when in reality, he's just running around the city with his cousin Shane. He does make tons of friends and even has his first romantic relationship. In London, Marty gets to remake himself, even if his first attempts take him farther from the person he wants to be. Overall: 5 Characters: 5  These character dynamics are some of the most realistic I've ever seen in YA book. And I've read a lot of YA books. Marty can't wait to get away from his parents, but he also misses them when he's away. He feels guilty even though he wasn't in a healthy environment. He misses his best friend even though he's starting to see her constant put-dow