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

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

My Most Anticipated of 2021/2021 ARC TBR

  A few days ago, I put out a list of my favorite books of the year that I couldn't stop talking about all year long. Now I'm here to introduce you to a brand new slate of books that I'm predicting will make my favorites list next year. These are the books I can't wait to get my hands on because they sound absolutely amazing! I've decided to separate the list into an ARC TBR so far for 2021 of ARCs I have and then to make a wishlist section below that with ARCs I hope to get or books that I'll splurge to buy. I'll include preorder links to the books that are already up for preorder so that you can easily grab a couple surprise gifts to show up throughout the year if any of these books look exciting! These will be affiliate bookshop links which means shopping the links support the blog at no cost to you. Also, if you're looking for even more 2021 books, Rachel and Vicky made the most amazing database/spreadsheet/blog to collect all the 2021 debuts togethe

evermore book tag!

As you probably know, I absolutely adore Taylor Swift, and I recently did a folklore book tag, so I figured I should make a version of evermore as well! If you want to read that post, you can find it here . And if you want all my thoughts on folklore, you can watch my original folklore reaction on my YouTube channel here.   I'm so happy to have found an evermore book tag I loved created by  Star Is All Booked Up ! That post is linked (I really enjoyed it!), and those are the prompts I'm using here.  In this tag, I just talked about books for the prompts and didn't get into the songs. If you want more of my evermore thoughts specifically, check out my blog post of favorite lyrics here and my new reaction to evermore here . You can also scroll to the bottom of the post to watch the video as well. If you want to know more about any of the books I mention, all of their titles are linked to my review.  I hope you love the post, and let me know your favorite evermore songs in the

Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala: YA Book Review

  Be Dazzled  by Ryan La Sala  Overview: Raffy is one of the most talented cosplayers in Boston. He knows how to sew, bedazzle, conceptualize, and execute intricate costumes that allow him to embody his favorite characters at conventions. Despite having an artistic mother, she looks down on his pursuits as childish and a waste of time. Raffy is driven and determined despite the lack of support, and his focus doesn't wane until Luca stumbles into his life. Buff and a soccer player, Luca looks like the last person Raffy wants to befriend, but Luca is drawn into Raffy's cosplaying world despite having to hide the hobby (and Raffy himself) from his parents. Unfolding on duel timelines, we follow Raffy and Luca's journey falling in and out of love and maybe back in over the course of one of Boston's biggest comic cons. Overall: 4  Characters: 5 I identified with Raffy deeply. He's anxious and determined and lonely but also scared of letting others in. Raffy is secure in

The Best, The Brightest, The Totally Biased List of my Favorite Books of 2020

 Welcome to my big list of 2020 favorites! Usually, I do this award show style and give out different awards in a variety of categories I made up. This year is a little different because it's 2020, and I'm out of brain power to think of categories. These books appear in no particular order, and I selected them purely based on which books are still in my head months after I read them. I didn't read nearly as many books this year as usual, but I think I managed to read more books that I fell head over heels for than ever. Publishing a book this year is a major accomplishment in itself, so these authors all deserve extra rounds of applause for launching their books into an uncertain world, and even if a book from this year doesn't make a list, it's still incredible for existing. Even though I've already talked everyone's ears off about these books all year long, I'm going to do it one more time because they got me through both a hard and hectic year and pro

About My Blog

Hello everyone! I thought for my first post, I would share a bit about me, why I started the blog, and what the main focus will be. Reading and writing are my two greatest passions, and, besides school, what I spend most of my time doing. I've been devouring books since the third grade at an insatiable pace, so clearly, I've read a lot of books. After conquering, it seems, nearly every Middle Grade novel, I became a teenager and found the whole new world of YA. Finding books has always been the tricky part for me. I always had trouble finding interesting books that met my reading need at a content level that was appropriate. The older I get, the easier it is, but I always wished that I could find a place with honest reviews and recommendations from kids my age. That's what inspired the Reading portion of my blog. The writing came from my passion for the craft. I aspire to be a published novelist one day, but right now, I write plenty of short stories to submit to contests a

Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant: YA Book Review

  Happily Ever Afters  by Elise Bryant  Overview: Tessa gets the writing opportunity of her dreams, but her words run out at the same time. While she can't wait to take a novel writing class at her new school, the idea of sharing her work with anyone but her best friend, Caroline, makes her unable to keep writing, even for herself. Caroline devises a plan to get her to fall in love so that she can jumpstart her creative juices for the romances Tessa writes herself into. Real life inspiration is clearly not the answer, and Tessa is left even further from the answer to all of her problems. Overall: 4 Characters: 4 While I knew this book was going to have a kind of forced dating situation as Tessa tried to get this boy to fall for her, I didn't predict the love triangle till I started reading. I'm not going to fault Bryant for using a love triangle because everyone does it, but I do have to note that these characters fall into the unfortunate side effect of most love triangles

Positions Book Tag

Today, I'm sharing a new book tag created by Cielo over at Bellerose Reads who tagged me in her new Positions book tag. I love working on book tags inspired by pop music, so I was thrilled to get the tag. If I'm being totally honest, I wasn't super into Positions, Ariana Grande's latest album. I'm much more of a Thank U Next fan because that album was far more lyrically focused. Positions reminds me a lot of Sweetener. I do like "POV", the closing track of the album. Still, I'm super excited to share the tag because these are some of the best tag questions I've ever seen. Cielo did a wonderful job coming up with really cool prompts. I had a blast thinking of books that fit them. As always, just click the book title to read my review of any of the books I mentioned. And don't forget to read the original tag here .    shut up – a book you couldn’t shut up about  There are way too many. Honestly, a ton of them are already sprinkled through this po

Wrapping Up 2020: How'd My Reading/Blogging Go This Year

 It feels weird writing a year end post, which is probably why we're almost a week into the new year and I still haven't posted one yet. 2020 was such a hard year for the world and a weird one for me personally, and it still feels far from over. From a reading perspective, there were parts of the year that were super strong and others where I hardly picked up a book. I started the year working at a bookstore which, contrary to popular belief, made me read less than usual. I had a good run during lockdown and through the summer (though that certainly had ups and downs too), and then I started my first semester of college. That created a serious reading slump, though it wasn't like I stopped reading! In one class alone, I had 1,000 pages of reading saved in my class notebook. All the academic reading replaced my fun books, and there were moments where I honestly thought I hated reading. I wondered what was wrong with me and if I was just done with that part of my life. Over b