Maybe He Just Likes You – Book Review

Book Review
Maybe He Just Likes You
By Barbara Dee
Expected Publication: October 1, 2019

Why I chose this book:
I would like to expand my coverage of chapter books, so when the opportunity arose to review such a timely book, I was delighted. A review copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.

Discomfiting. Empowering. Frustrating. Infuriating. Inspiring. Timely.

Seventh grade Mila is being sexually harassed by a group of boys at school. They have a "game" in which they score points for touching her, making obscene comments to her, and the like.
Mila's uncertainty is what rings so true. How do you know when someone crosses the line? Are you being overly sensitive to something that's just a joke? While Dee's novel does not offer concrete answers, it does follow Mila's experience, her friends' reactions, and the boys' escalating harassment with an authenticity that ever-critical middle-schoolers will likely appreciate. Discomfiting and frustrating as Mila flounders in her indecision, Maybe He Just Likes You forces readers to confront a victim's experience of sexual harassment. At first, Mila is uncomfortable and confused by her harassers'  treatment. As it escalates, however, she knows that they have crossed the line, but she is too uncomfortable with the situation to do much about it. Her mother knows nothing, the teachers do not see it happen, and her friends' reactions run the gamut. On the one end, Zara wants to know what Mila is doing to invite these flirtations; Zara seems almost jealous of the attention. On the other end, Max urges Mila to instantly report the bullying to the vice principal; he urges her again and again throughout the book, offering to go with her.

Eventually, and unrelated to the harassment, Mila joins a trial karate class. A fellow bandmember who has been in the karate class encourages her, and Mila enjoys the experience, so she continues to attend the class. Over the course of the novel, Mila gains some confidence, but she is still fearful of the boys. Ultimately, she brings a tormentor's wrongs to center-stage, quite literally, when she sabotages his solo at a band concert, leading her teacher to investigate the impetus for Mila's outburst. Mila then finds two unexpected allies; that band teacher who had been harassed herself, and another band member who had been the boys' previous target. A community meeting finally brings an end to the behavior. One boy is truly remorseful; he knew he was wrong the whole time. One boy's eyes are opened; he regrets the personal hurt he caused and is respectful from then on. Two boys simply stop; they do not seem remorseful, but they seem to know that further "games" aren't worth the consequences.

After reading Maybe He Just Likes You all in one day, I feel a bit in a muddle . This is timely, certainly. It's a page turner, but it also made my stomach turn. Overall, I must say that it is well worth reading. Victims and bystanders can identify with Mila and her friends, though Mila is more than just a victim in this book. She is a complex character with whom this reader alternately identified (ah, the joys of band), wanted to befriend (as my middle-school self), and found humorous to read about (did she turn into a "plaid-wearing person"?).

Everything about Maybe He Just Likes You feels authentic. I would suggest it for middle-schoolers. Girls or boys who are witnessing or experiencing sexual harassment may feel more empowered to act or speak out, having seen a similar situation play out in a well-written and compelling novel that is filled with characters that will resonate with readers.