Marisa Kanter’s contemporary YA What I Like About You is super cute and also hard-hitting, like that one pocket-sized woman on Friends who Joey dates and who fiercely punches him when she laughs.
On her mega popular bookstagram and Twitter accounts she’s Kels, an amazingly inventive YA reader who pairs books with cupcakes and whose best friend is Nash, whom she’s never met in person. IRL she’s Halle, who’s very uncomfortable in some social settings, doesn’t have many (any?) friends except her brother, and stumbles across Nash at a library in a town she’s just moved to. She should just tell him who she really is—his online BFF Kels. But feelings.
As they start spending more time together, things predictably get confusing. Her own budding feelings for Nash are complicated by the fact that Nash actually has a crush on Kels, which he’s never revealed to her, and she actually is Halle & Kels, even if the guy she really likes doesn’t know that.
Yikes. Though the beginning of this conflict feels kinda thin to me—Halle doesn’t really seem to consider the long-term effects of her deception—by the middle and end I was agog, waiting to see how she and Nash would get over the hurdle. I had hope, but Halle really does some questionable things throughout the book that merit quite a bit of forgiveness. And I actually loved that.
But while Kanter really brings our sweet & snarky Halle to a moment of reckoning, she also shows how it’s possible for someone to take solace in social media anonymity, to hide their true opinions behind it, and to step away from their phone when things start feeling too hard. That’s the temptation of online life.
Kanter also gets major points for featuring a diverse cast of characters, engaging with mental and emotional health from panic attacks to grieving, and tackling general conversations surrounding YA books, like matters of audience.
This is a romance but even more than that, it’s a self-mance (this is me running with that word) and I was there for it.
4.25⭐️. What I Like About You is out on April 7, 2020. I received a complimentary ARC of this book from Netgalley but all opinions provided are my own.
About the Author
When my toddler and infant sleep--or are otherwise engaged--I write, read, and eat lots of chocolate.