Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee
Release Date: October 1st 2019
Whew, this book, y’all. It’s not necessarily the most fun book to read, but it is super important. It really tackles all those instances I’m sure we’ve all been through. Where a guy (or girl! Or whoever!) makes a joke or a pass; one that makes us uncomfortable and we wonder if we’re just being silly. We tell ourselves it was just a hug or an arm touch or whatever. And in middle school, well, man, they just like you! You should be pleased that they’re giving you attention!
Dee handles this subject with grace. Is Mila raped? No. Is most of it severe? Nope. Those things are easier to point at and yell THEY DID SOMETHING WRONG. This book covers those smaller, but just as damaging, moments; a touch of a sweater, asking for a “birthday” hug, knowing that for whatever reason a group of boys has turned their focus on you. The way that Mila tries to hide her body and is so afraid to tell anyone is so realistic. How she internalizes if it was something she was doing … maybe she was causing that. I was a bit sad that Mila didn’t have a trusted adult she felt like she could go to; someone who could confirm that YES this is not okay in the least. But, sadly, that is also too realistic.
Of course, some of the things the boys do aren’t really that small. Making it a game with point systems? Yeah, not okay. And the things that come out that some of the things the boys did to another girl are super not okay. I wish at that point that would have been the trigger to say “time to tell an adult!” I know this is still realistic, but still a little sigh-y.
I will say, the only thing I’m not totally over the moon about was that they did a group meeting to address the issue. I kind of cringed at it being up to Mila to express her feelings about what they did/why it bothered her. It was up to Mila if she wanted to do it and there were teachers/counselors, but I’m not sure I would have agreed with Mila being put in that situation to decide. No matter how small or big, facing your sexual assaulters and bullies is hard. I get that it was a teachable moment, but it did feel like it put her in a potentially unsafe situation. Now, I’m not in schools, so maybe this is how this stuff is handled. I, personally, would not have felt comfortable confronting them at that age (maybe not even at my age now!)
Beyond that scene, and maybe the ending feeling rushed/being wrapped up so nicely, I did enjoy the book. (That feels really weird saying that considering the topic, but you get what I’m saying) Considering this isn’t a topic that covered much in MG, I would totally recommend ordering this book for your library.