Empowering Girls

Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee

Publication Date: October 1, 2019

Summary from NetGalley:

Barbara Dee explores the subject of #MeToo for the middle grade audience in this heart-wrenching—and ultimately uplifting—novel about experiencing harassment and unwanted attention from classmates.

For seventh-grader Mila, it starts with some boys giving her an unwanted hug on the school blacktop. A few days later, at recess, one of the boys (and fellow trumpet player) Callum tells Mila it’s his birthday, and asks her for a “birthday hug.” He’s just being friendly, isn’t he? And how can she say no? But Callum’s hug lasts a few seconds too long, and feels…weird. According to her friend, Zara, Mila is being immature and overreacting. Doesn’t she know what flirting looks like?

But the boys don’t leave Mila alone. On the bus. In the halls. During band practice—the one place Mila could always escape.

It doesn’t feel like flirting—so what is it? Thanks to a chance meeting, Mila begins to find solace in a new place: karate class. Slowly, with the help of a fellow classmate, Mila learns how to stand her ground and how to respect others—and herself.

ARC provided by Simon and Schuster via NetGalley for an honest review.

Confession:

This is an amazingly well done book on a very difficult topic. The author handles it beautifully and honestly. Every middle schooler, both boys and girls should read this book and discuss it.

Mila sounds so much like a typical teen. Her emotions and confusion about what was going on was spot on. As were the many varied reactions of her friends. I also felt her frustration in finding it so difficult to talk about it with the adults around her, even though she has a great relationship with her mom. The need to not burden her mom when she was having difficulties of her own, is felt by many a teen. I really enjoyed watching her grow and find the inner strength to finally do something and to tell someone.

The pacing of the book was also solid and it was very difficult to put down once I had picked it up. I meant to just start it one morning, but discovered myself finishing it in one sitting. I don’t think the words sexual harassment is ever really used, although questions of bullying are brought up. But the reader can tell that what Mila experiences is different than bullying. Also, one of her friends tries to convince her that the boys are just flirting with her, but Mila knows that she is wrong and does call her on it. The final resolution with the boys was done in a way that that I think kids will be able to relate to, although maybe a bit more could have been done.

My one small issue with the story is the ending and the resolution of Mila’s difficulties felt a bit rushed, and maybe not quite resolved the way it should have been. Also it is hinted that something similar was going on with her mom at work, but I’m not sure kids will pick up on that. It would have been nice to see her mom talk more directly to Mila about her issues and what was happening to Mila.

This is a book that I highly recommend you get for any middle schooler you know. It should also be on all library shelves. It is a well done book, that felt authentic and realistic on a very tough topic.

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