Thursday, September 19, 2019

Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee

In the age of #MeToo, as more and more girls and women are speaking out about their personal sexual harassment experiences, author Barbara Dee takes on this issue and shows how easily it can happen and how girls and women are pushed into keeping silent.

For seventh-grader Mila Brennan, all starts with a green fuzzy sweater and the lingering hand of Callum Burley during a birthday hug for her friend Omi, much to the delight of his friends Dante, Tobias, and Leo, a/k/a the basketball boys, and much to Mila's discomfort. When it happens again later that day in band practice where Mila and Callum, both trumpeters, sit next to each other, her discomfort increases and begins to become suspicion.       
The next day, there are smirks from the basketball boys as Leo convinces Mila, who is wearing her fuzzy green sweater again, that it's his birthday and harasses her into giving him a hug. Soon, it's comments, smirks, and more unwanted touching, even when Mila switches to wearing a painted spattered plaid flannel shirt of her mother's instead of the green sweater. But when she tries to tell her friend what's happening, outgoing, flirty Zara, who has a crush on Leo, tells her she's overreacting, so Mila decides to keep things to herself. She doesn't want to bother her mom, either, Mrs. Brennan is divorced, and struggling to make ends meet, plus she works for a boss who keeps her in a constant stressful state, despite working long hours. Then, stress in the house increases when her mother finally quits her job, so Mila really doesn't want to add to that by telling her mother about the harassment at school.

And as luck would have it, Mila's guidance counselor is out on maternity leave. Her friend Max thinks Milas is being bullied by the basketball boys and that she should speak to Mr. McCabe, the vice-principal. He reminds her that when he was bullied the year before, Mila had encouraged him to speak with Mr. McCabe and the bullying stopped.

As Mila's anxiety, discomfort, and isolation grows, she begins to act out, but her actions only get her in trouble and the real problem continues to go noticed by any of the adults at school. But when her mother says that they have two weeks of free classes at the newly opens E Motions, a local gym, Mila determines that if friends don't understand what happening to her, she will "need to take care of myself. By myself." (pg 139) and signs on for karate classes. There, she begins to feel confident and empowered in the karate class, even making a new friend from band who understands what's happening at school. But it all comes tumbling down when Callum makes a cruel comment just before they go on stage for the school's Fall Concert. Desperate, Mila makes one last cry for help - on stage with her trumpet.

Maybe He Just Likes You is a well-written but difficult book to read, filled with exactly the kind of real confusion and honest emotions you would expect of a seventh grader who isn't sure she's the victim of sexual harassment or the subject of a cruel prank. Either way, it's tricky terrain for Mila.

In this well-crafted novel, Dee has captured all the ways in which harassment not only starts, but is allowed to continue. She deftly shows how it begins with Mila's own self-doubt about the boys' motives, reinforced by her friends doubt about it. Maybe Callum just likes you, they tell her, causing Mila to retreat into silence. But while her voice was silenced, her actions weren't.

Why, I asked myself, didn't her mother question Mila's sudden decision to wear her baggy old flannel shirt with paint splotches it, even after a big deal was made about it? An why didn't Ms. Fender, the music teacher, not pull Mila aside and try to talk to her the first time she acted out instead of punishing her? Dee show that there are so many missed opportunities to stop what is happening. But they just didn't notice it and that's what happens, isn't it?

My heart really went out to Mila and I wonder how many middle grade girls are in the same situation. Hopefully, Maybe He Just Likes You will give give them courage to speak out. It can be very empowering, as Mila discovers.

Maybe He Just Likes You will be available October 1, 2019

 This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was an EARC received from Media Masters Publicity

Be sure to check out the other Marvelous Middle Grade Monday offerings, now being carried on by Greg at Always in the Middle. 


  1. Oh, my. It sounds this book carries a very powerful message to all teens as well as the adults who don't listen.

  2. To be fair, middle grade students often complain about a lot, and while I try to take every complaint seriously, they may be a few I miss! My daughter went through a stage where she would only wear two cross country hoodies, just because (and I asked her about it from tiem to time-- she just liked the hoodies!) I thought this was completely realistic. Great review!

  3. This book is getting a lot of buzz, and I think I need to get a copy. Thanks for your thoughts on it.

  4. So...we do agree in our reviews! So much to like about this book and one all sixth and seventh graders should read. Thanks for posting this on MMGM.

  5. Two reviews in one day -- this must be an great story. It sounds so realistic!

  6. Unfortunately, there are parents who aren't connected or aware enough to realize when something like this shifts in their child. At any rate, thank you for spotlighting this important book!

  7. When two MMGM-ers post thoughts about a book, I know it's something I need to read. Thanks for sharing it. Can't wait until it hits our library shelves.


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