What I Like About You

img_20200513_162727650img_20200513_162758625Halle Levitt is spending her senior year with her brother at her grandfather’s home in Middleton, Connecticut instead of traveling abroad with her documentary-producing parents, who, after six previous Academy Award nominations but no win, are still pursuing the prize. Halle’s eyes are on admission to NYU next fall, and she fears that her less-than-stellar SAT scores may stymie her plans. She intends to use her senior year at Middleton High School beefing up her college application while at the same time burnishing her reputation as a popular blogger whose site One True Pastry has gained the attention of the publishing industry for its cupcake title reveals of new YA books.

Halle uses a pseudonym, “Kels,” on her blog site because she wants her efforts to be judged on their own merits instead of by association with her recently-deceased grandmother, who was a highly regarded editor in the publishing industry. When she and her brother start the new school year at Middleton, he quickly makes friends, but since her friends so far have all been online, she’s none too confident about her real-life social skills. Right away, though, she strikes up an acquaintance with senior Nash Kim and finds herself automatically accepted into his friends group.

Halle is startled to learn that Nash–who has a social media presence with his REX graphic serial– is actually the same Nash she texts frequently online and with whom she has carried on a comfortable friendship for some time. Thinking her real-life self is nowhere near as exciting as her online persona, she doesn’t let on that she knows him. Thus begins a complicated and convoluted relationship during which she seesaws back and forth about telling and not telling him the truth.

This story has been told more than once in recent YA fiction but has enough details about the YA publishing business, blogging, Jewish religious practices (Halle and her brother are introduced to their grandfather’s more orthodox beliefs), the angst of worrying about admission to elite colleges, etc. that it offers a fresh approach. All the main characters are bright, talented, ambitious, supported by parents and seemingly lacking in nothing, materialistically speaking (though some have part-time jobs after school)–people dealing with first world problems, in other words.  There are a few light references to Halle’s brother Ollie puzzling out his attraction to both sexes, and Halle and Nash make tentative sexual moves towards each other but go no further. Offensive language generally consists of “shit, hell, damn, ass” and such. The grief and sense of loss felt by the family after the death of Halle’s grandmother is deftly handled and is one of the finest features of the story.

I’d put this book in a secondary library.

Categories: Death and Grieving, LGBTQIA, Navigating through High School, Offensive Language in YA Literature, Peer Relationships, Religion, Social Media, Theatre & Film

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