Book Review: He Must Like You by Danielle Younge-Ullman
An authentic, angry, and surprisingly funny and romantic novel about sexual harassment, from award-winning author Danielle Younge-Ullman.
Libby’s having a rough senior year. Her older brother absconded with his college money and is bartending on a Greek island. Her dad just told her she’s got to pay for college herself, and he’s evicting her when she graduates so he can Airbnb her room. A drunken hook-up with her coworker Kyle has left her upset and confused. So when Perry Ackerman, serial harasser and the most handsy customer at The Goat where she waitresses, pushes her over the edge, she can hardly be blamed for dupming a pitcher of sangria on his head. Unfortunately, Perry is a local industry hero, the restaurant’s most important customer, and Libby’s mom’s boss. Now Libby has to navigate the fallout of her outburst, find an apartment, and deal with her increasing rage at the guys who’ve screwed up her life—and her increasing crush on the one guy who truly gets her. As timely as it is timeless, He Must Like You is a story about consent, rage, and revenge, and the potential we all have to be better people.
“Good god do we let girls down.” That’s what I wrote about 3/4 of the way down a page of notes on this book. It’s hardly news to anyone. The world has done a great disservice to girls in how we have been socialized, written off, and in what we have been taught to put up with. From the ways Libby is treated to the confusion she feels over asserting her own truth to the “get over it and move on” attitude that surrounds her, she has been done a disservice. We all have. Reading this book and Libby’s tales of customers harassing her, assaulting her, and making her uncomfortable made my blood boil. And it also made me think of the nearly infinite list of gross and creepy and appalling things men have done and said to me throughout the years at jobs.
Libby’s parents are really crummy. They’ve decided to boot her out after graduation so they can Airbnb her room. They figure this will fix their money problems AND correct the missteps that they made with Libby’s older brother, who obviously just felt too entitled and that’s why he dropped out of school to move to Greece. Her dad clearly needs some significant mental health help and her mom needs a backbone. They mess up over and over again. Look, I’m a parent of a teenager. It’s not an easy job. Parenting is all about hoping you’re making the right choices for and with your kid. But Libby’s parents aren’t. They suck.
Dealing with scrambling to get a job and save money (oh yeah, also? her parents spent all her college fund) while moving out would be enough, but there’s all the traumatic stuff Libby has been repressing and that keeps happening to her. Town perv Perry likes nothing more than sexually harassing Libby at work. Her recent hookup with a coworker feels confusing to her—she was into it, then she wasn’t, then she just sort of said “oh well” and didn’t or couldn’t stop it. She finally calls it rape, but tacks on “kind of.” She isn’t sure how to categorize what happened. This brings up previous incidents for her that were not things she joyfully consented to, but what should she call those times? Some really tough conversations with those boys and with a medical professional help her start to unpack what has happened to her and how she can move forward in a healthy way.
The somewhat whimsical cover makes it seem like the book may be lighter than it is. In reality, it’s a fairly nuanced and painful look at rape culture, toxic masculinity, sexual assault and harassment, and consent. Let’s be honest: the cover and summary won’t necessarily draw in boy readers. But more than anyone, it’s boys who need to read this story and really think hard, as the boys in the book have to do, about their actions and their choices. Readers don’t need to learn the lessons that Libby thinks are ones she should be learning: how to not let these things happen, how to protect yourself, how to be certain something or nothing happened to you. Readers need to learn the lessons the boys learn: that anything other than sober, enthusiastic, constant consent is unacceptable.
Intense, upsetting, and all too real, this smart book will inspire deep discussions.
Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 07/14/2020
Age Range: 14 – 17 Years
Filed under: Uncategorized
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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