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“People don’t always hear the first time. Or they hear, but they don’t actually listen. So it’s up to you to tell them again,” Mom. –Maybe He Just Likes You
Maybe He Just Likes You
by Barbara Dee
For seventh grader Mila, it started with some boys giving her an unwanted hug. The next day it’s another hug. A smirk. Comments about her body. It all feels weird. According to her friend Zara, Mila is being immature and overreacting. Doesn’t she know what flirting looks like?
But it keeps happening, despite Mila’s protests. On the bus and in the school halls. Even during band practice—the one place Mila thought she could always escape to; her happy “blue sky” place. It seems like the boys are everywhere. And their behavior doesn’t feel like flirting—so what is it?
Mila starts to gain confidence when she enrolls in karate class. But her friends still don’t understand why Mila is making such a big deal about the boys’ attention. When Mila is finally pushed too far, she realizes she can’t battle this on her own, and she finds help in some unexpected places.
Maybe He Just Likes You tackles the difficult topic of consent, boundaries, and sexual harassment in a way that middle school readers will understand. When a group of boys, who are all on the basketball team, begin sexually harassing Mila, she isn’t sure what to do. Her friends think she is overreacting and being immature. At one point, Mila’s friend Zara tells her, “Look Mila, there’s got to be a reason why they’re picking you. Those boys are super awkward and stupid sometimes, but they aren’t monsters, right? So maybe if you think about what you’re doing—” However, the book makes it clear that Mila’s behavior is not responsible for the boys’ behavior.
Many readers will relate to Mila, who struggles to understand her changing body and the changing social structure of junior high. Soon, the boys’ behavior escalates and begin to cause problems in other aspects of Mila’s life. Like Mila, many readers may struggle with who to turn to in times of need. However, Mila’s story highlights the importance of speaking up and getting an adult’s help. Through Mila’s story, readers will learn that if someone’s touch makes you feel helpless, weird, annoyed, or embarrassed, you need to speak up.
Even though Maybe He Just Likes You does an excellent job showing what sexual harassment looks like, the conclusion is unrealistically hopeful. In the end, the boys apologize to Mila and the harassment stops. However, the story doesn’t show the lasting effects sexual harassment can have on a victim. Instead, Mila and one of the boys continue to sit next to each other in band, and when the boy begins taking karate, Mila gladly helps him.
Maybe He Just Likes You uses short chapters, easy vocabulary, and plenty of friendship drama to keep readers engaged. Being told from Mila’s point of view allows the reader to understand the confusing emotions that Mila battles. Maybe He Just Likes You is an engaging story that highlights the importance of finding your voice. Both boys and girls will benefit from reading Mila’s story because it gives clear examples of sexual harassment and explores the complicated nature of bullying.
- A group of boys are playing a game to see who can touch Mila the most. They also get points if they tell her something about her body. The group corners Mila in the band room, and pressure her to hug Leo because it’s his birthday. Mila thinks, “they haven’t moved from the door. I’ll need to pass them to get out of here. This isn’t a choice. . . I walk over to Leo, throw my arms around him and squeeze once.”
- Tobias wants Mila to hug him because, “Yesterday when we all hugged you, the guys who touched Mila’s sweater scored a personal best. So we decided that Mila’s green fuzz was magic.” Mila holds her arm out so Tobias can touch the sweater. “But then, before I knew it was happening, he threw his arms around my chest and squeezed so hard that for a second I lost my breath.”
- On the bus ride home, Dante sits to close to her. Mila “could feel Dante’s shoulder bump against mine. This definitely felt wrong and unfair. . .his bare legs kept brushing against my jeans. . . But when the bus hit a giant pothole, his arm flew across my chest.” Mila asks him to move over, but he doesn’t.
- A boy tells Mila, “You changed your outfit. Your butt looked nicer in that green sweater.”
- Mila realizes that her friend Max “likes this new boy. As in, likes.” Later Max starts spending time with the boy.
- When Mila is getting into her locker, “someone’s hand grabbed my butt.” When Mila confronts the boy, he says, “It’s probably your imagination.”
- While walking onto stage for a performance, a boy says, “Hey Mila, I can see right through your shirt.”
- During summer, Liana was helping babysit a little girl. They would often go to the pool. “Daniel and Luis and this other boy I didn’t know started playing this game. . . They kept bothering me underwater. Blocking me so I was trapped, yanking my swimsuit.” When she told the girl’s mother that the boys were bothering her, the mother said, “Well, honey, you know I’m paying you to watch Skyler, not to interact with boys.”
- During band, a boy grabs Mila’s arm. Mila “yanked my arm away. And when I side-kicked him in the shin, Callum went sprawling, knocking over two chairs and three music stands on his way to the floor.” Mila is given three days of after-school detention and Callum is given one day of detention.
Drugs and Alcohol
- Dang is used once.
- Twice, during a stressful time, Mila thinks “crap.”
- Omigod is used as an exclamation 5 times. For example, before singing tryouts Zara says, “Omigod, I’m so nervous I could puke.”
- A boy calls his friend a moron.
- The girls occasional say that someone is a jerk. A girl says that a classmate is “a total jerk to me in band.”
- In the past, one of Mila’s friends was teased “when Hunter Schultz called him ‘gay’ and ‘Maxipad’ and a bunch of other things.”