What I Like About You by Marisa Kanter

First – A huge thank you to everyone who entered the Giveaway! I will be reaching out to the winners sometime today to send off your books! And thank you for reading. From the bottom of my heart!

Next up, new review….

Cupcakes and books?  These are a few of my favorite things.  

When I first heard about What I Like About You, I was immediately hooked.  I mean a book about book blogging, cupcakes, and a love triangle (with only two people)?  Just sign me up! When I found out that the author and the main characters are both Jewish, I was like, YES!  

Here’s the skinny:

Halle is a rising high school senior and the mastermind behind the insanely popular book review blog, One True Pastry. For most of her childhood, she’s been travelling the world with her documentary-producing parents.  But on the heels of her beloved grandmother’s death, Halle and her brother are living with her widowed grandfather for a year, so Halle can have a traditional senior year while her parents make a documentary in a foreign country.  

However, Halle doesn’t blog under her own name.  In order to protect her privacy, she’s been blogging under the name Kels.  Her blog, One True Pastry – a blog that pairs book reviews and cupcakes (with decorations based on book covers) has exploded in recent years, making her one of the leading bloggers with whom book publishers want to work. Kels has a large following and she has a close circle of online friends who have become Halle’s entire social network and yet, none of them know her real name or what she looks like.

It all changes when she visits her new public library (Library Shout Out!!) and she runs smack into her best online friend – Nash.  She recognizes him from photos she’s seen but she’s too astonished to tell him who she is.  She and Nash end up at the same school and in many of the same classes.  But, the longer she goes without telling him, the more she feels like she can’t come clean.  It becomes exponentially worse when they start having feelings for each other – in part because Halle can’t figure out a way to come clean without hurting Nash and Nash has real feelings for his online friend Kels and is conflicted about it. 

Will Halle be able to finally come clean?  Will she be able to save her relationship with Nash?  Will her friends forgive her when she comes clean after so many years?  What happens when you’re in a love triangle with yourself?  This book raises interesting issues surrounding online friendships and privacy.

This book is so freaking adorable that I can’t stand it.  I loved it so much that I immediately ordered it and am thrilled to say that it will make an appearance in the Jewish YA Book Club with my students.  And while I think this book has a lot to say to the modern Jewish teen, you don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate the greatness of this book.

While the friendships and relationships are so adorable – I mean this rivals Tweet Cute (read my review of that book, here) for the cutest teen romance – what really stood out to me was Halle’s difficulty separating her IRL “life” and her online persona.

I find myself constantly thinking about this book when I write for this blog.  Halle has crafted an online persona that she uses to use her voice and speak to the world, but ultimately, she doesn’t put her real name on it – in part to protect her privacy and in part to be separate from her grandmother who was a famous, big time YA publisher.  While she wants to make it on her own and without using her family’s fame to her advantage, she also seems quite uneasy at being herself.  Typical teen.  Worrying about who you are.  If you’re good enough.  Whether people will like you for who you really are.

I’ll be honest and say that I grapple with these issues as well.  When writing this blog, I’m using my voice and speaking my truth, but in reality, I’m often worried about putting too much of my “IRL” details out there.  While not famous, I work in a (within my community) public role.  I stress over what happens if my students or my colleagues read this.  Would they be embarrassed?  Impressed? Is this appropriate for the kind of work I do?  I also become anxious when I think about you – my amazing readers – reading this and having, let’s just say, less than kind opinions (NOT that this has ever happened – just an irrational fear – you are the best) but also trying to maintain some of my anonymity.  Halle’s choices, while they made for great drama in the book, are real concerns for anyone navigating online/social media fandom today. 

A warning to you all – when you finish this book (OK, before you even finish it – be ready to want to bake, like, real bad.  After the reread I just finished, I immediately had to bake a batch of cupcakes.  What I wouldn’t give for the Lavender Lemon cupcakes that Halle/Kels makes that make her blog an internet sensation!  Or the chocolate ones she makes for the Cover Release!  It’s a shame I have so much leftover birthday cake in my house, otherwise I’d be baking up a storm.  When I do, I’ll be sure to share pictures!!

I also loved that this book was a love letter to book blogging.  In fact, this was one of the books that inspired me to want to share my book thoughts out “there” in the world.  Halle gets such joy out of connecting with her readers and her friends, that it was just completely infectious.  

This book is Marisa Kanter’s debut novel.  I can’t wait to read whatever she comes up with next!

What I Like About You by Marisa Kanter, published 2020

2 thoughts on “What I Like About You by Marisa Kanter

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