When things start getting weird at school for twelve-year-old Mila, she repeats what her best friends have told her: it’s not weird. It was just a hug, after all, a birthday hug, but didn’t it last a little too long to be comfortable? But it doesn’t end there. There are more hugs, more strange comments, boys standing a little too close to her, until Mila can’t dismiss it anymore. She can’t even call it ‘flirting’, like her best friend Zara. The same group of boys continues to bother her in a way which isn’t bullying, isn’t teasing, but then, what’s she supposed to call it? She knows she can’t tell her mom, not when she’s having so much trouble at work. And how can she explain it to anyone else when it feels so weird, so personal?
But then Mila begins taking karate lessons, and they help her realize that she’s not defenseless. More than that, maybe she can figure out how to confront the boys, and make herself heard.
Maybe He Just Likes You is a thought-provoking novel which explores sexual harassment, friendship, and reality. Barbara Dee tackles harder topics in this book in a way which is both realistic and accessible, which makes it particularly pertinent. All the characters in this feel extraordinarily well-rounded, especially Mila’s friends; she honestly has one of the most natural friend circles I’ve seen in middle-grade, who don’t always stand by her even when she’s struggling but remain relatable and strong. I highly recommend Maybe He Just Likes You to readers ages ten and up, whether you’re looking for a thought-provoking read or just a realistic fiction novel which feels indisputably true.