April 2020

What I Like About You

By Marisa Kanter
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Halle Leavitt, whose parents are filmmakers, has bounced from town to town so many times that she’s never invested in IRL friendships. All her friends are online, where they know her as Kels, a successful blogger who showcases cupcakes she’s baked to accompany book reviews. Frequent among her DMs is Nash, a cute web comic artist who’s never seen Halle’s face.

While her parents film a documentary in Israel, Halle moves in with her recently widowed grandfather. When she runs into Nash at the library in her new town, she’s too shocked to tell him they already know each other. Then “Kels” is offered a publishing opportunity that could guarantee Halle’s spot at her dream college—but could also expose her ruse and cost her the only friend who matters.

Debut author Marisa Kanter, who has worked in book sales and publicity, peppers What I Like About You with publishing in-jokes, which are counterbalanced by Halle’s earnest championing of the books she loves. Snippets of DMs and texts also add personality and levity.

The book’s emotional landscape is deepened by its exploration of Halle’s and her grandfather’s grief at the death of Halle’s grandmother, with whom Halle shared a strong bond. It’s a powerful reminder that everyone processes loss in different ways. Jewish American teens and their families are still uncommon in YA novels with contemporary settings, so What I Like About You contributes welcome diversity to the category. It all adds up to a charming, witty story about authenticity in the social media age, told with a wink and a string of heart-eyes emojis.

This review was updated in January 2022 to more precisely contextualize the novel within the landscape of contemporary Jewish young adult fiction.

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What I Like About You

What I Like About You

By Marisa Kanter
Simon & Schuster
ISBN 9781534445772

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