What I Like About You

By – February 17, 2020

Life is swirling for anx­i­ety-prone high school senior Halle Levitt IRL — in real life. Her beloved grand­moth­er has recent­ly passed away; Halle and her younger broth­er Ollie have moved from North Car­oli­na to Con­necti­cut to live with her grand­fa­ther; her doc­u­men­tary-film mak­ing par­ents have flown off to Israel; her des­per­ate wish is to attend NYU next year. But online, Halle is the super cool and con­fi­dent Kels, the enig­ma behind the blog, One True Pas­try,” which pairs Halle’s favorite things — read­ing and baking.

Kels’s online friends think she’s got it all. She’s a hot shot social media influ­encer who is cho­sen to cre­ate the cov­er reveal for a young adult best-sell­ing author. She also has a spe­cial con­nec­tion with anoth­er young adult blog­ger, Nash, who is a graph­ic nov­el­ist. They plan to meet up at Book­Con — a blog­ger con­ven­tion — but Halle is shocked when they unex­pect­ed­ly meet in a library in her new home­town. She is so shocked in fact, that she neglects to tell Nash who she real­ly is.

Halle set­tles in at her new school, makes friends, joins the syn­a­gogue youth group, and helps her grand­fa­ther cope with the loss of his beloved wife. But under­neath all of these suc­cess­es lies the con­flict Halle cre­at­ed by hid­ing the truth about her real iden­ti­ty; Halle has to dis­cov­er for her­self that she is just as inter­est­ing as her online persona.

What I Like About You speaks to mid­dle and high school read­ers by address­ing con­cerns over — friend­ships, anx­i­ety, grades, hopes, and issues in nav­i­gat­ing social media. Read­ers will relate to both the first-per­son voice of Halle, and to the social media per­sona of Kels, who fakes her con­fi­dence in hash­tags and abbre­vi­a­tions. This book will cap­ti­vate with its engag­ing char­ac­ters, dra­mat­ic sto­ry line, and con­tem­po­rary setting.

Paula Chaiken has worked in a vari­ety of capac­i­ties in the Jew­ish world — teach­ing in reli­gious school, curat­ing at the Sper­tus Muse­um and fundrais­ing for the Fed­er­a­tion — for more than twen­ty years. She also runs a bou­tique pub­lic rela­tions con­sult­ing firm and enjoys read­ing all sorts of books with her three sons.

Discussion Questions

Halle Levitt is a suc­cess­ful book blog­ger under the name of Kels, but in real life she feels she doesn’t live up to her own image: she’s awk­ward; she’s hav­ing a hard time with her grandmother’s death and her grandfather’s unwill­ing­ness to talk about it; and she’s afraid that if she reveals her IRL” iden­ti­ty, the same grandmother’s fame as an author will over­shad­ow any tal­ent Halle her­self has. When Halle moves in with her grand­fa­ther for senior year and meets the real-life per­son behind her best online friend, Nash, she keeps it a secret that she and Kels are one and the same, until the threads of secrets and romance become too tan­gled to han­dle. What I Like About You is a charm­ing love let­ter to book cul­ture, anchored in themes of iden­ti­ty, self-con­fi­dence, and fam­i­ly lega­cy. Halle’s devel­op­ing rela­tion­ships with her grand­fa­ther and her grandmother’s mem­o­ry add a bit­ter­sweet note that pre­vents the sto­ry from being as sug­ary as Halle’s book-themed cup­cakes, and Halle’s strug­gles with the dif­fer­ence between her online and offline selves feel time­ly and relat­able. The book is a plea­sure to read and a very promis­ing debut from Marisa Kanter.