Welcome to the Maybe He Just Likes You Blog Tour!
To celebrate the release of Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee on October 1st, blogs across the web are featuring exclusive original content from Barbara, as well as 5 chances to win a copy of Maybe He Just Likes You, a Maybe bookmark and pin!
The first draft of MAYBE HE JUST LIKES YOU was different from the final book in one major way. Originally, I imagined that while Mila was experiencing sexual harassment at school, her mom was experiencing the adult version at work. Both mom and daughter tried to keep the harassment secret in order to shield the other–who they could see was struggling.
As I revised, I made the hard decision to delete the parallel plot of the mom’s sexual harassment. One reason was that I worried that including it had the effect of minimizing Mila’s predicament, making it seem that what she was dealing with was “just” microaggression. For Mila, the unwanted touching, jokes and comments were hugely significant and painful, and I didn’t want to suggest that what she was going through, compared to her mom, didn’t qualify as real harassment.
I also wanted to show that women who aren’t being sexually harassed may be subject to other forms of male domination–particularly the economic kind. Mom puts up with her mean boss because she’s a single working mother, unsupported by her ex-husband. And although Mom is careful to never criticize Mila’s dad, Mila remembers a few instances in which her dad was hurtful verbally.
But I didn’t want to suggest that all men are abusive, or deadbeats, or harassers. So I made sure to depict the other male characters with many positive qualities. Max and Jared are empathetic, loyal friends. Mr. Fitzgibbons, Mila’s neighbor, is a “true gentleman.” The guidance counselor, Mr. Dolan, may seem clueless about the harassment at the beginning, but by the end he genuinely wants to listen and learn. And the scary assistant principal Mr. McCabe really just wants to be fair.
Even the “basketball boys” who torment Mila are basically good kids caught up in a game that spirals out of control. At the end at least two of them are sincerely sorry. It was important to me as I wrote this MeToo story for middle graders not to demonize these boys, and to suggest that they are capable of change. No one is doomed to grow up to harass women. And if adult women (like Mila’s mom) are treated unfairly on the job, they can stand up to their bosses, hand in their resignation, and find other work they “absolutely love.” That’s an empowering message for girls right there.
For seventh grader Mila, it starts with an unwanted hug on the school blacktop.
The next day, it’s another hug. A smirk. Comments. It all feels…weird. According to her friend Zara, Mila is being immature, overreacting. Doesn’t she know what flirting looks like?
But it keeps happening, despite Mila’s protests. On the bus, in the halls. Even during band practice-the one time Mila could always escape to her “blue-sky” feeling. It seems like the boys are EVERYWHERE. And it 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 finds help in some unexpected places.
From the author of STAR-CROSSED, HALFWAY NORMAL and EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT YOU comes this timely story of a middle school girl standing up and finding her voice.
Barbara Dee is the author of several middle grade novels including Maybe He Just Likes You, Everything I Know About You, Halfway Normal, and Star-Crossed. Her books have received several starred reviews and been included on many best-of lists, including the ALA Rainbow List Top Ten, the Chicago Public Library Best of the Best, and the NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People. Star-Crossed was also a Goodreads Choice Awards finalist. Barbara is one of the founders of the Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival. She lives with her family, including a naughty cat named Luna and a sweet rescue hound dog named Ripley, in Westchester County, New York.
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