I received an Advance Readers Copy of this book. It was released in July 2020. All opinions are my own.
I didn’t notice the tagline of this young adult novel – “Payback, with a side of fries” – when I was sitting on the kitchen floor, hiding from my three-year-old while eating leftover fries but this picture seems fitting.
Libby is under a lot of pressure. Her dad has just announced that he plans to rent out her room as an Airbnb as soon as she graduates from high school, plus he’s somehow spent all the money earmarked for her tuition. Libby gets a job as a server at a local restaurant, desperate to earn enough money to pay rent and somehow make it through school. A confusing encounter with a co-worker and the unwanted attentions of a regular customer push her to the breaking point and when that customer goes a little too far, Libby dumps a pitcher of sangria over his head and walks out of her job.
Satisfying as that moment may be, that customer is Perry Ackerman, one of the most powerful men in her small town of Pine Ridge. An apology would smooth the way for Libby to get her job back but should she really have to be the one to say sorry to Perry, especially when other women begin to come forward to accuse him of other inappropriate actions. Is putting up with unwanted male attention a part of being a female server? And what can Libby do about her dad who is becoming increasingly unstable and is set on launching a public tirade on her behalf?
There’s a lot going on in this novel but it never feels overwhelming. It’s fun and readable and Libby is realistic and likeable. She’s dealing with the normal pressures of high school life and figuring out what’s going on with the boy she likes. At the same time, her home life is falling apart and she’s realizing something is really wrong with her dad. Her mom is present but refuses to step in. At the same time, Libby is realizing that her past relationships, including a recent sexual encounter with a co-worker, were not entirely consensual. Again, it’s a lot, and I wish I could say it feels unrealistic to have one character go through all of this but it just didn’t. I’ve never been a server but I think any woman who has worked with the public knows what it’s like to deal with the unwanted attentions of men who don’t seem to realize being friendly is part of your job.
The stresses of the novel are nicely balanced with Libby’s group of friends. She has a solid relationship with her best friend (no drama there which was refreshing) and a sweet friendship with the guy she likes. Young-Ullman also does an excellent job of showing the complications of what consent looks like and how things like sexual assault aren’t just strangers jumping out of the bushes.
People are full of contradictions. Someone whose politics you hate might spend their spare time rescuing puppies, or knitting sweaters for orphans. Someone who sexually harassed you might have saved a ton of people from poverty and losing their homes. Someone who assaulted you might get you free legal advice from their mother.He Must Like You (ARC, pg 241)
Life is complex and He Must Like You explores many of these complexities. It also doesn’t offer easy solutions. Although overall the book has a satisfying ending, it acknowledges that the world hasn’t changed. The power is left to Libby herself to change what she can and learn to protect herself.
I think this could be a fun and eye-opening book for readers age 14 and older.