Not Here to Be Liked by Michelle Quach (384 pages)
Eliza’s Plan was Perfect Until Len Threw Her a Curveball in Not Here to Be Liked
Eliza Quan is gearing up to assume the editor-in-chief position at TheWilloughby Bugle, her high school’s paper. Afterall, she spent her entire high school career working tirelessly for the job. She’s not just resting on her laurels though; she’s the most qualified for the job and no one’s even contesting her. That is, until Len DiMartile gets injured on the baseball field and joins the paper out of the blue. Even though Eliza is obviously more qualified, Len’s popularity gives him a real advantage when he decides to run for editor-in-chief. Eliza is rightfully enraged when Len wins and pens an essay that goes viral bringing more attention to her cause than she expected.
As her situation gains more and more attention, the school suggests that Len and Eliza share the position, which isn’t exactly the solution Eliza was hoping for. Not only is Eliza trying to balance her duties as editor-in-chief with her newfound status as some sort of symbol of a gender equality movement, but she’s also dealing with those who think she’s simply using misogyny as an excuse to get her position back. And to top it all off, the more time she spends with Len, the less obnoxious he becomes.
The Subject of Her Own Headline
Quach tackles several larger issues in this novel that might normally overwhelm a story about a school newspaper, but she balances these elements thoughtfully. I believe all of the major characters in this novel are people of colour: Eliza is Chinese and Vietnamese; Len is white and Japanese; Eliza’s best friend is Black; and Eliza’s school is predominantly Asian. When Quach adds the gender equality angle, we get a look at intersectionality that isn’t always present in lighter YA novels. In theory, Eliza is supposed to be an “unlikeable” character; that’s how Len beats her in the first place. But Eliza’s dedication to her newfound cause and her desire to do the right thing without hurting anyone else is commendable.
The Bottom Line: 4/5 Brookie Stars
Quach balances a lot of tropes in this novel but manages to make them feel fresh. You can see the enemies-to-at least friends, if not lovers, trope from a mile away but watching Eliza and Len get there is still fun. Quach makes sure that Len isn’t one dimensional so that Eliza’s interest is understandable, especially given the emotional maturity we know she has given her intellectual prowess and the way she handles her situation going viral. The book is mostly lighthearted without skimming over important topics like misogyny and race, so it’s a perfect pick if you’re looking for something a little weightier than a typical beach read
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Rachel Gomes is a 30-something high school English teacher who lives with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband and their son. Rachel is a voracious reader who loves to learn and has her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction. She’s happiest listening to podcasts and talking to friends about the latest news in nerd culture.
Favourite book: Don’t make me choose between A Song of Ice and Fire and Harry Potter
Favourite brunch spot: The Farmer’s Table