What I Like About Me, Jenna Guillaume

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publishers, Pan MacMillan Australia, in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my review in any way and the thoughts expressed are my own.

Maisie is a plus-sized girl in love with a boy who doesn’t notice her, stuck between two arguing parents and over-shadowed by her older sister Eva. Every year she looks forward to summer vacation when her family goes to their beach house where they hang out with their neighbours the Lees, but there’s one Lee that consumes Maisie’s thoughts; Sebastian Lee. This summer Maisie’s best friend the gorgeous Anna is coming with her, how better could this summer get!

When Anna and Sebastian grow closer, Maisie tries to hide her heartbreak, though she can’t hide anything from the annoyingly persistent Beamer. The two constantly pester each other and have made a bet this summer; a movie marathon competition between Arnold Schwarzenegger and The Rock, whoever’s hero wins gets to decide on a punishment for the loser. I loved the banter between Maisie and Beamer, it was very childlike in the annoyance like Beamer farting during an emotional moment. Within a few chapters it was clear Beamer was crushing just as hard on Maisie as she was on Sebastian. Despite the love triangle (love square?) I kept willing Beamer and Maisie to be together and for Maisie to love him the way she loves Sebastian.

Maisie heart-ache over Sebastian made my heart hurt for her, she’d loved this boy for years then here comes Anna who instantly steals him away. She knew Maisie liked him and here she is kissing him! What a bad friend move. Even after reading the entire book, I couldn’t get over what she did. I can’t imagine how you could do something like that to a friend let alone someone who you call your best friend.

For the last few months, Maisie has been concern about her parents continued arguing. It has grown so bad they won’t even speak to each other and her father has stayed behind while the rest of the family goes on their annual holiday. Maisie has no idea what their problem is but gets the sense that things will get worse before they get better (if they get better). The poor girl has even taken to Googling ‘how to know if your parents are getting a divorce’ and the signs don’t look good. This was a good display of what many young people go through and you can really feel Maisie’s confusion and helplessness.

For many siblings, their relationship is more painful than loving, and Maisie and Eva fit this perfectly. From the first chapter, it’s clear Maisie doesn’t like her older sister though we don’t know why until over halfway through the book. When we do find out, all I could think was ‘wow, no wonder Maisie has issues’! I couldn’t believe what her sister did. Still, I hoped they could find a way past it since they were once close.

A few days into summer, Maisie befriends Leila, which I loved for two reasons; one, Maisie needed a friend since her bestie ditched her for her crush; two, Leila was a wonderful character. She was so understanding with no judgement about Maisie’s feelings and accepted everything about her. Leila was one of the main people to help Maisie accept herself and her body.

Someone with body image issues doesn’t seem like the natural beauty pageant contestant, but that’s exactly what Maisie does. It makes sense when you find out her extremely talented and beautiful sister won a few years ago. Now, Maisie wants to prove to everyone, and herself, that she is just a good as Eva. It was an understandable drive, though I would never be brave enough to enter a competition like this even if I had the same motivation as Maisie. I loved watching Maisie struggle with her body and self-confidence while continuing to push herself out of her comfort zone. She was incredibly brave to do something so scary (it would be frightening even if you were the most beautiful person in the world). But with the encouragement of Beamer and Leila, Maisie is determined to compete.

I loved the plus-size representation. As a plus-size woman myself, I find it can be hard to find a similar character in movies and books that aren’t self-hating or the funny best friend or used for mocking. I loved Leila’s line: ‘Why can’t you be fat and beautiful?’, it changed how I thought about things. There’s no reason you can’t be fat and beautiful, I’ve seen many amazing women who are just that. This book was positive about plus-sized people and would be a great read for anyone struggling with their own body image and self-esteem.

Overall, I thought this book was optimistic and fun. I loved Maisie, she was an entertaining character and the action hero competition added some simple, everyday fun to the story. The positive and entertaining take on painful themes made this book one of my favourites of the contemporary genre. I thought the characters were realistic and well-developed, their relationships intricate and complex (though Anna was a terrible, terrible friend). I loved this book and give it 5/5.

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