All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: What I Like About Me by Jenna Guillaume

on February 27, 2019

What I Like About Me
Jenna Guillaume
Pan Macmillan AUS
2019, 256p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

You know all those movies where teenagers have, like, THE SUMMER OF THEIR LIVES?

This summer is probably not going to be that.

Source: Everything that’s happened since yesterday …

The last thing sixteen-year-old Maisie Martin thought she’d be doing this summer is entering a beauty pageant.

Not when she’s spent most of her life hiding her body from everyone.

Not when her Dad is AWOL for Christmas and her gorgeous older sister has returned to rock Maisie’s shaky confidence. And her best friend starts going out with the boy she’s always loved.

But Maisie’s got something to prove.

As she writes down all the ways this summer is going from bad to worse in her school-assignment journal, what starts as a homework torture-device might just end up being an account of how Maisie didn’t let anything, or anyone, hold her back…

Argh, my heart after this book.

I’m 37 years old (holy crap, how did that happen) and I wish this was the sort of book I’d had around to read 20 years ago when I was roughly the same age as Maisie. This is everything I remember about my summer holidays and then some. It’s so refreshing to read a book set over the Australian summer, with one school year finishing and that seemingly endless 6 week stretch ahead of you before the next one begins. I grew up in a beachside town (it’s Australia, something like 90% of us live on the coast!) and this is so representative in lots of ways for me.

Maisie Martin spends every Christmas at the beach with her family and the family of Sebastian Lee, who in recent years, has become Maisie’s crush. Sebastian’s family live interstate so that window at the beach is really the only time they see each other. This year Maisie is missing her father (too busy with work to join them) and not speaking to her older sister after an argument so she brings her friend Anna along, fresh from a break up and needing some time away to heal.

Maisie is fantastic. She is contradiction in lots of ways – insecure yet not feeling like she needs to change. Too scared to wear a swimsuit to the beach but finds herself entering a beauty pageant where she’ll be on stage in various outfits in front of everyone. At the same time I was identifying with Maisie (for different reasons, I also didn’t like wearing bathers to the beach. I didn’t wear jeans but look, it was a close call) I was also admiring her for her determination to carry through after her impulsive blurting out that she would enter the pageant. I just absolutely adored Maisie – getting to know her through the diary entries she has to do over the holidays is such fun. Her style is so intimate, it feels like you’re the best friend she’s confiding in.

I have such praise for all of the relationships in this book. A lot of YA has missing or overly lax parental units but Maisie’s are a present part of this story and the dynamics are realistic and interesting. Maisie can sense that something isn’t right with her parents, they’re barely speaking to each other and yet she can’t seem to get anything out of her dad. Likewise her relationship with her sister is full of layers. Maisie is an unapologetically fat girl and her sister seems somewhat the opposite and has in the past, been very suggestive that perhaps Maisie… something about that. When her sister rolls up with a new girlfriend, Maisie experiences a lot of emotions about that. And it’s also a way for Maisie to see the path to acceptance.

Because that’s what this is. Maisie’s happiness with herself. Yep, there’s a super cute boy and he is attracted to her for who she is, in every single way and it’s totally swoon worthy and I loved it. The whole way it evolves is so organic and I loved how Maisie is unable to see what the reader can see. But Maisie is the star of this story and her journey towards accepting herself and even more than that, loving herself. The ARC of this book came with a postcard which invites the reader to detail 10 things they like about themselves on the back (making a list of things she likes about herself is something Maisie does multiple times in the story). Goddamn, it is hard. I think it’s this ingrained thing that we have sometimes, not to praise ourselves, or parts of ourselves. Clearly this is something, I still need to work on!

I just loved this book. It gave me such happy feels – but it also reminded me of those feelings of insecurity and inadequacy and the difficulties of navigating teen life. Friendships can be hard – Maisie’s friendship with Anna is complex and filled with bumps in the road. I really liked the friendship she develops with Leila and her crew and I think sometimes it really highlighted how her friendship with Anna was at times, not easy at all. But they are best friends and if two people want to work at something, then it can be fixed most of the time. Teenage friendships are a navigational minefield and it was nice to see that although there was discord, no one was a complete villain who only existed to cause problems for Maisie. Even now, as an adult, friendships are hard.

Sometimes, life throws you something where it’s hard to focus. Reading has always been my escape from that but lately there’s been a lot of depressing stuff popping up in my reading too. This is the sort of book I need to refuel and reenergise myself. There are complex things and genuine emotions but at the same time, it’s inherently good and pure and funny and makes me happy. More please!


Book #25 of 2019

What I Like About Me is the 7th book read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2019


3 responses to “Review: What I Like About Me by Jenna Guillaume

  1. Ashleigh says:

    Great review, Bree! I now want to push this further up my TBR pile and past the work books even! I’m including this in the March round up for young adult.

  2. […] What I Like About Me by Jenna Guillaume. My review. […]

  3. […] What I Like About Me by Jenna Guillaume. The summer Aussie YA I’ve always wanted to read with a plus-sized main character and a super cute love interest who is hot for her the way she is. My review. […]

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