Maybe He Just Likes You

Maybe He Just Likes You

by Barbara Dee


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Barbara Dee explores the subject of #MeToo for the middle grade audience in this heart-wrenching—and ultimately uplifting—novel about experiencing harassment and unwanted attention from classmates.

For seventh-grader Mila, it starts with some boys giving her an unwanted hug on the school blacktop. A few days later, at recess, one of the boys (and fellow trumpet player) Callum tells Mila it’s his birthday, and asks her for a “birthday hug.” He’s just being friendly, isn’t he? And how can she say no? But Callum’s hug lasts a few seconds too long, and feels...weird. According to her friend, Zara, Mila is being immature and overreacting. Doesn’t she know what flirting looks like?

But the boys don’t leave Mila alone. On the bus. In the halls. During band practice—the one place Mila could always escape.

It doesn’t feel like flirting—so what is it? Thanks to a chance meeting, Mila begins to find solace in a new place: karate class. Slowly, with the help of a fellow classmate, Mila learns how to stand her ground and how to respect others—and herself.

From the author of Everything I Know About You, Halfway Normal, and Star-Crossed comes this timely story of a middle school girl standing up and finding her voice.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781534432376
Publisher: Aladdin
Publication date: 10/01/2019
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 61,659
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.10(d)
Lexile: 630L (what's this?)
Age Range: 9 - 13 Years

About the Author

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.

Reading Group Guide

A Reading Group Guide to

Maybe He Just Likes You

By Barbara Dee

About the Book

For seventh-grader Mila, it starts with some boys giving her an unwanted hug on the school blacktop. A few days later, at recess, one of the boys tells Mila it’s his birthday, and asks her for a “birthday hug.” He’s just being friendly, isn’t he? And how can she say no? But Callum’s hug lasts a few seconds too long and feels . . . weird. According to her friend Zara, Mila is being immature and overreacting. Doesn’t she know what flirting looks like? But it doesn’t feel like flirting—and the boys don’t leave Mila alone. On the bus. In the halls. During band practice. Thanks to a chance meeting, Mila begins to find solace in a new place: karate class. Slowly, with the help of a fellow classmate, Mila learns how to stand her ground and how to respect others and herself.

Discussion Questions

1. How did reading this book make you feel? Were you mad, sad, worried, uncomfortable, or embarrassed about the things that happened to Mila? Did you wonder what you would do if you were Mila—or if you were one of the boys?

2. What about the unfolding of events most surprised you?

3. After the first “birthday hug,” Mila replays the scene over and over, trying to decide what she should have done. “Why hadn’t I just walked out of the room? Or even thought of a lame comeback?” Do you think she should have done one of these things? Do you think there are other options she could have tried? Why do you think her initial reaction is to blame herself?

4. Mila gets lots of advice about her situation from friends and adults. Mr. Dolan and Zara tell her to just ignore the boys. Her mom advises self-control. Omi tells her never to be alone at school. Do you agree with any of this advice? What do you think you would tell Mila to do?

5. Mila says, “Zara was a fun, caring friend, but she was capable of meanness.” How can someone be both mean and caring? Do you have any friends like that? Do you think friends should ever be mean to each other? Explain your answers.

6. Why do you think Mila doesn’t tell Zara about that first “birthday hug”? In what ways can “close friends be totally different,” as Mila says? What do you think it is about Zara’s and Mila’s personalities or experiences that causes them to view things differently?

7. When Mila decides to visit the school counselor to talk about what’s going on, she ends up in Mr. Dolan’s office. What do you think about the way he handled the situation? Do you think Mila would have gotten a different reaction if she had been able to talk to a female counselor? What are some gender stereotypes that might affect someone’s interpretation of the situation?

8. After Mila kicks Callum, she and the boys end up in the assistant principal’s office. The boys tell him that she is “too sensitive” and that they were just teasing. Do you think the boys believe that it’s “just teasing,” or do they know that what they are doing is wrong? Do you think all the boys think the same thing? Explain your answers using evidence from the book.

9. Think about the different feelings Mila has about the situation: she is afraid to be alone with any of the boys; she is ashamed when Ms. Fender changes her band position; she gets mad after she finds out about the scorecard. How does being ashamed differ from feeling afraid? Do you think that when Mila gets mad, that makes her feel stronger or more upset? How might you act if you were feeling any of these emotions? Explain your answers.

10. Zara blames Mila for what’s happening. She says, “‘No one can hug you if you don’t let them.’” Even Samira tells Mila that she doesn’t “‘have to put up with stuff like that.’” Why do you think Samira and Zara view the situation that way? Do you agree with them? Is it fair for others to make these comments when they aren’t the ones experiencing the unwanted attention?

11. Describe how Zara and Mila’s relationship changes as Mila continues to receive unwanted attention from boys in her class. Why do you think that girls stop “sticking together” when it comes to issues with boys? Why is it that sometimes it’s “girls against boys” and sometimes it’s not? Have you ever argued with a friend over a romantic interest? If so, what happened?

12. When Mila gets to school early, Ms. Wardak won’t let her wait outside her homeroom, and Mila wanders around looking for a safe place. Does your school have safe places? If so, do you think all your classmates know that they are available? If not, what might you do to try to secure a safe place?

13. Another unsafe place for Mila is the bus. Have you ever felt that when adults aren’t watching, especially on the bus or in the hallways, there is room for unwanted things to happen? Who might you talk to if something does happen to you, or if you witness it happening to someone else?

14. Mila wonders, “What are the boys seeing?” She changes the way she dresses. She kicks Callum and snaps at her mom and her teachers. She thinks “it was as if lately I’d been losing track of myself.” What do you think she means by that? Why do you think her behavior has changed? Are any of these tactics effective? What might be good coping mechanisms for Mila?

15. Zara says that the boys are just flirting with Mila. Max tells her that they are bullying her and gets mad when she won’t take his advice to tell on the boys. Do you agree with Zara or Max? What do you think makes the situation so complex? Do you think there is anyone who fully understands what’s going on?

16. Mila sees a different side of Tobias when he is with his little brother and sister at the park. She thinks, “Maybe all the basketball boys have non-jerk sides . . . so why is it different when it comes to me?” Have you ever witnessed someone in a different context or location, and been surprised by any of their actions? Why do you think someone might act differently in certain situations or when surrounded by certain people? Do you think boys can be nice to each other and their families, and still treat girls badly? Explain your answers.

17. After Mila starts karate classes, Samira notices the difference in her, saying, “I think it’s such a good idea that you’re taking it.” Do you agree with Samira? Discuss the ways that karate helps Mila. Do you do any activities that help make you feel better in other parts of your life?

18. After reading the book, think back to the boys’ actions in the beginning. Why do you think the boys started treating Mila this way? What do you think they wanted out of the interactions? Why do you think they continued to act? Do you think if they had a conversation about sexual harassment at the beginning of the book, they would have made the same choices?

19. Think about respect. How do you show respect for others? What level of respect do you expect and accept from others? How do you know if something is off-limits, or if it would hurt someone? Identify scenes from the book where people are respected or disrespected, and discuss how you would support or change these interactions to make everyone feel respected.

20. At the fall concert, Dante teases Callum by saying, “‘You should wear skirts more often.’” Why do you think boys’ insults to one another often revolve around being “girly”? How might this affect the way they view or interact with girls, or how girls feel about themselves?

21. When Liana tells Mila what happened to her at the pool, she feels “all these emotions swirling around like crazy.” How did you feel when you found out that Mila wasn’t the only target? Why might it be helpful for Mila to have someone to talk to who knows what she’s going through?

22. When Mila discovers that Ms. Fender is a good listener, she tells her everything and finally feels like she’s being heard. Why do you think it’s important to feel believed and heard? Do you have someone in your life whom you trust to listen to you?

23. Why do you think Callum comes to karate class at the end of the book? Does it change any of your perceptions of him? What do you think that means for him and Mila?

24. Do you believe that the boys’ behavior will change? Do you have any suggestions about how this can be accomplished? Do you think Mila will ever feel safe around them again?

Extension Activities

1. Find a notebook, journal, or paper and pen. Use them to answer these questions: How would you know if you or a friend were being sexually harassed? What actions could you take if you found yourself in Mila’s situation? Then work with a partner to discuss the similarities and differences between your answers, and brainstorm additional signs of harassment or actions you could take to stop it. Think about Mila’s experiences. Why do you think sexual harassment can be so challenging to acknowledge and address?

2. Look up the definitions of these words and phrases, and write a report demonstrating that you understand what they mean:


Sexual harassment










3. Design a poster for your school, educating students on sexual harassment. List ways that students can identify sexual harassment, and also actions they can take to end the harassment.

4. Research female empowerment groups or organizations in your community or nationwide like #BUILTBYGIRLS, WriteGirl, or Girl Up. How do they help girls feel more empowered? How might these attitudes or behaviors translate to your daily life?

5. Choose one of the harassment scenes from the book and write a skit that can be performed in your classroom. Try portraying the scene a few different ways, where the person playing Mila tries different tactics or techniques. How does that change the harasser’s response? How does the scene change with different reactions from onlookers?

6. Find out if your school has a sexual harassment policy. If so, write about its strengths and weaknesses. Can you suggest any additions? If not, draft a policy with your classmates.

7. Choose one of the characters from the book, and write a conversation that they might have with another friend, sibling, or classmate about what is happening to Mila at school.

Guide written by Bobbie Combs, a consultant at We Love Children's Books.

This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.

Customer Reviews

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Maybe He Just Likes You 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Stacy_Renee 3 months ago
Mila doesn't think much of the strange hug she received unexpectedly while celebrating her friends' birthday--it was harmless after all--but then the same boys start going out of their way to touch her and her fuzzy green sweater. When she finally finds the courage to tell a friend she is told that she should just be happy about the attention she's receiving. Mila can't shake the feeling that the extra attention isn't harmless or friendly at all and she struggles with her feelings and friendships This is one of those books that is so impactful that I can only join in with every other reader to say that it is a must-read. Read the reviews and recommendations, folks. This is the book to read right now! This middle grade read covers harassment, bullying, boundaries, and consent. It gives us a young Seventh-grade student that is outgrowing her old clothes, getting noticed by the boys, and isn't sure how to feel about it. No matter what anyone says, the teasing feels wrong to Mila. She struggles with her feelings, her friendships, and with getting through the school day. This may be a tough read for some or at least angering, but I definitely think it is an important read that could help give young readers the tools needed to deal with their own harassers. Likewise, it may give adults, teachers, and other caregivers the ability to see how small acts of teasing or bullying can build into a much bigger issue or a better grasp on how to handle or help similar situations. Maybe He Just Likes You is an incredibly important read. I would recommend this book to teachers, counselors, and parents especially but also to every young human being that already has or may encounter harassment in their lives. I received a free copy of this book from the published in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Readingjunky 4 months ago
There has been a lot of buzz about this book. I've seen it advertised as a #MeToo book for the middle grades. It truly lived up to all the positive comments for this reader. MAYBE HE JUST LIKES YOU by Barbara Dee needs to be in every middle and high school library. It needs to be read by students and adults. It needs to be discussed by everyone. It totally answers the question printed on the cover - "How do you know when someone crosses the line?" Looking forward to seventh grade, Mila is excited about her friend Omi's birthday. She and her other friends have planned a surprise during lunch. Mila knows Omi will love it. All goes well until several of the seventh grade basketball players try to join the celebration. They insist on hugging the birthday girl, but their hugs actually seem focused on Mila instead. Feeling incredibly uncomfortable as they squeeze her and rub her fuzzy, green sweater, Mila escapes their embraces as soon as possible. For some reason the boys continue the physical contact during other chance meetings with Mila. In the hallway, on the bus, and even in her favorite spot, the band room. When Mila mentions the odd behavior, her friend Zara brushes it off as flirting and asks Mila what she is doing to attract the attention. Mila would love to bring up the uncomfortable situation when she talks to her mother, but when her mother breaks the news that she has lost her job, Mila doesn't want to cause more stress. Overhearing an angry phone call between her divorced parents convinces Mila that she needs to keep things to herself. Author Barbara Dee tells the story of all too familiar behavior identified as sexual harassment. Many readers will be shocked to learn that this harassment takes place in the world of our children. The topic seems an accepted part of our daily lives as the media covers its presence in even the highest office in the land. The time has come to eliminate this harassment, and Barbara Dee's newest book is the perfect vehicle to introduce the subject and encourage discussion.
Librarian723 4 months ago
I have been hearing about this book on Twitter for months, and couldn’t wait to get my hands on it, and it surely did not disappoint. I love the way that Dee handles the tough, very real problem of sexual harassment in middle school. This book explores many emotions that often come up when dealing with harassment: am I overreacting? what did I do to deserve this? am I the only one? is this all in my head? why me? what if I change ____ about myself, will it stop? Mila tries to forget what's happening to her through band and her trumpet playing, which used to be her escape, but not even that is working anymore. Then she finds karate and the discipline that goes with it, and things start to change as she gains confidence and a confidant. This book not only empowers both girls and boys to examine sexual harassment and consent, but also looks at what causes it, and how to deal with it from both sides. Very well done and a must read for all middle schoolers. I will definitely be purchasing this for my library. Note: I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Alex-Baugh 4 months ago
Maybe He Just Likes You is a well-written but difficult book to read, filled with exactly the kind of real confusion and honest emotions you would expect of a seventh grader who isn't sure she's the victim of sexual harassment or the subject of a cruel prank. Either way, it's tricky terrain for Mila. In this well-crafted novel, Dee has captured all the ways in which harassment not only starts, but is allowed to continue. She deftly shows how it begins with Mila's own self-doubt about the boys' motives, reinforced by her friends doubt about it. Maybe Callum just likes you, they tell her, causing Mila to retreat into silence. But while her voice was silenced, her actions weren't. Why, I asked myself, didn't her mother question Mila's sudden decision to wear her baggy old flannel shirt with paint splotches it, even after a big deal was made about it? An why didn't Ms. Fender, the music teacher, not pull Mila aside and try to talk to her the first time she acted out instead of punishing her? Dee show that there are so many missed opportunities to stop what is happening. But they just didn't notice it and that's what happens, isn't it? My heart really went out to Mila and I wonder how many middle grade girls are in the same situation. Hopefully, Maybe He Just Likes You will give give them courage to speak out. It can be very empowering, as Mila discovers.
marongm8 4 months ago
This book was received as an ARC from Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing - Aladdin in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own. I was reluctant to start this book because it talked about a sensitive topic that is seen each day in some way shape or form and now with all that has been going on with sexual harassment, we don't know how to even interpret the most simple cues as being some form of harassment. All of us in one shape or form can relate to Mila and the struggle she goes through in the book. In the book, Mila thought she could find her escape in Band Practice but it happens to be not what she expects and then her friend introduced her to karate and the disciple that is taught from martial arts. This completely changes Mila for the better giving her the feeling of protection and looking into new things in a new light. At some point in my opinion, all young girls going through adolescence should read this book to get an insight of not only what happens with this topic but how to escape and be happy with who you are. We will consider adding this title to our JFiction collection at our library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.