Emergency Contact meets Moxie in this cheeky and searing novel that unpacks just how complicated new love can get…when you fall for your enemy.

Eliza Quan is the perfect candidate for editor in chief of her school paper. That is, until ex-jock Len DiMartile decides on a whim to run against her. Suddenly her vast qualifications mean squat because inexperienced Len—who is tall, handsome, and male—just seems more like a leader.

When Eliza’s frustration spills out in a viral essay, she finds herself inspiring a feminist movement she never meant to start, caught between those who believe she’s a gender equality champion and others who think she’s simply crying misogyny.

Amid this growing tension, the school asks Eliza and Len to work side by side to demonstrate civility. But as they get to know one another, Eliza feels increasingly trapped by a horrifying realization—she just might be falling for the face of the patriarchy himself.

Published by Katherine Tegen Books in September 2021!

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Female characters being ‘unlikeable’ immediately makes me like them, but when the female character isn’t really unlikeable and is, in fact, simply unafraid, I instantly fall for them. You can call her rude, hotheaded, and stubborn; or you can call her confident, determined, and ambitious. The way Eliza’s attitude could be labelled as either, and not just the latter, tells a lot about the societal constrictions through which girls are perceived—and this YA contemporary excellently comments on the same.

Eliza, Chinese-Vietnamese-American, is snubbed as the next editor-in-chief of the school paper for Len, white-Japanese former basketball player. Now Eliza is left wondering how a less qualified male peer impressed everyone to win votes for this position: is it his irresistible charm, or him being more likeable, or him benefitting from a sexist school system? She decides to pour her mind out in a rage-filled article on a newsroom computer, covering everything from merit, or the lack thereof, to the institutionalized sexism at her school. When the piece is immediately taken down, Eliza comes under a spotlight and takes the torch to shine a light on feminism, against misogyny, and for herself.

Between leading a feminist reckoning and falling for the boy she’s asking to step down, Eliza continues to uphold her imperfectness if being vocal as a woman is one. She knows the acknowledgments she deserves and she isn’t shying away from shouting about it, no matter how strongly the patriarchal systems and microaggressions try to suffocate her. In addition to dismantling the repeated criticisms women often receive—‘not being too nice’—this story wonderfully targets internalized misogyny, girl on girl hate, gender stereotypes, racism and classism; all the while unravelling the Asian-American experiences of immigrant children, the familial pressure they carry, and the need for achievements when you’re a marginalized personality.

The romance is classic through a rivals-to-lovers trope set against a high school backdrop and supported by adorable moments and a relationship gradually building upon cute scenarios, genuine conversations, and wholesome visits to get boba. All in all, this debut stood strong on feminist grounds and gave me the same emotional rush of cheering for a female protagonist who refuses to be complacent or boxed in gentleness that From Twinkle, With Love brought—and, in fact, doubled it up with delight, despite the title saying it’s not here to be liked.

my rating ↣ ★★★★★

Buy the book: Amazon US | Bookshop UK | Amazon IN


N O T E

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One thought on “Book Review: Not Here To Be Liked by Michelle Quach

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