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.
*I was sent an ARC of this novel via NetGalley and Usborne Publishing in exchange for an honest review – thank you so much for the opportunity to read this one early*
Not Here to be Liked is a fresh and interesting Y/A contemporary which explores some important issues with a sweet rivals to lovers romance in the mix, which readers will be sure to enjoy.
Generally speaking titles reflect the story and tie in to the message of the book and I can definitely say that’s very true here. Eliza is definitely not here to be liked, she’s prickly, critical and highly focused with ambition in spades and I really liked that. Is she the easiest character to like? No, but is she interesting? For sure. I don’t think that a character has to be likeable or palatable to be interesting to read about and I liked that Eliza was unapologetically herself at all times.
I also appreciated that Eliza did undergo some character development and growth, making some key realisations about who she is and that she doesn’t have to hold herself back either. I also think it’s important to note how Eliza has certain preconceived judgements of some of her peers, including Len and Serena, who are both part of the popular crowd and how she is forced to realise that she’s in the wrong at times and holds herself accountable for these instances.
A key element within the novel is the discussion of Feminism and what this means to Eliza and the other characters. While the conversations around feminism within the novel aren’t always handled perfectly, I think this is more realistic. I liked how all the characters talked about what feminism meant to them, with certain ideas and standards being challenged and with Eliza and others changing their minds and being more educated as a result. There was definitely ‘I’m not like other girls’ syndrome going on with Eliza at the beginning of the novel so I’m glad that this was explored and Eliza realises there’s no one way to be a feminist and express yourself. There’s a wide range of ways to express yourself and they’re all okay.
While Len is the ‘face of the patriarchy’ and all, it doesn’t stop sparks flying between him and Eliza and their subsequent friendship and relationship was so cute. I liked the slow development and how it was built up over time, over grudging boba dates, baseball games and a shared love of reading. I also think it’s important in a Y/A book to explore consent and boundaries, so it definitely ticked this box as Eliza and Len take things slow and have honest discussions about their experiences and expectations.
While there’s nothing glaringly ‘wrong’ with this book, I think there’s a definite lack of depth and development all over. There’s a lot of issues which Quach touches upon, but not enough time to really dive deep into these which is a shame because there’s a lot of potential here. I would have loved to spent more time with Eliza and her family for instance or more time with Winona, Eliza’s best friend who is an aspiring filmmaker. I also think that Len was sort of underdeveloped despite being one of the main characters and the love interest.
Overall, Not Here to be Liked was an easy and read which I can imagine many readers enjoying over the fall months. While it’s probably more of a one time read for me, I would still recommend this book to fans of Y/A contemporaries, rivals to lovers romance and a feminist driven narrative, with interesting discussions on key topics.
Until next time,