Title: What I Like About Me
Author: Jenna Guillaume
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Published: 26th February 2019
Synopsis: You know those movies where teenagers have the summer of their lives?
This summer is probably not going to be that.
Here lies Maisie Martin, dead from embarrassment, aged sixteen.
The last thing 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 best friend starts going out with the boy she’s always loved.
But Maisie’s got something to prove. And she’s not going to let anything or anyone – including herself – hold her back.
SHORTLISTED FOR THE READINGS YOUNG ADULT BOOK PRIZE 2019
Maisie Martin, age sixteen is about to embark on a summer and Christmas that will change things in so many ways, and will not be the summer Maisie envisaged, like in so many teen movies she has seen. And we have all seen those movies – the perfect body, the perfect parties, the perfect first kiss, the perfect everything. But Maisie’s summer is so far from that. Her dad isn’t on holiday with them, her older sister hasn’t spoken to her for years, and she’s worried about her friend, Anna, has a crush on her best mate, Seb, and ugh, there’s also Beamer. But then Maisie meets Leila, who encourages Maisie to not only enter the local beauty pageant, but to see herself as beautiful, and to love herself, regardless of what others say. Leila is the kind of friend we all need – the friend who bolsters us and sees beyond the physical. Who makes us feel perfect – just as we are, to quote Mark Darcy, if I may.
This was the kind of book I would have loved as a teenager, would have related to, and still relate to today. Maisie, like many of us, have been sent messages by media and society about the perfect, acceptable body. The kind of figures that should be seen in public – the attitudes that Maisie has heard from those around her and come to accept and think about herself. She’s not stick thin like her sister, she’s plus-sized, and in my mind – perfect. She was flawed and she was allowed to be, she wasn’t the stereotypical teen. The whole way through as she criticised herself, I felt isolated from everyone, I wanted to tell her that people loved her – just as she is (yes, quoting Mark Darcy again). Because like Bridget Jones, Maisie has worth beyond what society and certain people deem so.
I loved the positive energy from this book – the support Maisie’s friends gave her, especially Bess and Leila. They’re the kind of people you want in your corner when everyone else in your life thinks you can’t or shouldn’t do something because of superficial things, how they see you, or because they think they’re protecting you. I found that I identified a lot with Maisie, and even today, I think her story can speak to adults as well as teens, as sometimes adults also need reassuring that they are perfect just as they are, that their flaws are what makes them, well, them, and that they don’t need to fit into neat categories to function in or to be part of society. It is a book that will speak to many, that will give those often not represented a sense of place, as it shows that whatever we look like, we should fit in and take the space meant for us. And ignore the people who think we should hide away.