Marisa Kanter’s debut young adult novel, What I Like About You, is the heartfelt, funny, and romantic tale of a friendship between two people that begins online — and what happens when they meet in person, but only one of them knows it.
To celebrate, we’re giving away a copy of What I Like About You — enter the sweepstakes here. And be sure to check out our live Instagram event featuring Marisa and our own editor, Ellen, this Thursday, June 18.
The tagline, Can a love triangle have only two people in it?, is a spot-on description of the main conflict of the book, which becomes almost a comedy of errors as Halle and Nash, the main character and her online-friend-turned-real-life-one, navigate the stormy waters of their relationship.
In addition to the focus on romance and comedy — as this is a rom-com — the novel is about book blogging. In the book, Halle is the teenager behind “One True Pastry,” a blog in which she writes reviews of books and pairs them with cupcake recipes. Meanwhile, Nash is also present in the online book world.
“But I wondered, how would I have reacted if I had met one of my internet friends as a teen?”
Every page of What I Like About You is saturated with a passion for everything bookish, which, as it turns out, was intentional — Kanter herself was a teen blogger and wanted to pay homage to the online friendships she made (she says many of her closest friends were forged online) and the blogging community-at-large.
“As an adult, meeting these internet friends in person has always been a wonderful and validating experience,” Kanter said in an exclusive interview with The Tempest. “But I wondered, how would I have reacted if I had met one of my internet friends as a teen? I wanted to explore this tension between the personas we craft online versus who we are in real life.”
When she was a teen blogger, Kanter said, the blogosphere looks a little different: Twitter wasn’t around as much, and most bloggers were on Blogspot.
“Today’s book bloggers and bookstagrammers are truly content creators,” she added. “I believe bloggers add so much value to publishing and I really wanted to write a book that shouts out all of the hard work that goes into running and maintaining a blog.
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this week i'm highlighting some of the beautiful WILAY bookstagrams i have been tagged in over the last week, beginning with the gorgeous colorful post by @bookslibrariesalsocats!! 😍🧁 #Repost @bookslibrariesalsocats (@get_repost) ・・・ Have you attended any virtual author events? 🧁 I just finished attending the virtual launch for WHAT I LIKE ABOUT YOU and it was so much fun! This YA rom-com about a teen book blogger & cupcake maker is one of my absolute favorite books of the year already. 🧁 Halle has cultivated a confident online personality, Kels, a YA book blogger who makes book-inspired cupcakes. But her world is shaken up when she moves in her grandpa and runs into Nash, her online BFF who has no idea who she really is… 🧁 Words cannot express how much I adore this book! It's full of nuanced #OwnVoices Jewish rep, swoony romance, cupcakes, and diverse characters. WILAY also deals with family, friendship, grief, and so much more. It's a love letter to YA and to teen readers, and I'm going to be screaming about it for the rest of the year. You can be sure I'm buying it for my library & will be recommending it to every single teen. 🧁 Thanks @simonteen for the review copy! Today is the LAST DAY to pre-order WHAT I LIKE ABOUT YOU before it releases tomorrow, so be sure to head over to @marisakanter's page for info on pre-ordering! 🧁 #WhatILikeAboutYou #SimonTeen #RivetedLit #IReadYA #ReadYA #YAReader #YARomance #YAContemporary #BookMail #WhyNotYA #TeenLit #TeenLibrarian #TeenBooks #TeenFiction #ReadAllDay #StayHomeAndRead #InstaReader #RomanceReader #Readstagram #Romancelandia #Romancestagram #IReadRomance #BookNerdsShareLove #BookBlogger #InstaReader #JewishRep #JewishBooks #DiverseBooks
Another aspect of the book that was important to Kanter was that she represented Halle and Nash — both Jewish, like the author herself, as “Jewish teens that were simply existing in the context of their rom-com problems—something I would’ve loved to see as a teen.”
For Kanter, writing is a form of communication that has always been easier than speaking. And she said she loves losing herself in a world she created.
“Outside of the career of it all, writing is the closest thing I have to create magic (when it’s working!),” she said. “Storytelling is fun, first and foremost, and it is certainly not always fun but the moments when everything clicks into place make the hard parts worth it.”
Speaking of fun, Kanter said she decided to “savor” every part of the publication journey for her debut novel — everything from the stress of hard revisions, to the elation of holding ARCs (advanced review copies) and finished hardcovers for the first time.
“Also, I have readers!” she added. “Which I guess shouldn’t be surprising, as that is kind of the point, but that still blows my mind. My readers have been so incredible, I’m so thankful that people have found my book and are connecting with it.”
On the flip side of that, Kanter’s book came out in April — shortly after social distancing orders were put in place due to the coronavirus. Like many other authors, her debut day turned out far different than expected. There was no going to the bookstore to see the book of publication day; no launch at a local bookstore; definitely no physical tour.
“Well, debuting during a global pandemic definitely threw me through a loop—and I certainly went through all of the stages of grief realizing that my debut experience wasn’t going to be what I had planned—both in terms of the mental preparation that goes into debuting and the actual publicity plans and events that were lined up,” Kanter said.
“Debuting your novel during a global pandemic definitely threw me through a loop.”
“Every virtual event I have been a part of has been a blast and I’ve been so grateful to every platform that has hosted me and for the love What I Like About You has received during my quarantine debut,” she added.
Kanter’s second YA rom-com is slated for release in 2021 and, she said, is a love letter to theater. “I cannot wait until I can share more!” she said of the book.
If you pick up What I Like About You and love it, you may be interested in a few other books the author recommends. Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed is out now and is “an utterly charming and empowering romcom about teens canvassing for a local election,” according to Kanter.
In addition, she recommended Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon, which hits bookstores on July 14, 2020, saying it “is the academic rivals to lovers rom-com that dreams are made of.”