P.S. I Like You by Kasie West
Publication Date: July 26, 2016
Rating: 4 stars
Source: Review copy sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
What if the person you were falling for was a total mystery?
While Lily is spacing out in Chemistry one day, she picks up her pencil and scribbles a line from one of her favorite songs on the desk. The next day, someone else has written back to her on the desk! Soon enough Lily and the mystery student are exchanging notes, and lyrics, and even sharing secrets. When Lily finds out that her anonymous pen pal is a guy, she's flustered -- and kind of feels like she's falling for him. She and her best friend set out to unravel the identity of the letter writer -- but when the truth is revealed, the guy is the LAST person Lily could have ever imagined it to be. Now that Lily knows the truth, can she untangle her feelings and gather the courage to listen to her heart?
From beloved author Kasie West (The Distance Between Us) comes an utterly charming story about mixed messages, missed connections, and the magic of good old-fashioned secret admirer notes.
What I Liked:
***SPOILER FREE REVIEW***
(As in, I am not going to say who the mystery pen pal writer is. Nor am I going to say who the love interest is. In fact, I'm going to name one person - Lily.)
I may not be a fan of YA contemporary in general, but Kasie West writes contemporary that I enjoy. I've loved all of her previous books - Pivot Point, Split Second, The Distance Between Us, On the Fence, The Fill-In Boyfriend - and now, P.S. I Like You!
Lily's Chemistry teacher has had enough of Lily constantly scribbling non-Chemistry things in her notebook during class. He tells her that she can have one sheet of paper out, and she must show it to him after class. No more writing lyrics. No more doodles. So what's a girl got to do? Write lyrics on the desk, of course. And the next day, what does she find? The next line to the song! Someone else in a different Chemistry period wrote on the desk, and knew the song (and lyrics), which was an indie song. Writing on the desk progresses to pieces of paper wedged under the desk, and then to letters. Lily has no idea who her mystery pen pal is, but she knows that he is a guy, he has a tough home life, and he has a rare and great taste in music, very similar to her (eccentric) tastes. But what happens when that mystery boy is the last person she'd expect? Lily must untangle her feelings for an anonymous pen pal and the boy in real life.
Lily is such a wonderful protagonist, as all of West's female protagonists are! She is a little sarcastic, and has a strange sense of humor, not uncommon in West's works. But one thing makes Lily stand out among West's protagonists - Lily is pretty awkward. She has a crush on this guy but she refuses to even smile at him, let alone walk up to him and say hi. She gets nervous and says silly, ridiculous things (which is cute and funny!). And then there are the song lyrics she writes - she refuses to read them or sing or play in front of anyone. Poor Lily!
Lily is the second child of four; she shares a room with her older sister, who is nineteen and in college. Wyatt is ten and Jonah is seven. Lily's family is a large one, and a messy, chaotic one (reminiscent of the Garretts from My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick - only I liked this Abbott family more!). Lily often feels like she has to make many sacrifices for her family, like missing out on outings with her best friend, or having to get picked up in the van with her younger brothers (embarrassing, trust me). Lily's family dynamic is a big part of this book, and it's both sweet and heartbreaking. I'm not a middle child (I'm a youngest!) but I really felt bad for Lily. Her family is fun, and nice, but it sucks to be her, stuck in the middle, not yet in college.
This story had it all! Best friend friendship (which was rock solid, and I loved it), academic struggles (I love chemistry - sorry, Lily!), boy troubles (well, not really "troubles"... but there was the mystery pen pal, and then there was a huge jerk who liked to pick fights with Lily, and then there was Lily's original dreamy crush who Lily never wanted to actually talk to... not all of these boys I'm mentioning were present romantically in the story), family troubles. There were some heavy stuff in this book, but I wouldn't even call it heavy? The tone of this book is lighthearted and fun, and even the sad heavy stuff didn't drag the story down.
There is also a little bit of girl drama, but it isn't as extreme and catfight-y as it could have been. By the end of the book, the other girl isn't trying to kill Lily or anything (or vice versa). They kind of just go their separate ways, peacefully. But during the story, the other girl was a bit cruel. But again, not overly extreme in drama!
Let's talk about our mystery guy! He was fairly obvious to me, from the start. But I was totally on board with who he was. The guy in the letters is sweet and sensitive and doesn't mind opening up to a stranger about his home life. His dad left him and his mom, and his mom remarried to spite his dad, and he hates his dad and his stepdad... it's a sad story, and I wanted to hug our mystery man. Mystery man is swoony in the letters and in real life. West didn't always have me sold in terms of liking him (initially, I didn't totally like him), but I loved him by the end.
For those wondering - mystery man's identity is revealed about halfway through the book. He is not someone that Lily expected him to be. She finds out who he is, but he doesn't know who she is yet. She is shocked, but she knows that she has feelings for our mystery man, both on paper, and eventually she realizes, in real life as well. I like that the reveal is somewhat "early" (unlike in Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, in which the reveal is in the last five pages or so. Great book, by the way).
Obviously I'm not going to say who it is. I'm also not going to say anything about the love interest, because the love interest IS the pen pal/mystery man. But I will say that there is NO love triangle (or any geometry) in this book, and I adored the romance. It was sweet! The relationship between Lily and The Guy progressed both in the letters, and in real life, simultaneously, without Lily (or him) knowing. It's interesting and adorable, how West did this!
I love how Lily and mystery man fit, by the way. They are perfect for each other. Their personalities rub perfectly, and he is so comfortable with her and her crazy family. I love it!
I could see myself rereading this one soon, and in the future! The story is so sweet and so inspiring, honestly. Lily comes out of her shell, and does things that she wouldn't have done at the beginning of the story. Like go out with mystery man! Or perform in a song-writing contest! I loved this story. I can't wait for more West novels!
What I Did Not Like:
Only a few complaints, and they may seem minor. The first -- the mystery boy seemed so obvious, to me. I think this book was supposed to be more about the "journey" of these two, and not the outcome (i.e. Lily finding out who he was), but still. HE was obviously him. The love interest is always the male that the author spends way too much time describing physically! Or telling backstory or connections to the female protagonist, etc.
Complaint number two: so Lily's songwriting competition... there is an aspect of it that is left to our imagination, at the end. I won't tell you exactly WHAT is left to the readers to dream up, but it's slightly open-ended. I hate anything open-ended! I want authors to lay it all out for me!
Would I Recommend It:
YA contemporary fan or not, I'd recommend this book. It's somewhat shorter than most YA novels, but oh-so enjoyable. I was hooked as I was reading, and I couldn't read fast enough. Rooting for Lily was easy, but rooting for mystery man came easily as well. I'm not usually a YA contemporary fan, but I love West's books, and this book is no exception!
4.5 stars. I was trying to decide if I should round up or down, so in the meantime, I'll round down. STILL, a very solid and excellent novel by West, definitely worth the long wait between West books. I want more!
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