I studied political science in college and reading books that discuss politics is something I love I also love reading books and watching TV shows with heavy election plots. Shoutout to my faves The West Wing and Red, White & Royal Blue. However, often fictional elections are more fun than real elections.
Today is the 2020 US presidential election. It mentally exhausted me and I spent September/October trying to lose myself in fictional elections. It did not really provide me with the escape I wanted, but I did enjoy reading some YA books with a very similar theme.
Running by Natalia Sylvester
Published July 14, 2020
Plot: Mari’s dad is running for president and Mari is struggling between blindly supporting her father and agreeing to everything his campaign wants her to do and finding her voice.
Thoughts: This one started out great and then sort of slowed down for me. I consume a ton of political fictional media and have always wanted to read something focused on the kids. I lowkey was going to outline a story that did just that. There are some great themes and ideas explored here, but it just did not draw me in in the way I wanted it to. I do adore the cover! I mean the confetti? Her sign? The hoops?!
I wish this novel just came out and said that Mari’s dad is a Republican. I know that they said he was part of the GOP, but why not say Republican? Do teens even know that the GOP party is the Republican party? Also, is Mari’s dad supposed to be Marco Rubio? A Cuban from Florida running in the presidential primary? It was a bit odd.
I really liked the theme of finding your voice and how disagreeing with your parents about politics is part of it. This is the most central theme to the novel and the most important, I am happy teens have this novel because I could have used something like this when I was younger, but it did not hit the same way since I am an adult.
I also did not like the ending even though I felt it was realistic, I just want some escapism and happy moments? Maybe I should not be reading books about politics then?
As an adult who reads YA, I try to be very aware of the space I take up while reading these books and I never want my criticisms to be seen as too harsh, because I am in my twenties, these books are not written for me. I love that teens get to have this book to read and explore their political identities, but the book did not work for me. Also, I am definitely not in the norm, as this one is getting rave reviews from everyone.
The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert
Publication Date: July 7, 2020
Plot: Marva has been waiting her whole life to be able to vote in her first presidential election. Duke is voting too, but shows up at the wrong polling place. Marva offers to help him and is determined to get him to his polling place. Over the course of the day, they run into challenge after challenge, but would not change it for the world.
Thoughts: Wow! I loved this one. This was my first Brandy Colbert book and I can’t wait to read everything she writes. I love books that take place over 24 hours and this one is more like 12 hours?
So many important themes are discussed in this book Duke’s family has been personally affected by gun violence and his sister is a mini activist. His family is greieving the loss of his older brother and exploring what it means to survive without him. Marva is super adamant about voting in general and has worked so hard prior to this election.
Marva also runs a very popular cat Instagram page and is worried that people won’t take her seriously if they find out. This is a side plot, but I still think it is very important that it is discussed. As a society we expect people to act a certain way and Marva, an A student and future lawyer who is serious about activism, shouldn’t also enjoy taking photos of her cat right? But, she does. Teenagers (and girls especially) do not always fit in a box and we should not judge them for their interests. If someone finds joy in something, let them.
I appreciated the conversations Duke and Marva had related to being Black in their city and in the United States. Duke is biracial and Marva has a white boyfriend and goes to a mostly white school. These conversations are important. I also loved when Duke meets Marva’s dad and they talk about Morehouse. I’m sure Black readers would pick up much more of the nuances of their culture than I did.
The parents! In YA parents are usually not super present, but in this one all four parents are present. I cried twice with Duke’s relationship with his dad is shown and Marva’s parents were just the best.
I honestly do not have any complaints about this one. 5/5 stars
TW: gun violence & sibling death (off page)
*Thanks to NetGalley & the publisher for an eARC in exchange for an honest review* I clearly read this wayyy late.
Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli & Aisha Saeed
Publication Date: February 4, 2020 (this came out in 2020? Could’ve sworn it was 2019)
Plot: Jaime is shy and despite volunteering on a local campaign, has been doing mostly behind the scenes help. Maya is having the worst summer ever, as her parents are in the process of splitting up. Both of them end up canvassing (knocking on potential voter’s doors) together and despite themselves, start enjoying themselves. When a bill enters the state senate that would ban hijabs and anti semitism in the community rises, it becomes personal for both of them and they want to fight for change in their community.
Thoughts: I had been putting off reading this book because I’ve canvased a lot and was worried that this would not be an accurate representation of the book. Also, I am not the biggest fan of canvassing, so why would I want to read about it? However, I am glad I finally picked it up because for the most part, I really enjoyed it. And lowkey canvassing is only described in detail a few times.
I loved how this book focuses on a special local election and shows the direct impacts of it. Local elections are so important for their communities and often we focus on the larger elections instead of them. Also, the authors share in their author’s note that this is based on a real election in Georgia that they volunteered in which is fantastic.
I loved both Jamie & Maya and even though they are written by different authors, Albertalli and Saeed’s voices fit together perfectly and you really cannot tell they are written by two different authors. This is funny too! I LOLd multiple times. Jamie and Maya have such a fun banter. I also loved Jamie’s family. Both Albertalli and Saeed have great voices and I need to read more from Saeed as I have read almost all of Albertalli’s books.
Despite the fact that this is a well written & important, YA novel it was a bit hard to read at times. As we are currently in the midst of a presidential election that feels so critical, I am having policy discussions almost daily and living/breathing it (even if I don’t always want to) as a result, this book was not the escape I thought it would be. Maya and Jamie talk policy, which I want to emphasize, is so important for teens to read. Was is great for me to read less than a month out from the 2020 presidential election? No.
I’m not going to give a star rating because I don’t think it would be fair. I really enjoyed this book, the humor and the discussion of politics was great, along with the different family dynamics shown. But, it might have hit a bit too close to home at some parts that made me not want to pick it up.
TW: islamophobia, anti-Semitism, racism
Overall, I enjoyed this experiment and am glad it “forced” me to pick up some books that had been on my TBR for awhile.
See below for some photographic proof of my campaign volunteering days. Featuring: a terrible selfie (I walked seven miles that day), a street I canvassed, and a sign from a polling place on Election Day.
Do you know of any books that follow elections? Leave them in the comments for me to see!
Thanks for reading!