Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli
The totes adorbs factor of this cover is OFF THE CHARTS and fits one aspect of this story very well. However, the cover is tricky in that it gives you the impression you’re about to read a fun and flirty rom-com. Although there definitely IS some of that, Yes No Maybe So also gives readers lots to think about in regards to politics, religion, and the downside of going viral.
Jamie Goldberg is a proud Jewish boy with strong convictions and a desire to run for political office someday. Unfortunately, Jamie is infamous for stumbling over his words and doing embarrassing things. He doesn’t think he is destined for greatness but his heart is huge and he wants to make the world a better place. Since he’s not old enough to vote, he’ll do his part by working for Rossum’s (a local liberal political candidate) campaign. Maya is a proud Muslim girl who loves her family and is having the worst summer ever. Her parents are separating and her best (and only) friend is so obsessed with going to college, she is physically and mentally unavailable. Maya thinks her life would improve if she had a car. Her parents offer her a deal - if she works on Rossum’s campaign, they’ll buy her a car . . . Guess who gets paired up together to knock on the doors of local liberal voters?
So much to love in this book! 1) The dual narrators. Reading the story from both POVs gives readers a close look at what’s going on in Jamie and Maya’s lives when they are not together. The best part of the dual POVs is that they are written by two different authors. Albertalli (herself, Jewish) writes for Jamie and Saeed (herself, Muslim) writes for Maya and their voices are perfect (well, they seem perfect to me, myself, a white Christian, lol). 2) Teens discussing politics. As a high school librarian, I hear students frequently discussing/debating political issues (and many other complex topics) but I rarely see this portrayed in YA lit. 3) InstaGramm. Jamie’s grandma is Insta famous (she’s got the checkmark and everything) and is recruited to be Rossum’s social media manager. She is adorable and when I’m an old lady I wanna be an InstaGramm, too. 4) TARGET. We all love it. We all could spend hours there if we had the time. Well, Jamie and Maya make the time. Target is their hangout (the patio section, of course) and it plays a v important role in their lives and relationship. 5) Culture. Jamie’s mom is planning his little sister’s Bat Mitzvah (lil sis is something else to love in this book, btw) and Maya is fasting during the day for Ramadan so readers will be interested to learn more about those customs. I could go on and on but 5 “so much to loves” seems like enough. You get the idea.
A note about the politics. This story is heavily liberal. The political candidate for whom Jamie and Maya are campaigning is opposing an egocentric conservative with dangerous ethno-nationalistic leanings. There are definitely times the authors get a bit heavy handed with the liberalism. It works because it’s coming from Jamie and Maya and the authors have shown the ideals of these characters and their families, but I could see some readers feeling like the liberalism is overbearing. The authors combat this a bit with inclusion of a conservative character named Kevin, a friend of theirs who works at Target. He’s conservative but is also a kind, open-minded human being. One that listens to both sides of arguments, considers both candidates’ ideas, and makes informed decisions based on what he learns. Y’know, kinda like we all should be doing?
I hope this book encourages teens to become active in the political process! Need to register to vote? Click here. Are you a teen wanting to become more involved? Click here for a great article (lots of good tips for those who aren't yet old enough to vote).