Title: Yes No Maybe So
Author: Becky Albertalli & Aisha Saeed
Genre: YA Contemporary
Word/Page Count: 448 (paperback)
Publication Details: by Simon & Schuster Australia on February 4th, 2020
RRP: $17.99 AUD (paperback)
Blurb from Goodreads:
New York Times bestselling authors Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed have crafted a resonant, funny, and memorable story about the power of love and resistance.
Jamie Goldberg is cool with volunteering for his local state senate candidate—as long as he’s behind the scenes. When it comes to speaking to strangers (or, let’s face it, speaking at all to almost anyone), Jamie’s a choke artist. There’s no way he’d ever knock on doors to ask people for their votes…until he meets Maya.
Maya Rehman’s having the worst Ramadan ever. Her best friend is too busy to hang out, her summer trip is canceled, and now her parents are separating. Why her mother thinks the solution to her problems is political canvassing—with some awkward dude she hardly knows—is beyond her.
Going door to door isn’t exactly glamorous, but maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world. After all, the polls are getting closer—and so are Maya and Jamie. Mastering local activism is one thing. Navigating the cross-cultural romance of the century is another thing entirely.
Yes No Maybe So is a sweet, smart and diverse contemporary YA novel that is very firmly grounded in the turbulent political climate of modern day America. As the authors state, “our goal is to tell a story that doesn’t shy away from the complexities of our current reality, but nevertheless remains infused with joy and hope” and they accomplish this beautifully through the two teen protagonists who throw themselves into a small town electoral campaign.
Jamie and Maya have first-person perspectives in alternating chapters, which allows the reader to fully understand their personal lives and influences, and sheds light on their behavior which is often ambiguous or baffling to the other character. Jamie endeared himself to me right from the start, I love reading about sensitive, caring teenage boys who adore their family and aren’t afraid to wear their heart on their sleeve. He’s super awkward and kind of a dork, but that just makes him even more fun and relatable.
I took a while to warm up to Maya because she comes off a lot colder and can be quite self-involved. Even when reading in her perspective and seeing what she’s going through, it’s still not that enjoyable to deal with her whining, although it is quite realistic for a teenage girl whose parents are splitting up and best friend is outgrowing her to be moody and prone to lashing out. I completely empathize and have acted out like Maya does, so the writing is on point, but it doesn’t make it fun to read. However I think a lot of readers will relate to her struggles and her efforts to establish a new normal in her life after having her world turned upside down, and her character growth as she eventually becomes aware of her short-sightedness when it comes to recognizing other people’s problems is fantastic.
What sets this book apart from others about two very different teens being forced through circumstance to spend time together and gradually falling in love is the political element. Jordan Rossum’s campaign is what brings Jamie and Maya together, it’s what each of them focuses on when they’re apart, it seeps into their personal lives (Jamie even incorporates politics into his speech at his sister’s bat mitzvah!) and it’s the center of the drama towards the ending. I’m not an American, but the local political situation was very easy to grasp without the authors needing to provide lengthy exposition, and the urgency and passion that our protagonists felt was contagious, making me root for them to win over voters to their candidate.
I enjoyed the message about how every vote counts and focusing on winning this one seat in one district, instead of incorporating something more lofty and dramatic like a presidential campaign. Trying to thwart the election of a senator who is championing a discriminatory anti-Muslim bill gives the story real stakes that rings true to Islamophobic rhetoric that has unfortunately become louder in recent years, and although it can be gut-wrenching to read about the conflicts and setbacks these teens face, the story is also immensely validating, inspirational and heartwarming.
I really loved the diversity explored in this book as Jamie is Jewish and Maya is Muslim, and while I can’t speak to the accuracy of the representation since I’m neither, it felt sincere and thoughtful in its depiction of their differing faiths and heritage. The discussion about racism was quite nuanced and I appreciated how the book touched on open prejudice in the form of a bigot who sneered at Maya as well as insidious racism expressed through microaggressions that may not be easily recognized, but are just as harmful. There’s also LGBT representation with secondary characters in a gay relationship and also a super touching coming out scene that made me smile and my heart burst over how sweet it was.
If you’re a fan of YA books that deal with the issues facing our multicultural society and the importance of political activism, or if the sound of two diverse teens fighting to make their voice heard and influence change sounds good to you, then definitely pick this up!
Personal Rating: 4 out of 5 kitties recommend this book.
Disclaimer: Physical copy provided by publisher free for an unbiased review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.