I was super excited to get to read this one early. I really like Becky Albertalli, I love Simon vs. (wasn’t a huge fan of Leah and I did not really like What If It’s Us, but still) and I really like the fact that this was co-written by Aisha Saeed. I haven’t read her previous books, but I find collaborations between authors interesting, and I really like the premise of this novel — elections and political activism are so important right now for America (and my own country, and the rest of the world tbh) and I think speaking to young people and teens about this through literature is really important and I loved seeing a book try to tackle that. This did not work for me fully as a novel on its own, but I appreciate what this book was trying to do and I am glad that young people will be able to pick this one up soon.
This novel follows Jamie, a shy, awkward kid who gets roped into helping a local campaign for a special election, while also being in the middle of a bat mitzvah preparations for his sister, and Maya, who is dealing with her parents’ separation and her friend ghosting her. Jamie and Maya were childhood friends, and after a run-in at an event, Maya decides to join the campaign and start canvassing with Jamie, because her mother promises that she’ll get her a car in return.
I really liked Maya as a main character. I believe Saeed wrote Maya’s parts, and Albertalli wrote Jamie’s (I am pretty sure that’s how it went) and I found myself enjoying Maya’s perspective a lot. I liked her character growth and I like how her struggles with her parents’ relationship were incorporated into the novel, and how her friendship with her friend was discussed throughout the novel. I feel like it’s very common for people to start to drift apart once college starts happening, so I liked seeing Maya come to terms with that.
I also feel like Maya’s interest in politics happened pretty organically. She starts helping the campaign because she wants a car, but she gets involved and starts caring and I feel like it made total sense, and it was portrayed really well.
This book also managed to show the importance of even small-scale elections and use it to sort of give a sense of purpose and hope when people feel like they can’t actually make a difference. So I think that was a lovely part of the novel.
Additionally, I did enjoy Jamie and Maya’s growing friendship and romance, and it was nicely balanced with the rest of the plot. It was an essential part of the novel, but not really the point of it. I also really enjoyed the discussions around religion and faith in this novel, it was a lovely addition to the story.
However, Jamie’s perspective really did not work for me. I found it incredibly annoying and I felt like it was trying too hard to be this cute brand of awkward. But it did not work and it felt totally strained and artificial. I find that pretty strange since I really enjoy Albertalli’s narrative voice, but it was kind of too much and trying too hard to be this brand of cutesy, but still nerdy which I did not enjoy.
I also don’t like how the perspective shift was handled. I feel like whenever we switched from Maya’s to Jamie’s perspective, Jamie gave us a rundown of all things that just happened, and I just did not care for it. I feel like it cut the story’s flow and did not work well for Jamie and Maya’s dynamic. I think it suffered from the perspectives clashing and never fully complementing each other in a satisfying way.
I also really felt like the messages this novel was trying to get across were so on the nose and spoon-fed to the reader. I understand I am not the target audience here, but my experiences with teens online really makes me feel like they don’t need to be told this stuff so blatantly. I just felt like this was preachy at times, and I don’t think the audience necessitates that. I never like when authors coddle and hold their readers’ hands throughout the novel, but I do understand why this book was doing that. For me personally, it was too much, but like I said, I fully acknowledge that it’s not for me, I am old.
Additionally, all the pop culture references, and the cutesy social media stuff did not really work for me. The super hip grandma that’s popular on Instagram and a diva feels kind of stale, and like it’s been done before. I also did not like the way this ended, never really worked for me.
This also could have been a 100 pages shorter and it would have done the book wonders, since it suffers not only from pacing issues, but also a lot of filler stuff that neither builds characters, nor does it drive the plot further, so it felt sort of pointless.
This was a cute and enjoyable read and I am glad I got around to reading it. I think it will do wonders for teens, and I am super glad it exists. It wasn’t my favorite read ever, and I had some qualms with it, but it’s definitely a case of “it’s not you, it’s me” and I would still recommend this one.
I would love to hear from you — are you planning on picking this one up? Have you read any of the authors’ previous books? Let me know!
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