A right on Rom Com that’s an addictive read.
17-year-old Jamie Goldberg is not good at social interaction, especially with girls. That’s why he prefers to stay well and truly behind the scenes when his family rope him into helping Democrat candidate, Jordan Rossum, campaign for state Senate. Maya Rehman, in contrast, would prefer to stay as far away as possible from all types of politics. Sadly, things are not going well for her: Maya’s parents are separating, her summer trip has been cancelled and her best friend is always too busy to see her. Her mother is concerned Maya isn’t getting out and offers her the ultimate bribe – a car in return for joining the Rossum campaign. Jamie and Maya find themselves canvassing door to door and in the process discover more than they bargained for about society, themselves and each other. Could this lead to a relationship? The answer is far from clear – like the voters they canvas, it could be Yes, No, or Maybe So.
If you’re a right-wing Republican in the US or Conservative in the UK, it is unlikely that this book will appeal to you. While it remains a romantic comedy at heart, it directly addresses issues around the rise of prejudice and discrimination since Donald Trump came to power (while recognising that none of this is new) and the plot at least partially revolves around the challenges of cross-cultural relationships. Indeed, those from a right-wing political viewpoint are unlikely to like either of our strong first-person voices – Jamie is proudly Jewish while Maya is Muslim.
Luckily, my views are more aligned to the left and I loved this book. The alternate first-person narrative voices are distinct (as a collaborative book I can’t help speculating that they each wrote one character) and both Jamie and Maya are equally appealing. I particularly liked reading how Jamie inadvertently fails to recognise Maya’s commitments during Ramadan and found myself learning with him.
The text is very American which I often find less appealing. (Indeed, I’m frequently disappointed that so many British publishers are currently choosing to import USA YA fiction when there are so many outstanding British YA authors, many of whom are now moving into adult fiction to make ends meet). However, the setting in this book is exceptionally strong, from the details around the state Senate campaign to Jamie’s love of his local Target store.
One thing that UK readers may not appreciate is the charisma required to run for office in the USA. (I am fortunate that I interviewed a large number of USA politicians as part of my postgraduate degree and have first-hand experience of the staggering difference between even small time American candidates who have to be TV / media savvy and the average British politician). I, therefore, found it easy to understand how Maya so easily becomes a Rossum fangirl but I suspect this may seem strange to most British readers.
If you enjoyed the relationships in this story, you might like to read What if it’s us? by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera or, perhaps, Odd One Out by Nic Stone. Alternatively, if you’re looking for a British YA story with a political twist, I’d highly recommend Night of the Party by Tracey Mathias or Riot by Sarah Mussi.