Many thanks to Netgalley for providing me with an ARC of Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed. All opinions are my own!
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.
Trigger warnings: Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic hate crimes, racism, gaslighting (not between love interests), non-consensual photography (not between love interests)
Let me start off by saying that I think that this book is going to set the tone for YA in 2020 and beyond. At its core, this book is about two politically active teens who are doing their upmost to change modern politics, even when they’re not old enough to vote. I think that is going to hugely resonate with the teens who read it, and I think it might even be a bit of a wake up call to authors who perhaps have been a bit nervous to make politics and activism central to the plot of their YA fiction. Yes No Maybe So is a great depiction of teenage life today, and the lessons that teenagers are learning – i.e., it’s okay to take breaks from politics and activism sometimes, because you’re not going to be effective if you’re completely burned out. (If I can say that, being an old-ass 23-year-old).
This book is about Jamie, a Jewish teenager who has been helping with the campaign for a local state senate candidate, and Maya, a Pakistani-American Muslim girl, who needs something to do with herself whilst her parents start a short-term separation. And while it was the politics and activism plot that initially drew me to this book, I also thought that their romance was really cute! I am neither Muslim nor Jewish, so I can’t speak for the representation of religion, but it was interesting to read how religion did play a part in both of their lives – Maya because this book takes place over Ramadan and Eid, and Jamie because he helps organise his little sister’s bat mitzvah. (As a side note, I really love that inter-faith relationships are getting more representation in books!)
One of the other aspects of the book that I thought was brilliant was the use and discussion of social media. It frustrates me to no end that a lot of YA books have next to no mention of apps like Instagram or Twitter. I get that referencing these apps might date the book in the future, but it is such a huge part of life right now that it feels weird for them not to play a part in contemporary novels. In Yes No Maybe So social media actually plays a really big part in the plot. From Jamie’s Instagram-famous Grandma (who I love and adore) to live-streaming to anti-Semitic memes which are clearly based on the Pepe the frog, this book really goes the distance with the representation of social media. I really think that this, alongside the political aspects, made this book really special.
Finally, I just wanted to mention that I thought that the co-writing between Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed worked really well. I wasn’t the hugest fan of Becky Albertalli’s other co-written book, What If It’s Us, so it was great to see that this was a book-specific problem for me. I think both of them really brought Maya and Jamie to life in a way that I think is very relatable.
This book will be published in February 2020.