Authors: Becky Albertalli + Aisha Saeed
Genre: YA contemporary, romance
Format: Paperback ARC + audiobook
Rating: 4 stars
TWs: Islamophobia, antisemitism, racism, sexism.
Jamie Goldberg is cool with volunteering for his local state candidate – as long as he’s behind the scenes. 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 cancelled, her parents are separating and now her mother thinks the solution to her problems is political canvassing – with some awkward guy she hardly knows …
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 crush of the century is another thing entirely.
Thank you to Simon and Schuster Children’s for sending me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influences my opinion of the novel.
After reading this book, I can only describe Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed as a winning combination. They’re like peanut butter and chocolate. Apple and cinnamon. Holmes and Watson. Books and tea.
They just go together brilliantly. And they’re created a seamless, riveting read.
Get ready for a contemporary that’s equal parts sweet, powerful, and funny, as it navigates current of sociopolitical issues.
Plot and pacing
Yes No Maybe So is a story of family, friendship, romance, and politics. But at its heart it’s a story of empowerment. It encourages readers of all ages (but especially teens) to exercise their democratic rights and fight for what they believe in.
Loosely based on the 2016 US presidential campaign, the story follows Maya and Jamie, childhood friends who have grown apart, as they begin to canvas for their local representative. I loved Maya and Jamie’s burgeoning friendship and their growing enthusiasm for their political cause.
A big part of the story is the fact that Maya and Jamie can’t vote yet, despite putting so much time and effort into campaigning. Both are too young, but put all their energy into doing other things to positively impact the Rossum campaign.
Becky and Aisha have said that this aspect of the story was inspired by a lot of teens they knew during the 2016 campaign, who were frustrated that they couldn’t vote, but still wanted to do something to make a difference.
The pacing of the story remains consistent throughout, and the plot has the same feel as Simon VS and The Upside of Unrequited, with lots of micro-plot points and pivotal scenes for character growth.
Aisha Saeed wrote Maya’s POV and Becky Albertalli wrote Jamie’s, but each chapter feels seamless. You can’t tell where one author’s narrative ends and another begins and that’s down to excellent writing and editing. I asked Aisha and Becky about this during their UK tour, and they said it was also down to their similar writing styles and close friendship.
Both POVs are own voices; Maya is Muslim and Jamie is Jewish. The book tackles issues such as Islamophobia and antisemitism, challenging both and explicitly showing the impact they can have on young people. At different points in the story, both Jamie and Maya are made to feel unsafe in their own communities.
But there are also a lot of light-hearted moments, and both authors balance the scales really well between fun and serious scenes.
I really liked both Jamie and Maya, and their respective families. Maya is calm and confident where Jamie is more unsure and socially awkward, but it’s Jamie’s enthusiasm that inspires Maya to continue helping out with the campaign.
Their romance seems (perhaps) an unlikely one, because their personalities are so different, but the way they grow closer and begin to understand each other more, feels very natural. Aisha does a great job of exploring what it’s like to have parents that are separating, and Becky discusses social anxiety with sensitivity and empathy.
I had such a fun time reading this and it gave me a few Red White & Royal Blue vibes, although the main romance is straight. There are, however, queer characters and relationships, as well as people of colour in positions of power, making this a diverse read, as well as an own voices one.
I’d recommend this is you’re looking for a book that combines romance and politics, with dogs, Target, speeches and family highs and lows. I hope Becky and Aisha write another book together because I loved this one and would definitely read more of their combined work.