Thursday 13 February 2020

Book Review: Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed

(Many thanks to Simon & Schuster for giving me a copy of this at an event.)

Yes No Maybe So is about a Jewish guy, Jamie and a Muslim girl, Maya, who fall for each other during a summer campaigning for a local Democrat. It's a warm-hearted, funny and hopeful look at politics, crushes, cross-cultural relationships and resistance.

Both of the main characters here are going through tough times and are hugely sympathetic. Jamie's petrified of the speech he's been told he needs to make at his sister's upcoming bat mitzvah, while Maya is reeling from her parents deciding to undergo a trial separation, and the best friend she's so close to practically ignoring her to spend time getting ready for college. Their relationship develops really well; they start hanging out to campaign for their own reasons but it's a deep, deep bond between them which eventually forms as they find out more and more about each other and make sure they're helping each other to survive the bad stuff. There are also a host of great side characters - in particular Jamie's gran, a social media superstar for the campaign.

While the central romance is the main relationship in the story, I also liked the way the family ties in each case were developed, with Maya's parents' separation playing a big part, while Jamie's struggle to get past his nervousness at public speaking to give the speech his sister deserves shows how much he cares for her, and his disagreements with his cousin Gabe - the assistant campaign manager, who's significantly more forceful in his desperation for Rossum to win - show different approaches to activism really well.

I loved the way the story progressed towards the bat mitzvah and the election, both of which were superbly written. I was on the edge of my seat reading because I was so desperate for the candidate they were backing to get in. The political angle gave the story a really unique spin - it definitely set it aside from the vast majority of contemporaries, and in a US election year it's obviously hugely timely. Massively recommended; Becky Albertalli continues to be amazing and I'll definitely be looking for Aisha Saeed's books! 

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