Thursday, February 6, 2020

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

Becky Albertalli's latest collaboration, Yes No Maybe So (this time with Aisha Saeed), is a lighthearted love story which deals with weighty issues, yet it is endearing and sweet.

"Some people are meant to change history. And some people are meant to change out of their vomity interview clothes."

Jamie Goldberg has political aspirations but knows he’ll never achieve them since he doesn’t do well under pressure. That’s not an understatement—he once referred to Jimmy Carter as a “penis farmer” rather than a peanut farmer, and he once threw up on a politician during an interview.

With his entire family focusing attention on a special state congressional election in their district, Jamie is pressed into action as a volunteer.

After serving as a de-facto errand boy for some time, as well as providing tech support to his social-media savvy grandmother (aka InstaGramm), his newest responsibility is to knock on doors and encourage people up vote. Much to his pleasure he is joined on this task by Maya, a childhood family friend whom he hasn’t seen in a while, but who seems to turn his insides to jelly. For her part, Maya thinks Jamie is cute and funny, but she’s far too preoccupied with the crises in her own life to think about anything else. Plus, her parents don't want her to date anyone she's not serious about, especially someone who isn't a Muslim.

The canvassing teaches them about political action, how the smallest action can have a ripple effect. It also teaches them about each other—how the anti-Semitic actions of the opponent’s supporters affect Jamie, who is Jewish, and how a bill forbidding people from wearing head coverings affects Maya and her family. They throw their all into campaigning for their candidate as they find themselves increasingly drawn to each other. But Maya has already told Jamie she's not allowed to date, and Jamie is nervous of screwing up their friendship, so what should they do?

Is this book fairly predictable? Sure, but it’s tremendously enjoyable, charming, and romantic. Albertalli's books tend to balance the emotional angst with an equal dose of positivity, and I really like that.

What I also enjoyed about Yes No Maybe So is how it made me feel seen. Growing up Jewish I rarely saw (and still don’t often see) characters like me, and books where actual Jewish holidays are celebrated rather than mentioned, and dealt with authentically. To see a character say an actual Hebrew prayer in this book was a wonderful thing.

I devoured this book in just a few hours. So now I wait for Albertalli's next one...

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