With Super Tuesday just hours behind us (and I predict we won’t get full results for days) and an election with so much on the line, Aisha Saeed’s & Becky Albertalli’s “Yes, No, Maybe So,” is extremely timely. It follows two teens whose parents essentially “volunteer” them into canvassing for a local election, and through their experience become more politically aware while also falling in love at the same time.
K. Imani: I really enjoyed this book. There were so many sweet moments, funny moments, frustrating moments, etc. It was such a timely novel and one that I truly loved. What did you all think of the book?
Jessica: I loved it! The book was sweet and inspiring and just so much fun to read all at once. It actually was the push I needed to sign up for some phone banking and community canvassing.
Crystal: I fell right into the story and loved it. There were humorous moments amid the serious times. Seeing the passion that could flare up in both Jamie and Maya around their ideals and beliefs gave me hope for the future. Young people often see things and don’t pay attention just like anyone else, but when they see an injustice that tugs at them, watch out.
Audrey: I really enjoyed it! I’ve never been involved in a political campaign, so seeing what it could be like from a teenager’s perspective was really interesting! It was a good reminder that campaigns need people of all ages and abilities to help them out.
Crystal: Audrey you reminded me of my own canvassing. I’ve been involved in several campaigns both calling and knocking on doors. I totally sympathized with Jamie because that is so incredibly uncomfortable for me. I have to be truly passionate about a candidate or a specific election to actually be putting myself out there with strangers.
K. Imani: I really enjoyed how Maya and Jamie’s relationship developed slowly over time as they established a deep friendship first where they were able to openly share and trust each other. For example, Jamie’s misstep with buying Maya breakfast during Ramadan and after her correcting him, that he took what she said to heart and using it as an opportunity to learn. This was really sweet of him and allowed Maya to really begin to trust him. What did you all enjoy about their relationship?
Jessica: Agreed. I loved how Maya and Jamie learned from each other. I really appreciated that the book demonstrated how people can make mistakes and come to understand each other more — and it doesn’t have to be a painful or shameful process. I also loved how Jamie was so inspired by Maya and vice versa. It’s truly the best part of a relationship — making each other better. So heartwarming!
Audrey: Yeah, it was really nice to see these two fumble things but still come back around to apologizing and promising to do better. It was a great message–even when you’re on the same side, mistakes still happen! But it’s important to apologize and make corrections and then stop making the mistake. I loved the interplay between them and how they each inspired each other–it was a great relationship, both platonic and romantic.
Crystal: I loved that it felt so real. Their bumbles, apologies, and awkwardness all show that this isn’t some fairytale situation. It’s the everydayness that is lovely. Staying on the phone forever because they don’t want to say goodbye is super sweet, but also extremely believable. It’s not fancy romantic, but it’s romantic just the same.
K. Imani: The novel takes place in a Blue enclave within a Red state and really shows the stakes of what Progressives are fighting for. What stood out to you about Maya and Jamie’s experiences? For me, when they went to their State Representative’s offices to talk about the bill that would essentially ban hijabs and the gaslighting that happens in that meeting. I was so frustrated for them, but it reflected a frustration I have with our country right now and it felt like one of the realist moments in the novel.
Jessica: I definitely got the vibe that the book was set in a similar setting to Jon Ossoff’s run in Georgia several years ago, and that race was cited in the acknowledgements at the end of the book. For a lot of young people — teens, college students, and young adults — coming of age politically pre- and post-2016, what happens in government has direct (sometimes positive, sometimes very negative) impact on their lives, especially if they come from a marginalized background. What really stood out to me was actually how Maya and Jamie’s friends were portrayed — how easy it is for people from privileged backgrounds to check out of current events and feel like it isn’t important. But ultimately, Maya and Jamie managed to inspire their friends to get invested and involved. It isn’t easy, but it’s possible! Love that note of hope.
Audrey: One of the things that stood out most to me was how often Maya or Jamie noted that self-described “nice” people will still cheerfully vote for people and policies that will directly harm their own family or friends or neighbors. Because, yeah–I definitely saw a lot of that. And it hurt every time they noticed it. I was relieved that they were able to get through to some of their friends, too. Especially since their focus was on getting out their base to vote rather than trying to win over moderates.
Crystal: That meeting with at the government office was extremely frustrating to behold. There were even more interactions with friends who just didn’t notice the issues or understand how something that affects one part of their community really affects them all.
K. Imani: This book is culturally relevant as it also explores White Supremacists trolls through the use of Fifi, the white poodle, as the Pepe frog, which both bothered me and intrigued me. I feel like including Fifi really captures the time period we are living in and can stand as an example of what life is in the Trump era.
Audrey: I was so happy that they came up with a way to counter Fifi! But what really stuck with me was how the vandalizer tried to downplay their actions–it’s just trolling, it’s just a joke, you shouldn’t get upset about this. We’d seen Maya and Jamie’s reactions to finding the stickers before and none of it was a joke to them.
Crystal: The Fifi does really feel current and all too familiar. This topic reminds me of Jamie’s grandma. You better watch out because when she rattles off a person’s entire name she means business. She made me smile many times and I’d love to see her Insta account. Grandparent relationships can be so awesome and it was nice to see a “grandma’s boy” in print.
K. Imani: With such an important election in front of us, what other political inspired YA are you looking forward to this year?
Jessica: Speaking of politics-related YA, I’m really, really, really looking forward to RUNNING by Natalia Sylvester. I have its release date marked on my calendar and everything.
Crystal: I’m definitely looking forward to Brandy Colbert’s The Voting Booth and This is My America by Kim Johnson. One I recently read that I’ll be putting into lots of hands is Stamped: Racism Antiracism and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi.
Audrey: I’m looking forward to reading all of those!
And with that, our discussion comes to an end. We’d love to hear what you all thought of the book, so leave a comment below.