Yes No Maybe So
by Becky Albertalli & Aisha Saeed
“It’s about the act of resisting. Waking up every day and deciding not to give up.”
Published Feb. 4, 2020 by Balzer + Bray
Genre: YA contemporary
Date finished: April 22, 2020
Content warnings: Islamophobia & Anti-Semitism
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.
My thoughts (spoiler free)
Who knew that all you have to do to get a significant other in high school is get overly involved in local politics and spend all your time volunteering together?? I knew there was something I was missing.
Yes No Maybe So is the story of Jamie and Maya, two teenagers recruited to spend their summer canvassing for a local election. Neither of them are thrilled, but they each go along with it, and end up realizing that they care about what they’re doing and want to make a difference.
First of all, this book was a joy to read because not only is the writing engaging and adorable, but its characters are delightful. Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed’s writing styles meshed perfectly while also bringing their own unique voice to each character. I flew through; it’s the kind of YA contemporary that you can let yourself get lost in.
What I loved most about this book, though, was its take on political activism. It very much takes place in our world and our time, with all of the messy, disheartening politics of today. At least in the US, the past few years have been incredibly discouraging in that regard. Young people have become increasingly aware of the injustice, corruption, and division happening in this country, and even though we’re fighting for change, it often feels too slow or not enough.
Yes No Maybe So perfectly captures that very specific feeling of becoming politically aware and growing frustrated and angry and hopeless about the state of the world. It’s something I’ve felt pretty much nonstop since 2016. There’s this irritation when others don’t seem to care as much as you, especially since not caring about politics is a privilege that so many can’t afford. There’s this sense that you have to do as much as you possibly can, and maybe if you care enough you’ll be able to singlehandedly change things for the better – then of course the feeling of defeat when you realize that you can’t.
I love that this book exists for teens today, who are becoming so much more aware of the problems of the world and want to do something, but feel like they can’t because they’re not old enough to vote or don’t have money to donate. This book shows that you can still care about these things, especially when they affect your life, and can make a difference.
“The truth is, it’s a weird time to be coming of age. The world is really messy right now. And it’s so hard to be twelve or thirteen or fifteen or seventeen, when you’re old enough to get it, but… you can’t vote.”
Most of all, though, Yes No Maybe So shows that even when you get discouraged, you keep trying, because change happens gradually, and not always in the ways that you expect. It occurs when people fight for it and keep fighting for it even when the first time doesn’t work out. This book shows that activism and volunteering and most of all voting can change the world, even if it doesn’t feel like it in the moment. And I think that’s such an important message to be sending out into the world.
(Basically, this book fits perfect into the list of “hopepunk” book recommendations that I made a few weeks ago.)
In addition, this book has so much to say about dealing with cultural differences in a personal relationship. Jamie is Jewish and Maya is Muslim; both of them are proud of and active in their faiths, and watching them navigate the differences between their experiences and cultures is so interesting. The representation for both of these identities is #ownvoices, too, and I could tell how much love both of the authors have for their cultures.
I also loved the coming-of-age elements, particularly the storyline of Maya watching her parents split up and dealing with her best friend moving on. It felt so real and so important.
The only reason this wasn’t a five star read was because some of the conflict felt simply like drama for the sake of drama. But in the grand scheme of my love for this book, that is a small complaint.
Yes No Maybe So is an adorable romance inside a story about growing up in uncertain political times and figuring out how to stand up and make a change. Funny, heartfelt, and entertaining from start to finish, it’s definitely one that I recommend.
In conclusion, remember to vote.
“We might give it our all and crash and burn. But we might win. We might actually change things. And that maybe makes it still worth going for, don’t you think?”