This is a teen Rom-Com type book with an unusually meaningful plot. Jamie and Maya start out canvassing for a political race mostly for something to do. I thought this would sort of a light novel full of funny situations and teen shenanigans. Instead, I found it to be realistic and relevant to our current political situation in the United States today.
Jamie (a Jewish American) and Maya (a Muslim American) used to play together as toddlers, and now their Moms’ encourage them to canvas for a local political race. There is a special election coming up for the state’s house. If they can get the democrat to win, they flip the house. The chapters are in an alternating viewpoint, beginning at the start of Ramadan, which is their first misunderstanding. Jamie is used to fasting for one day, and he doesn’t realize Maya can’t eat anything- not even goldfish crackers.
Maya is told that if she canvasses with Jamie, she’ll earn a car at the end of the Summer. Her parents are recently separated, and she is unsettled in general. In the end, she really cares about the policies and the car becomes a non issue. Awkward Target loving Jamie wants to volunteer as long as it is behind the scenes. He does want to be a politician someday, and so when called upon to go door to door, he does it, knowing it will help him in the long run. His Grandma is a social media enthusiast, and her handle is InstaGramm! I loved how she breaks the older people hate technology stereotype.
This story also spotlights how much teens (and adults) don’t know about different religious belief systems. The characters suffer from discrimination, particularly Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, that is ever-present in America today. The romance between Jamie and Maya is sweet, but seeing two young become educated and involved in how our country works was satisfying on a whole other level.
There is plenty of representation of all ages, religions, political parties, and even a bit of LGBTQ rep to round things out. A couple things that could be improved- it’s a long book. I almost started skimming towards the end. You don’t find out if Maya’s parents get back together. 🙁
If you thought Red White and Royal Blue is a bit too mature for your 12-13-year-old reader, this book is the perfect substitute. It contains all of the political setting, discussion fodder, and a bit of light romance. I may buy a finished copy for our shelves.
This is precisely the kind of book that we read and discuss at our YA Bookish Society Round Table. Teen Round table offers kids the chance to hang out with like-minded readers and have grown up style delving and debate.