New York Times bestselling authors Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed have crafted a resonant, funny, and memorable story about the power of love and resistance.
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.
This is my first read of a book by both the authors. 3 things exciting me about the book are:
- Becky Albertalli, an author I’ve been meaning to read for some time now
- The cover
- A Muslim protagonist and the backdrop of Ramadan!
I was pleased to discover within the first few pages that the hero is Jewish. And the ethnicity of the both the characters play a large role in how the story plays out.
It’s a very political story. And it has to be because the story hinges on how politics affects the characters. There is a important message here too. That politics is everywhere around us, and everyone has a role to play.
Let’s talk about what what I liked about the book first :
I read a review about how expectations keep being subverted in the book. That couldn’t be truer. In more than one instance, both Jamie and Maya offend each other with their insensitivity and unawareness about the other’s life. James keeps making assumptions about Maya’s fasting in Ramadan, and she makes ill-judgements about his campaign. There’s also the struggle they go through as minorities which is undermined by others, being nonchalantly told to ‘let it go’. It was beautiful to see both Jamie and Maya grow sensible about how everything they do carry bigger implications.
Maya starts off political canvassing for selfish reasons after her mother promises her a car in return for this. But when she slowly learns about the intricacies and implications of the policy mandates of each of the candidates, and how it could personally affect her. How relatable is that? People don’t simply care until they’re directly affected. Maya realizes that in politics it’s always about the lesser of two evils. Then there is the frustration and helplessness they feel because they are not of age to vote; while there are people around them who feel that voting is wasteful because no candidate is perfect. Little things like this rang so true to real life!
Now, on to things I disliked :
The personal equation between Jamie and Maya is perfectly reflected in that cover image. Their relationship slowly evolves from wary and shy acquaintances to close friends. Jamie is quiet and shy, with stage fright, even though he wants to join politics. Maya is outspoken and bolder, going through a personal crisis when her parents announce separation. While I liked their friendship, I could not grow fond of them as individual characters and the romance. A huge part of me wanted them to remain platonic friends. I don’t know why that is honestly.
I thought I’d be able to relate to Maya. But the book subverted my expectations with that too. She was a little too much of a teenager for my tolerance level. There was a some serious immaturity and self-righteousness going on there. I know where that is coming from. She’s a teenager, with family crisis. But tried as I might, I could not connect to her. While I liked Jamie, I could not love him.
While the story deals with important themes, it could do with a stronger plot. The pacing was sluggish. I particularly struggled through the beginning. With a little better execution, this book could have been one of my favorite reads of the year. But it somehow misses the mark. I think I could not connect to the writing process.
This is honestly an otherwise 3-star read for me. But I am giving it an extra star because of the important message it carries.