Hi Everyone! Sorry I’ve been away from this blog for so long, I just needed to take a minute and breathe as the world all got a bit much for me for a while. I’m feeling better now and I hope you’re all feeling well too!
This is the seventh review in my ‘Buzzfeed Recommends Series’ in which I read and review all the books Buzzfeed recommended in their article: ’15 Brand-New Young Adult Novels That Are Just So, So, Good’. You can read the summary for that here.
‘Yes No Maybe So’ by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed is a YA romantic contemporary novel. It currently has an average rating of 3.88 on Goodreads and I rated it 2 stars.
The story follows Jamie and Maya as they canvas for a local election during their Summer break. Jamie and Maya are old friends, but they haven’t seen each other since they were young, so young that they can barely remember each other. Jamie is now a young man, interested in politics with dreams of having a career in it, but he suffers from crippling social anxiety and hates public speaking. Maya on the other hand has no great interest in politics, but finds herself canvasing in hopes of getting her own car, something she desperately wants as her parent’s relationships begins to crumble and she feels left behind by her own best friend. It isn’t the most glamorous summer job in the world, but as the election draws closer and closer so do Maya and Jamie.
“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?”
At first I enjoyed this book, I liked how we got to witness Jamie and Maya’s friendship grow, how the book tackled topics on how anyone at any point in their life can do something politically, I liked the fact it wasn’t a completely happy ending. And then I thought about this book a bit more, and I realised it had some serious problems I couldn’t ignore.
Firstly I would like to to talk about the characters. I didn’t particularly love Jamie or Maya as characters, I found them to be pretty meh, there was nothing particularly to hate about them but there was also nothing to love about them either. In truth I was interested in the much more minor characters like Sophie, Kevin and Jamie’s friends – they all seemed to have some kind of personality whereas Jamie and Maya seemed too cookie cutter and were built to be liked by the masses – which meant they’re liked by no reader because they’re boring.
As I wasn’t interested in the main characters, I was interested in the romance all that much. I did appreciate how both Albertalli and Saeed took the time to build up a friendship between the pair, and it was an okay teenage friendship – it was built on hobbies, shared beliefs, food and The Office, which isn’t that unusual as a foundation for a teenage friendship. However, I didn’t feel any chemistry between the two of them and since both were so bland I couldn’t imagine the two of them together at all. I honestly think they were better suited as friends and I almost wish they had ended this book as friends rather than in a romantic relationship; however that kind of statement is quite damning for a romantic contemporary.
A lot of reviewers have argued this book shoves quite a liberal agenda at the readers, which is true and sometimes, even as a liberal myself, I found it a little overbearing and too one sided. However, it didn’t prose the idea of ‘all conservatives/republicans bad’ all the time as Kevin, a friend of both Jamie and Maya, was a republican and was actually a pretty solid bloke. Rather than the political agenda this promotes, I preferred how the authors chose to focus on the important of activism – whether it’s political or not. The narrative heavily focuses on how important it is to not only vote, but to campaign for political figures, ideas or even moral values you believe in and how imperative it is to do so even when you think you’re too small to make a difference or it’s a lost cause. I thought this was a brilliant message to promote in YA and thought they did a fantastic job with it, they never made Jamie and Maya’s efforts make a huge difference – as that would have been unrealistic, but they managed to show even if you only make a small difference in the world, it’s still a difference.
However, not everything the two authors tried to do in this was done well. I want to preface this paragraph by saying I’m not religious and I’m white, and I’m going to be talking about the representation of not only those who follow Jewish and Islamic faith, but also about the lack of racial representation. Obviously I would encourage you to seek out reviewers who are part of these communities for better commentary on these subjects. As someone who didn’t grow up in a religious family I’m always curious to read books that feature characters who do, as I’m wonder how that influences family dynamics. I found Maya’s faith was something the authors were both keen to remind us of every chapter, just in case we somehow forgot she was Muslim! But I found the way they handled Maya’s conflicts about dating as she was Muslim strange. It very much started out as her saying no she couldn’t because of her parents and faith, but then after almost three days without Jamie by her side we found Maya was suddenly willing to date and go into fitting rooms at Target to make out – which aligned with nothing we knew about Maya’s perception of her faith. I am obviously not going to stand here and tell people of any faith what they can and can’t do regarding their religion, but the crux of Jamie and Maya’s issues were Maya thought their relationship would conflict with her faith and then she basically jumped Jamie in Target – which just didn’t fit at all.
The audiobook itself was fine, and whilst I didn’t particularly get drawn in by either of the narrators I didn’t find them off putting either. I think I did enjoy this a little more because it was an audiobook, I do think I may have been bored by just reading this as not a lot happens to be honest.
Overall, it wasn’t a terrible read but it’s not one I would recommend any time soon. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it if you’re looking for Jewish or Muslim faith representation in your stories as I don’t think Maya’s faith was handled well at all.
Buzzfeed Recommends Series: