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REVIEW: ‘Yes No Maybe So’ by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed is a well-meaning, yet corny, look into modern teen activism

The latest from Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed is a teen romance for the modern political age, with tons of heart that sometimes misses the mark.
 

Despite the oft-cheesy message, Yes No Maybe So persists as a cute coming-of-age tale with an extra helping of optimism. 

The blurb:

YES
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.

NO
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.

MAYBE SO
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.

Becky Albertalli’s bibliography presents a rocky road of hit and misses. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is one of the best LGBTQ+ teen books out there, while her other works, like Leah on the Offbeat, are….off the beat. 

Her hits present meaningful plots filled with well-written relationships. Her misses have something hollow in the center, whether that’s an insincere theme or characters that feel more like symbols rather than actual people. 

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Yes No Maybe So lands somewhere in the middle. 

Jamie and Maya spend roughly a month together, canvassing for a local election candidate in the suburbs of Atlanta. During their time together, they grow closer as friends, while Jamie develops more romantic feelings for Maya. 

Their story is written from alternating perspectives, with Aisha Saeed writing Maya’s chapters and Becky Albertalli writing Jamie’s. It’s such a cute setup, so it’s disappointing when certain elements miss the mark. 

Maya and Jamie are campaigning for a progressive candidate in a red state like Georgia, so politics is at the forefront. In modern America, how could it not be? Yes No Maybe So is all about embracing diversity, championing minorities, and combating conservatism with grassroots activism. However, at times, the messages came off as heavy-handed. 

The election feels like a third main character, reminiscent of Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue, the benchmark for a perfect politically-minded romance. However, in this case, it feels like Jamie and Maya’s romance starts and ends with their activism. 

Though Yes No Maybe So has its heart in the rightest of places, its cheesy delivery takes away a lot of the impact. 

In terms of writing, Saeed’s chapters were particularly well-crafted: Maya is testament to how well Saeed creates a flawed, yet lovable, character. Her parents are going through a divorce, and her best friend is moving away to college. Everything around Maya is changing, and how she handles those changes is important to her character. 

On the other hand, Jamie lacks some of the motivation that made Maya feel so real. He’s a good guy, has stage fright, and wants to change the world, but beyond that? It’s hard to figure out what truly drives him, or what his character growth is.

Even so, Jamie and Maya getting together at the end (not exactly a spoiler; it’s a rom-com, after all!) is far from upsetting. You’ll close the book rooting for them and the bright future they’re going to fight for, together. 

P.S. For those who are a little tired of The Office references in 2020, be warned. Jamie and Maya’s most tender bonding moments usually connect back to their favorite show, which gets a little annoying.

3.3
Fluffy romance with too many goals
Plot
Characters
Writing
Theme/Message

Albertalli and Saeed present a heartwarming tale of two teens who want a better, more accepting America, but the political subplot overwhelmed the romance, and the characters, at its heart.