Besides reading and traveling, we’re super passionate about politics. That’s why we’re using YA books to encourage everyone to VOTE!
If you’re an American, the 2020 election is on Tuesday, November 3rd. Not only are we voting for the next U.S. president, all of the House of Representatives and 1/3 of the Senate are up. You may also have additional candidates, depending on your state and locality. One of our goals is to get out the millennial vote, because guess what?! We outnumber boomers. Also, this is the first presidential election cycle that some of gen-Z can vote in.
Below you’ll find our YA book recommendations that inspire political participation and efficacy. And remember, if you can, request to vote by mail ASAP! Your vote matters.
Let’s surprise the country with an unprecedented amount of election participation by those under 35!
Are you registered? Let us know in the comments!
1. Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed
Our February 2020 book club pick! Jamie Goldberg is excited to volunteer for his local state senate candidate …as long as it’s behind the scenes. With his mom, sister, and grandma in deep planning mode for his sister’s upcoming bat mitzvah, the campaign becomes Jamie’s escape. Too bad he has a fear of speaking to strangers. Maya Rehman is having the worst Ramadan ever. She’s struggling with both family (her parents sprung their divorce one her) and friend (her one and only bestie is off for college soon) drama. Her mother thinks Maya’s summer blues can easily be fixed by canvassing for a local politician. If Maya shows a little initiative, her parents will buy her a car. Piece of cake, right? Wrong. Despite being old childhood friends, Maya and Jamie could not be more different. When they’re paired to go door to door for their candidate, Democrat Jordan Rossum (#RossumIsAwesome), they realize that they share similar ideals about the world. With the polls close and a potential bill targeting Muslims about to pass in the Georgia State Senate, Maya and Jamie feel the pressure to make an impact. Will their efforts be for nothing? When they start to develop feelings for one another, things get complicated. Maya’s parents have warned her off against dating in high school, and Jamie worries admitting his feelings will ruin their newfound friendship. Will these two get their happily ever after?
We really enjoyed Yes No Maybe So! As two millennials deeply interested in politics, we were drawn to the plot about teen activists fighting to turn their Georgia district blue. The amount of diversity was one of the best (and most important) aspects of the book. Not only was there religious diversity (Jamie’s Jewish family and Maya’s Muslim Pakistani-American family and community), but there was also LGBTQ+ representation. We appreciated that the authors delved into Jewish and Muslim cultures. We felt this was extremely important, particularly given today’s political climate! While politics was the focus of this book, the intent was not to criticize those with opposing views. The authors did an excellent job of delivering a well-balanced novel about political activism without sounding overly preach-y. Obviously, Maya and Jamie do work for a Democrat and share liberal values, so please go reading this book with that in mind. If anything, we hope this book helps educate those who are either age-eligible or almost age-eligible to vote!
2. The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne
The Wrong Side of Right is one of our favorite political books. Imagine living your whole life knowing nothing about your father and then suddenly, one day, you learn he is a U.S. Senator currently running for president. Kate Quinn got thrown into the political spotlight over night. At first, Kate doesn’t have strong policy opinions because she never learned about political science. However, the more time she spends with the her father and his hardliners, the more she realizes that they don’t see eye to eye. Problem 1: her dad is anti-immigrant and Kate’s best friend is undocumented. Problem 2: her dad’s running against incumbent President Lawrence, who has a son her age named Andy…and he’s pretty cute. Kate has to learn that Washington is isn’t always forgiving and that the seemingly picture-perfect family might be too much to handle. After all, there is no such thing as perfect, even though her Senator father expects her to be.
We love how Kate spends time discovering her own political views and learns through the entire campaign process. The author did a great job of relating the plot to real life, and a lot of the issues were very timely! If you’re looking for a political YA book with a touch of cute romance, this is the book for you.
3. Internment by Samira Ahmed
Another amazing and timely book from Samira Ahmed, the author of Love, Hate and Other Filters. Internment mixes contemporary political issues with a future dystopian setting. Layla Amin and her family are forced into an internment camp for Muslim-Americans.
Layla realizes she has to do everything to get out. With help from a boyfriend on the outside and her new friends in the internment camp, Layla is ready to lead a revolt. This terrifying future reality is an important social commentary on islamophobia. Plus, it takes the horrible experiences of those who were forced into Japanese internment camps in WWII and imagines how it could be done again if people stay silent on social justice matters.
4. Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan
Jasmine and Chelsea are tired of how women are treated at their NYC high school, so they band together to form a women’s rights club. Even though they get some great support, the club is targeted by trolls online and the principal blames the club and shuts them down. But, Jasmine and Chelsea will not be silenced.
Watch Us Rise is the perfect story for female empowerment. Jasmine and Chelsea won’t let anyone hold them back from advocating for themselves. If you are a feminist and YA enthusiast— definitely check this one out!
5. How I Resist: Activism and Hope for a New Generation edited by Maureen Johnson
We usually don’t feature nonfiction on the blog. However, How I Resist, Activism and Hope for a New Generation is worth mentioning. This collection of true stories from a variety of YA authors and actors is bound to inspire anyone to participate in the 2020 election. Check this powerful mix of essay, poems, interviews and more!
6. The Voting Booth by Bradley Colbert
Spoiler: This will be our October 2020 book club pick! While we haven’t read this book yet, we’ll tell you why we picked it. First, we wanted something political the month before a major election. Second, we love a good story about a strong female character who can’t wait to vote.
Marva Sheridan is ready to vote, she has been for months! But when she gets to her polling place, she sees Duke Chrenshaw not being allowed to vote. That’s how their crazy day begins. Marva is determined to make sure Duke gets to cast his ballot. The conflict discussed in The Voting Booth actually happens. Voter disenfranchisement is something that needs to be fixed. Just research what’s happened in Georgia the past few years. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you’re registered and vote early!
7. You Say It First by Katie Cotugno
Meg has a great life: she has a perfect boyfriend, grand plans to attend Cornell with her best friend, and she phonebanks in her spare time at a voter registration call center in her suburban Philadelphia town. However, when she calls a stranger from small-town Ohio, who gets under her skin and has differing views on just about everything. While Meg’s life is seemingly perfect, Colby is leading a barely staying afloat. He’s recently experienced a family tragedy and is working a dead-end job, unsure of what lays ahead for him. But their phone call triggers a series of candid conversations that lead to a long-distance friendship, where they form a strong connection and challenge each other’s views.
We haven’t read this book yet, but the premise drew us in! We love books that offer multiple perspectives on issues, and we are excited by the concept of two very different people engaging in important conversations and finding common ground.
8. The State of Us by Shuan David Hutchinson
Dean Arnault’s mother is running for president— too bad Dean doesn’t want to be in the spotlight. But one day, he meets Dre Rosario, who happens to be the son of the Democratic nominee. They develop a friendship on the campaign trail that soon turns into romance. On top of navigating their star-crossed romance, there’s also a third party candidate threatening to upend the election— and their respective worlds.
We are obsessed with this concept. The State of Us is pitched as “a new modern-day, star-crossed romance about what it really means to love your country — and yourself…” Um, yes please! Sign us up.
9. Sources Say by Lori Goldstein
Sources Say was released on September 8— right in time for the upcoming election! The story follows two exes, Angeline Quinn and Leo Torres, who are running for student council president after someone plasters the halls with photoshopped images of three “perfect tens.” The duo takes advantage of the scandal to pitch their platforms and earn votes. But with their breakup not completely in the past, the two end up fighting throughout the entire campaign. If only that were the worst part. When the school’s two rival newspapers get involved, things get even more dramatic. The Red & Blue is run by Angeline’s sister, Cat, who only reports the facts. But her morals are tested when The Shrieking Violet— a paper based entirely on anonymous (read: not credible) sources— endorses Leo. As the campaign comes to a close, secrets are leaked and the entire school watches in awe as the candidates and journalists engage in a full-on battle for the presidency.
We are so excited to read this book! While the premise of two exes running for student council president is always fun, we were even more intrigued when we realized there was a journalistic component to this book. Freedom of the press and reporting truths vs. facts are hot topics in this election, so this plot line is timely.
10. Running by Natalia Sylvester
Fifteen-year-old Cuban American Mariana Ruiz’s father is running for president. Mariana has always supported her father’s record as a Senator, but the presidential election has brought her entire family under the spotlight— including a 60 Minutes-style tour to tabloids doctoring photos and spreading rumors. But the more her family is in the paper, the more Mariana begins to learn about and question her father’s political positions. Soon she realizes that her dad is not the politician— or man— that she thought he was. While Mariana struggles to find her voice, she must also decide if she will publicly disagree with her father, or support him so that he can achieve his dream.
Running is pitched as “A novel about waking up and standing up, and what happens when you stop seeing your dad as your hero—while the whole country is watching.” We enjoy books that follow the children of presidential candidates, but more importantly, we can relate to Mariana’s journey of finding her political voice despite her family’s own beliefs and values.
11. Most Likely by Sarah Watson
If you regularly read our blog, you know that is our September 2020 pick for book club. We were hooked when we found out it came from the creator of The Bold Type, a fabulous TV show on Freeform. Ava, CJ, Jordan and Martha have been best friends since five years old. One of them is destined to be president of the United States. But, which one? You’ll have to find out by reading the book!
We love that this book encourages female political activism, whether it’s through running for office, political journalism or something as small as advocating for students at a school board meeting. We’re currently reading Most Likely. If you would like to join us in discussing this book on September 21st, check out the event page!