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.
MAYBE SOYes No Maybe So, Becky Albertalli & Aisha Saeed
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.
February 4th, 2020
Since the first time I read the back cover of Yes No Maybe So I have been excited to get my hands on this collaborative piece. I first found it at Target for 20% off, which based on the contents of the book is perfect, but I didn’t grab it then. Later that day I went to an independent book store called Moon Palace Books in Minneapolis, Minnesota. And wouldn’t you know that I then found a signed first edition copy. On the same day. What’s the chances? Better chances than a Democrat winning a special election in the deep-red of Georgia? Probably, especially since I had nothing but regret for not grabbing it when I did.
And boy-oh-boy! am I glad that I picked up this amazing political love story by Becky Albertalli & Aisha Saeed! A cynical version of myself would maybe scoff at reading a 436 page love story told from the perspectives of the two in the relationship. I mean shifting narrators ain’t normally my jam (insert evidence that states otherwise on my review of Belle Revolte) but this is a story that it flows so perfectly between the two that you really can’t help but want to read the next chapter to see how the other person has viewed what’s happened. The dual narrative not only pushes the story forward, but it also keeps the pace of this story so by the time you’ve read 436 pages you feel like you read 43.6 pages. Don’t ask how you would read .6 of a page, okay? You get my point.
“But Davis…” I hear you impatiently asking. “What about the political stuff? THAT can be a very tricky thing to write, especially in a YA novel. How does Becky Albertalli & Aisha Saeed handle that? And why did I use an ampersand in asking?”
Good questions reader! Now, is the book biased towards one side of the political spectrum over the other? Well, frankly, yes. That being said, GOOD! Now, is this lovely reviewer biased towards that same side of the political spectrum, also yes. That being said, this book does an expert job at showing a reader and making a reader feel the frustration of being dog whistled by seriously racist, antisemitic, Islamophobic, and all-around hateful people and legislature. I know, it sounds like a lot, and that’s because it is a lot. Especially in today’s political climate where there are politicians being openly hateful and citizens forgetting what it means to be civil and, more importantly, a decent person.
The use of hate-based symbols, the gaslighting done to Jamie and Maya, and the dog whistling done to them in Yes No Maybe So has to getting so viscerally upset that it can only be considered a master class in writing. Especially when you, as a curious reader, decides to Google the hate signs mentioned only to find that there is an entire database of hateful signs, logos, and phrases. Next thing you know, you’re editing your work in progress to make sure that nobody who would believe these hateful things could possibly interpret parts of your work as sign of secret hatred towards people. Why do I mention that? Because that’s the power of Becky Albertalli & Aisha Saeed‘s powerful story. It makes you want to do more, to make the world a better place, and to be the good you want to see in the world.
“But Davis,” I hear you once again asking. “Tell me more about this love story? Is it really one you can get behind and believe in?”
Jamie and Maya feel like the luckiest people in the world the second they meet each other. As the back cover says, “Mastering local activism is one thing; navigating the cross-cultural crush of the century is another thing entirely.” And that’s true. These two may have grown-up together, but it’s been nearly a decade since they last saw each other. People change immensely over ten years. That being said, two friends that work together that develop a crush, and maybe more? Yes, it does sound sort of like Jim Halpert and Pam Beesly, if Jim was a super awkward Jewish boy and if Pam was a cool, calm, and collected Islamic girl. And they were both seventeen. Sure, is it strange to think that the Jim & Pam relationship from The Office is so widely known (and I guess old enough, oh god!) to be a trope? A little, but that being said, the way that Becky Albertalli & Aisha Saeed write this love story makes it feel fresh, original, important, and one that you’re a bit envious you aren’t in. Jamie and Maya, even after one read, feel like they deserve to be corner stones of YA Romance canon. Young Adult writers should look at their relationship to see how to write a romance, or should I say slowmance.
At the end of the day, this book should be on everyone’s top list of favorite YA books of all time, if not favorite books of all time. If you think I’m wrong, then read Yes No Maybe So. And when you finish it I’ll be waiting to talk to you about how much you love Jamie and Maya.
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This week we had the quintessential Spring writing chat: what to do about our writing spaces and where to take them. Writing spaces have shrunk during the pandemic and many coffee houses still aren’t offering in person seating. How do we writers get away and respark our motivation when we don’t have the space to stretch our creative muscles? The answer: writing retreats. But are retreats worth it? That and more on this week’s episode.
Maureen Johnson is the #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of several YA novels, including 13 Little Blue Envelopes, Suite Scarlett, The Name of the Star, and Truly Devious. She has also done collaborative works, such as Let It Snow with John Green and Lauren Myracle (now on Netflix), and several works in the Shadowhunter universe with Cassandra Clare. Her work has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Buzzfeed, and The Guardian, and she has also served as a scriptwriter for EA Games. She has an MFA in Writing from Columbia University and lives in New York City.
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