YES NO MAYBE SO BY Becky Albertalli & Aisha Saeed – Review

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

Let’s talk about this little book, Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed! It’s a young adult contemporary romance so it’s right up my alley. Who is their right mind could so no to a light-hearted cute romance with a dash of politics? You’ve guessed it, not me. As you already know I like to keep it 100% with you all so I’m not going to shy away from telling you that I was on the fence (I can think of so many political jokes and puns but I shall spare you!) about buying this book. On one hand, the blurb really did entice me, pulling me in with the all that talk about canvassing to get people to vote; something that is very near and dear to my heart and well the cover is super cute too. On the other hand, I could not help but think that I might not like this book because if I can be so frank – this story is advertised as a romance between a brown Muslim girl and a white Jewish boy.

To be clear there is nothing wrong with each individual nor is there anything wrong with them being together, I just think as a Muslim woman I’m sick of the trope of Muslim girls falling in love with white men continuously being portrayed in the media and books. It’s getting a tad old and it’s a little overplayed. We want representation, of course, we do but it is tiring to be always paired with a white man whom you end up giving up your principles and morals for. There is so much that I want to say and I want to divulge much deeper into this topic but we won’t do that today. Let’s get back to the book shall we? I just want to add that Maya’s perspective is written by Aisha Saeed who is a Pakistani Muslim so I can kind of forgive the fact that it went down this route… not because I automatically think it is okay if we write about this trope ourselves but because of the internal conflict and questioning that was portrayed by the author, I don’t think it was enough but it was there and it made it all that more real.

I really like stories with alternate perspectives as it allows you to get inside the head of each character just that little bit more than you usually can. It’s fun to see the main characters through each other’s eyes but it also opens up and gives us a better insight into their surroundings. Both characters are very relatable in their own ways. You’ve got Jamie who is shy and socially awkward and Maya who is more calm and confident. They are so different each with very different goals for their summer but they seem to bring out the best in each other as time passes and it is really nice to watch their relationship blossom.

I love the dynamics of each family, yes one is more vibrant and likeable than the other but they each have an important story to tell of their own. I found it quite refreshing that both families were not portrayed as your typical all American family. Jamie lives with his mum, grandma and sister and then you’ve got Maya, who is struggling to come to terms and adjust with her parents’ separation. Everything about these characters is so down to earth and relatable it very much makes it seem as though they are real teenagers that you could meet at school. I won’t lie my favourite character is definitely Jamie’s Gran and I’m guessing she’ll be your favourite too once you read this book!

Now onto the good stuff! I loved the strong political storyline about the election campaign and canvassing which takes a turn to youth activism so to speak. I personally think that it was beautifully written in a manner that is easy to digest even for those who don’t like politics. Honestly, I wanted to go out canvassing with Jamie and Maya even if it meant third-wheeling. The story made politics approachable and fun and that’s how it should be accessible to all. They even touched on some very important and relevant issues such as antisemitism and islamophobia. These are issues young people should be aware of and informed on even if they aren’t of voting age just yet. It’s very uplifting and makes you want to be involved in your own local community because there is an underlying message that anyone can make a difference be it big or small.

This book is heartwarming and it’s also funny and cute. I found myself smiling like an idiot several times. It’s a very enjoyable summer read. The romance is there but it’s not overbearing. I thoroughly enjoyed the political subplot I think there was so much going on that at times they just missed the mark and honestly, the ending felt a little rushed to me. There was also a point where I was getting pretty frustrated at some of the characters but hey nobody is perfect right? I think that is why I’m going to give this book a score of 3.5/5. I will however be buying books by both Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed in the near future as I enjoyed their writing and I would love to read their individual works and see how they differ from this collaboration.

My So-Called Bollywood Life By Nisha Sharma – Review

“Winnie Mehta was never really convinced that Raj was her soul mate, but their love was written in the stars. Literally, a pandit predicted Winnie would find the love of her life before her eighteenth birthday, and Raj meets all the qualifications. Which is why Winnie is shocked when she returns from her summer at film camp to find her boyfriend of three years hooking up with Jenny Dickens. As a self-proclaimed Bollywood expert, Winnie knows this is not how her perfect ending is scripted.

Then there’s Dev, a fellow film geek and one of the few people Winnie can count on. Dev is smart and charming, and he challenges Winnie to look beyond her horoscope and find someone she’d pick for herself. But does falling for Dev mean giving up on her prophecy and her chance to live happily ever after? To find her perfect ending, Winnie will need a little bit of help from fate, family, and of course, a Bollywood movie star.”

Before we get into my review lets just talk about some things. It might sound a little crazy to everyone but never have I ever read a YA book by a South Asian woman before. As a Pakistani woman that baffles me, like how is that possible? I don’t think I’ve even ever come across such a thing until I saw My So-Called Bollywood Life on the WHSmith website, therefore, I automatically had to buy it. Maybe this is a, me problem, where I just haven’t been looking hard enough for authors who have a similar background and culture to myself but I know for a fact that there is a lack of diversity in the book world and we definitely need more books like this one and the ones that already exist we need to do a much better job of making them visible and more easily available and accessible.

Nisha Sharma’s debut YA novel My So-Called Bollywood Life is what I would class as a teenage rom-com starring an Indian American teenage girl Winne Mehta. She is a film enthusiast who dreams of getting her Bollywood style love story. Being from an Indian family there are certain religious and cultural tradition that her family follows. They believe in astrology and that birth charts can predict your future so it is very interesting to see how out Winne navigates with coming to terms with fate/destiny.

I love the family dynamics in this book it’s the perfect balance of what a loving family should look like. Winnie’s grandma might actually be my favourite character. I think South Asian grandmas are just really funny in general with their sassiness and those one-liners that they pull out of nowhere. I love that she speak in Punjabi throughout it makes it more delightful and adds to the charm of the book. I love Winnie’s relationship with her dad it is so wholesome and it is so cute that she gets her love of Bollywood films from him.

The layout of this book is something I really enjoyed. Each chapter starts with a mini-review of a classic Bollywood movie by Winne herself and it somewhat sets the tone for each of the chapters which I believe is very cleverly done by Nisha Sharma. As someone who wasn’t brought up on Bollywood and hasn’t actually ever seen a single Bollywood movie in their life, I was able to follow with ease and understand all the references which I really appreciate. So even as an outsider to the culture you can very easily develop an understanding of who Winne is and how she was brought up.

I really liked the fact that most of the main characters besides one maybe two are Indian. Both Winne’s love interests are Indian. I am not going to lie I think that is what excited me the most about this book. You read stories and watch tv shows about girls of different cultures in America and the UK who somehow fall in love with a white guy. Like there’s nothing wrong with that, you do you boo but this is not a hugely common thing. so it’s good to see some accurate representation that is relatable.

I’ll have to give My So-Called Bollywood Life a score of 3.5/5. I have nothing against this book it’s super cute, funny and so damn relatable! But I must say at one point I put the book down and didn’t really pick it up and finish it until two months later. I would still recommend giving Winnie’s story a read because there are so many girls out there who haven’t yet seen themselves visibly represented in literature before and this book is a step forward in the right direction.

Five Books I Fell In Love with – YA Edition

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.

I am a sucker for a good book that makes you feel, all the emotions and this books did just that. The characters are so real and so raw it just makes everything about this book so much more endearing. Eleanor and Park’s struggles and insecurities are so relatable that it gives them that extra human factor. You could say that there is nothing extra special about these characters, everyone is so flawed but that is what makes them and this story so amazing. It just feels real like this is actually somebody’s story to tell. This book made me feel like I wanted to be a teenager and fall in love for the very first time all over again that is how much I was in my feels.
Score – 4/5

A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder by Holly Jackson
The people you love weren’t algebra: to be calculated, subtracted, or held at arm’s length across a decimal point.

I love a good murder/mystery, these are the kind of books that I live for!! Let me just tell this that when I purchased this book I just picked it up because the title was obviously calling out to me. In my head I painted this picture that this story was going to be about a girl who had finally cracked and killed a couple of people and had gotten away with it because why not? (maybe this is a book I need to write because clearly I have a thing for serial killers) Holly Jackson blew my mind – this is such a fast paced easy read with an exhilarating plot. It is a rollercoaster of emotions and I was living for it! The layout of the book is pretty awesome and out of the box. This book has very special place in my heart as someone who has a degree in journalism because Pippa is a bad b and I want to be her.
Score – 5/5

Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds
“Maybe it’s not how something ends that matters. Maybe it’s about having something good, even for a little while.”

I know everyone says not to judge a book by it’s cover but I’m totally cover girl. If you look pretty or catch my eye I will be intrigued and most likely buy you. That is how I ended up with this beauty! I spent my whole birthday reading Opposite of Always and I have no regerts, none at all. This book breaks my heart but it also makes me so happy. There’s a little bit of everything in the story, love, friendship a lot personal growth and there is time travel! What more can you ask for? I’m not really one for time loops just because they tend to get tedious and they’ve been done so many times that they get predictable. I also get bored easily but I really enjoyed this book. It was hilarious – found myself laughing more often than thought I would. The story is so heartfelt and emotional in a good way but my heart was going through it reading this. Also one other thing I wanted to just big up the author for is how diverse all the characters in the book are. We love to see it! I look forward to reading more of his work in the near future because this is a beautiful debut!
Score 4.5/5

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
“People like us in situations like this become hashtags, but they rarely get justice. I think we all wait for that one time though, that one time when it ends right.”

If you haven’t already read this book or seen the movie I would just like to ask you where you’ve been for the past two years? Like go read it now!! This is such an important book with an even more important message. Angie Thomas did this, she created a book that resonates with so many people in one way or another. She approaches and tackles social, political & racial issues, real issues through fiction. This book is so layered and sadly so real, it broke my heart because there is someone out their who has lived parts of this or will live part of this and that makes me sick to even think about it. Education and awareness is so important and this book is just honest and thought provoking. I will forever recommend this book to everyone, teenagers and adults alike get yourself a copy!
(I’m not going to get all political in this post because I could go on forever but educate yourselves!!)
Score – 5/5

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett
“Uncertainty isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes it can even be filled with extraordinary potential.”

Look at all those stars on the cover – you know where I am going with this don’t you! The stars, the moon anything related to the beauty of the night sky will forever have a hold on my heart! This book is a true coming of age story with a heck of a lot of diversity and inclusion. I love it!!! Starry Eyes is just a bundle of crazy but the awesome kind. I love that the main characters aren’t conventional types that always tend to have a voice in most books. They are unique and quirky and so is everyone around them. I went through this book fairly quickly it’s just so fun and cute it kind of made me miss being so young and getting up to stupid shizz. A perfect summer read if you ask me.
Score – 4/5