The Voting Booth: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Voting Booth by Brandy ColbertMarva Sheridan has been preparing for this day for years. She has campaigned, phone banked, and helped register voters. Now she’s ready to vote in her first election because she knows it’s the best way to make a difference.

Duke Crenshaw is over the election even before he gets to his polling site. His family has always been politically minded thanks to his big brother, Julian. But it hasn’t been the same since Julian’s death. Now all Duke wants to do is get voting over with and focus on his band’s first ever paid gig that night.

Except when Duke gets to the polling place, he can’t vote.

Marva isn’t about to let anyone get turned away from the polling place–not even a stranger. So she volunteers to do everything she can to make sure Duke gets his vote in.

What starts as a mission to get one vote counted quickly turns into a whirlwind day filled with drives across the city, waiting in lines, hunting for one Instagram famous cat, grassroots organizing, and maybe even some romance in The Voting Booth (2020) by Brandy Colbert.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Voting Booth is Colbert’s best book yet and my personal favorite. Set over the course of one hectic election day, the novel follows Marva and Duke along with flashbacks expanding key details of their lives throughout the novel.

Colbert pulls no punches as her characters confront with voter suppression and racism. Both of them also try to deal with how best to “explain their Blackness” as Marva examines her relationship with her white boyfriend and Duke navigates being biracial while living with his white mother.

The story is tense and authentic but it’s also gentle and often extremely funny. Although Duke’s life especially has been touched by tragedy before the start of the novel, you know the characters are going to be okay. Marva and Duke carry the story but they have a lot of help from excellent secondary characters notably including Duke’s younger sister Ida and Marva’s parents.

The Voting Booth is a hopeful, zany, romantic comedy complete with an Internet famous cat but also an empowering story about politics and pushing back against injustice. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed, You Say it First by Katie Cotugno, The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando, Now That I’ve Found You by Kristina Forest, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith, Today, Tonight, Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon, Running by Natalie Sylvester, Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson, The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

Activism Starts With You: Novels to Inspire Empathy

It’s been a wild and sometimes scary ride lately with the political climate changing in the wake of the 2016 United States Presidential election, the current health crisis and, unfortunately, racism and hatred spreading wildly. Two of the best ways to combat this negativity are to get informed and to nurture your empathy. That’s where this booklist comes in with titles about young activists.

You can also find the list at Bookshop.

  • The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah: Michael agrees with everything he hears at the anti-immigrant rallies he’s dragged to with his parents. Until he meets Mina who is clever, funny, and a Muslim refugee from Afghanistan. As Mina and Michael grow closer they’ll have to decide where they stand and who they want to be in the face of rising tensions and issues that are anything but simple.
  • Saints and Misfits by S. K. Ali: Janna Yusuf is the daughter of the only divorced mother at her mosque. She loves Flannery O’Connor. And she has no idea what to think when her best friend’s cousin–one of the so-called “saints” in the Muslim community–tries to assault her.
  • The Secret Side of Empty by Maria E. Andreu: M. T. gets good grades. She has a best friend and the promise of romance on the horizon. What M. T. doesn’t have is any plans for college. Because M. T. has been hiding something since she was a child. She’s an undocumented immigrant.
  • The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg: Jane feels like her life is over when her family moves to suburbia. Then she meets three other girls, all named Jane, and they form a secret gang to deploy art attacks throughout their town.
  • Little Brother by Cory Doctorow: Set in post-9/11 San Francisco, Marcus is on a quest to hack his city from the sinister clutches of Homeland Security.
  • Refugee by Alan Gratz: Separated by miles and decades, the stories of three refugees–Josef, a Jewish boy fleeing Nazi Germany in the 1930s; Isabel, a girl hoping to escape the riots and unrest that plague Cuba in 1994; and Mahmoud, a Syrian boy in 2015, whose homeland is being destroyed by violence and destruction–come together in surprising ways during the course of their harrowing journeys.
  • How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon: When sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson is shot to death, his community is thrown into chaos. Tariq was black and the shooter is white. In the aftermath of the shooting Tariq’s friends, family, and larger community struggle to make sense of the tragedy. But when everyone has something to say, and no two accounts seem to agree, no one is sure how they can ever agree on how it really went down.
  • Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu: In the pages of her new zine “Moxie” Vivian calls out sexist jokes, harassment, and unfair dress codes in her Texas high school and asks girls to join her in protests that quickly gain momentum and help the Moxie movement take on a life of its own. As the stakes rise for what the zine and the Moxie girls are fighting for, Vivian has to decide how far she’s willing to go for what she believes.
  • The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed: The Nowhere Girls are everygirl. But they start with three outsiders–Grace, Rosina, and Erin–as they band together to resist the sexist culture at their high school and to get justice for Lucy, a girl run out of town after accusing the popular guys at school of gang rape.
  • All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely: Rashad is accused  of stealing and brutally beaten by a police officer. Quinn witnesses the beating and recognizes the cop as his best friend’s older brother. The entire thing was caught on camera, but even with that footage, it becomes clear that no one agrees on what happened and Quinn is going to have to choose a side.
  • Dear Martin by Nic Stone: Justyce McAllister is at the top of his class and bound for the Ivy League. None of which matters to the police officer who handcuffs him only to release Justyce hours later without charges or remorse. Haunted by the incident and the pressures he faces both from his old neighborhood and his prep school, Justyce starts writing a journal to Dr. Martin Luther King. But even Dr. King’s teachings are put to the test when Justyce and his best friend end up at the center of a night that ends with shots fired and a media firestorm.
  • Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley: Virginia, 1959. Sarah is one of the first black students to attend her newly integrated high school. Meeting Sarah and working with her on a school project forces Linda–a white girl–to confront hard truths about her family’s anti-integration beliefs.
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: Starr Carter watches her friend Kahlil die at the hands of a police officer and faces intimidation from both the police and a local drug lord as they try to find out what happened that night.
  • The Inside of Out by Jenn Marie Thorne: Daisy’s efforts to support her best friend, Hannah, when she comes out as a lesbian spiral out of control as Daisy challenges the school’s ban on same-sex dates at school events. When the local story goes national Daisy is the accidental face of a movement.
  • Seeking Refuge: A Graphic Novel by Irene N. Watts and Kathryn Shoemaker: Marianne is eleven-years-old in 1938. She is one of the first two hundred children rescued during Kindertransport and evacuated to England in December. In 1939 her journey continues as she is evacuated to Wales. Shuffled from home to home, Marianne will need courage and resilience to reach the end of her journey.
  • The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew: The previously untold origin story of the Green Turtle–a heroic crime fighter who first hit the scenes in the 1940s–the first Asian American superhero.

This piece originally appeared at Teen Services Underground in 2017.

Activism Starts With You: Nonfiction Books to Inspire and Instruct

It’s been a wild and sometimes scary ride lately with the political climate changing in the wake of the 2016 United States Presidential election, the current health crisis and, unfortunately, racism and hatred spreading wildly. It’s hard to know where to start when you can’t vote and may not be old enough to work. The best first step: Getting information. These books can help teens do just that as you get informed and inspired.

You can also find the list at Bookshop.

  • Strike! The Farm Workers’ Fight for Their Rights by Larry Dane Brimner: A carefully researched account of the 1965 strike and the ones that followed as migrant Filipino American workers fought to negotiate a better way and set off one of the longest and most successful strikes in American history.
  • Yes You Can! Your Guide to Becoming An Activist by Jane Drake and Ann Love: This book includes accounts of the founding of organizations like Amnesty International and Greenpeace along with practical steps for social change including how to run meetings, write petitions, and lobby the government.
  • It’s Getting Hot in Here: The Past, Present, and Future of Climate Change by Bridget Heos: With so many people denying its impacts, it’s more important now than ever to know the full story about climate change. This book features real talk about global warming and ways we can all help by taking action.
  • The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip M. Hoose: The true story of the teenage boys whose acts of sabotage (and eventual arrests) helped spark the Danish resistance during WWII.
  • Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World edited by Kelly Jensen: An essay and art-filled guide to what it means to be a feminist from forty-four unique voices.
  • We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson: In May 1963 4,000 African American children and teenagers marched in Birmingham, Alabama where they were willingly arrested to help fill the city’s jails. These young marchers were crucial to the desegregation of Birmingham–one of the most racially violent cities in America at the time.
  • The March Trilogy by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell: These graphic novels share Lewis’ firsthand account of his lifelong involvement in the fight for human rights including his key role in the Civil Rights movement from his early years in a segregated classroom through the 1963 March on Washington.
  • Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks: The true story of three of the most important scientists of the twentieth century–women who risked their lives pursuing their research and protecting the primates they studied.
  • Queer There and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World by Sarah Prager: Queer author and activist Prager delves into the world’s queer history and heritage through the lens of these twenty-three trailblazers.
  • This Land Is Our Land: The History of American Immigration by Linda Barrett Osborne: This book follows the changing reception immigrants to the United States have faced from both the government and the public from 1800 through the present.
  • You Got This! Unleash your Awesomeness, Find your Path, and Change your World by Maya Penn: Everything you need to know to find your passions, reach your potential, and speak up from teen entrepreneur, animator, eco-designer, and girls rights activist Maya Penn.
  • Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History by Kate Schatz: This book highlights forty women from around the world and from all walks of life along with their varied accomplishments and contributions to world history.
  • The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin: In 1944 hundreds of African American servicemen in the Navy refused to work in unsafe conditions after Port Chicago explosion. Fifty of those men were charged with mutiny. This is their story.
  • Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters by Laurie Ann Thompson: A step-by-step guide to identifying social issues, getting informed, and taking action.
  • How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of A War Child by Sandra Uwiringiyimana: In her memoir Uwiringiyimana discusses her survival of the Gatumba massacre and her move to America where she began to recover through healing and activism.
  • I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai, Christina Lamb: Malala Yousafzai is the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Her story started when the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley and she fought for her right to an education but that’s only the beginning.

This piece originally appeared at the YALSA Hub Blog in 2017.