One big problem? No one really knows Mark. He didn’t grow up in this town, and he has few friends; plus, the ones he does have aren’t exactly with the in-crowd. Still, thanks to countless seasons of Scandal and The West Wing, these nerds know where to start: from campaign stops to voter polling to a fashion makeover. Soon Mark feels emboldened to get in front of and engage with voters—and even start a new romance. But with an investigative journalist digging into his past, a father trying to silence him, and a bully front-runner who stands in his way, Mark will have to decide which matters most: perception or truth, when both are just as dangerous.
Thank you Harper360YA for sending me an ARC of this story!
As usual, this has no influence whatsoever on my review as I write them for YOU, readers, and not for authors or publishers.
When I saw the blurb of the Unpopular Vote, I was immediately attracted to it as it had two of my favorite elements in books:
- High school story with a competition (electing the next students president);
- LGBTQ cast with the main character being transgender.
Did it live up to my expectations?
In some ways but not totally. That’s why I’ll go with a “What I Liked” and “What didn’t work foe me” review. I use “didn’t work for me” because every review is personal and what did not work for me could very well work for you.
What I liked
-the trope “fight for a better world “, and “believe in the best of people”.
Maybe I am naïve but I am one of these people who prefer killing others with kindness. I am someone who believes that the majority of people are good people and that what we see in the media only reflects a minority. But they are louder and that’s why we seem to only hear them.
When Mark wanted to make Utopia High School a better place for all the kids, wanted to work with them, believed in them, I was all in.
And when Ralph added “We must build this world from love”, I believed in it.
I really loved that tight knit bunch of IB students banding together to help Mark’s campaign. I loved learning about the personalities, their differences, their fights.
Jenny and Pablo were my favorites of the bunch, and so supportive or Mark. Benji also surprised me more than once with his courage and maturity.
-Mark’s mom and unconditional support.
Because that’s how parents should be for their kids. Especially when they come out and we know that the world won’t make it easy on said kids.
Opposed of course to Mark’s dad who was a complete let down and dare I say “his loss” right?
-Mark’s growth and honesty.
Mark went into that election for a valid reason but he led the campaign as any politician would do. That was first class work but… didn’t ring entirely true. Until Mark faced some brutal truths about himself and his dad. He faced it head on and became a better person. He grew up. He didn’t try to shy away from the truth, he just admitted his limitations, that he had been wrong and he changed.
What didn’t work for me
-I confess that I was equally amazed and lost at the debates and rhetoric in this book.
I mean, these are seventeen years old students (some are even fifteen) and yes, I know they all vie for Ivy league colleges as they are IB students. But their debates about politics, the references about senate candidates, and words like “arbitrary ideological purity test” and names like Jed Bartlet had me…lost and awed at the same time.
I found fascinating the backstage references of building and running a campaign but at the same time, I wondered if this was real. This seemed a little bit too sophisticated.
Could kids around seventeen or eighteen talk and think like that? Build a campaign like that, poll people, make graphs,…???
I knew they were sons of politicians, lawyers etc. but it did seem a little too mature for these to be YA characters. Again, I might be wrong and maybe it’s the normality for kids in private high schools in the US. What do I know from my European experience?
–if I went into this because it was LGBTQ and I wanted to learn more about all the differences, I sometimes was lost with all the sexual preferences nuances.
Gay, lesbian, bi, transgender were my known territory beginning that book.
But then I would learn about biromantic, asexual, pansexual but not always with a lot of explanations. I think for things to really be engraved in my thick skull I would have appreciated a little bit more details about all these preferences. More scenes with Pablo dating but not “putting out”. What did that mean exactly? What was it to be in his head and have his narrative? The same with Jenny ‘s inability to be in a relationship.
Also what does that really mean to be trans going from a female body to a male body? What are the different options? What are the consequences? I think this is a big part of the way to becoming your true self and I still don’t know much about it.
I guess I’ll have to keep reading books about it 😊
As you can see, The Unpopular Vote has lots of merits and if you like these kind of stories, I think you should give this book a chance. Especially if you are not an “overthinker” like I sometimes am while reading.
Thank you Harper360YA and Epic Reads for sending that book!
Thanks for reading.
This sounds like a pretty interesting read. I especially love the sound of the friendships and the idea of making the world a better place. I’m very curious about the teen debates and how realistic they are. I know my son and his friends try to debate things like politics but they are basically just repeating what they have heard their parents say.
Debate classes are something that we don’t have in my country. That’s why it always amazes me Suzanne!
This sounds like a promising read indeed, I’m glad you still enjoyed it despite a few issues!
Thank you Lindsey!
I think that I would find those debates a bit unrealistic as well. It is hard to know for sure, but I get where you are coming from. The concept does sound amazing and I think that it will be one I will try as well. Great review, Sophie! 🙂
Thank you! And I am curious about what you’ll think of it!
I’m an overthinker too, lol. I love that books are featuring transgender characters, and it can get confusing with all the different nuances of sexual identity, like you said. I feel like maybe the teens who read this will completely understand while us old folks struggle to learn everything:-)
Don’t call us old Tammy!!!! :-)))))
I love the sound of Mark’s mom and his friend group. What great support systems! The way the kids talked in their debates would have had me wondering how realistic that was. Maybe that’s actually how they talk but it would seem overdone to me.
That was my problem too Tanya!
I get what you are saying about how the kids talked in the book, but honestly, those phrases are straight from the “handbook” in the US. You see them all over social media.
Well then I am impressed with your kids Sam! :-)))