This book was my first ever physical ARC, and I was so excited to have the opportunity to read it. I don’t read too many YA Contemporary books, so I wasn’t sure what I’d think going in, but I loved it! The (Un)Popular Vote might take itself a little too seriously at times, but at its heart, it’s a genuine, important book about queer kids fighting for their school to be more accepting of everyone. My heart was so full by the end, and I’m especially glad it steered clear of some of my least favourite tropes!
Vaseline on the teeth makes a smile shine. It’s a cheap stunt, but Mark Adams knows it’s optics that can win or ruin an election.
Everything Mark learned about politics, he learned from his father, the congressman who still pretends he has a daughter and not a son. To protect his father’s image, Mark promises to keep his past hidden and pretend to be the cis guy everyone assumes he is. But when he sees a manipulatively charming candidate for student body president inflame dangerous rhetoric, Mark decides to risk the low profile he assured his father and insert himself as a political challenger.
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.
Mark Adams is relatively new to his school, pretty much unknown, and desperately trying to keep his head down. His father refuses to believe that he’s a trans man, and his faltering ‘acceptance’ is dependent on Mark not making a scene. You see, Mark’s father is a congressman, and his reputation relies on having a perfect family. And Mark? He’s not part of that anymore. So when one of Mark’s friends is harassed for being gay, and the frontrunner for student body president uses hateful rhetoric, he can’t get involved. Except… he does. It’s time for Mark to stand up as a challenger and get involved with student politics alongside his group of friends. But will this campaign have consequences he can’t handle?
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but I’m not sure it’s for everyone. The (Un)Popular Vote sometimes takes itself a little bit too seriously, and student politics in high school seem like the most important thing in the world. If you don’t like politics, and especially aren’t interested in USA politics, I’m not sure I’d recommend this one to you. At the same time, there’s more here than just political discussion; the characters and conflicts are relatable to everyone.
I loved the character’s in this book; they have that messy teenage feeling that I always want from this genre. The representation here is also brilliant! The main character is a pansexual trans man, but you’ve got the whole spectrum in this book. They make mistakes and hurt each other at times, but I would have loved to have a friend group this amazing when I was in school.
The message here of standing up for what you believe in, fighting for people to be treated fairly, and listening to what people actually need is brilliant. I loved how Mark realised he was just one person and he can’t represent everyone. A strong community is necessary for change; inspiring people to believe in fighting for something better is more important than being president. Figureheads don’t always want what’s best for people, and politicians use techniques to make you believe in them when the truth isn’t so clear cut. The way political change was presented in this book was with a brilliant nuance that I don’t usually see in young adult.
On top of that, I’m glad this book didn’t feature my least favourite LGBT contemporary tropes. There was no forced outing! Even though a lot of Mark’s campaign was hinging on his ability to pass as cisgender, it was his choice to come out. I was so anxious waiting for him to be outed, but it didn’t happen. I’m also glad how Mark’s relationship with his dad was handled. It was complex and difficult, but it ended with me feeling fulfilled. I don’t like stories where people forgive their parents for wrongdoings simply because they’re family. There need to be consequences for the harm that they inflict on their children.
Overall, I had no idea what to expect with this book, but it blew me away. The (Un)Popular vote is everything I want YA contemporary to be: it’s nuanced, complicated, a little bit messy, and truly brilliant.
CW: transphobia, homophobia, recreational drug use (weed), underage drinking, deadnaming, bullying, death of parent (secondary character), panic attacks.
(Thanks to Harper Collins for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review)
Jasper Sanchez is a queer transmasculine author who writes glittery gay stories about characters who care a little too much.
Born and raised among idyllic California wine country vistas, he developed a fierce love-hate relationship with his suburban small town and an enduring passion for chiles rellenos. He earned his MA in Cinema and Media Studies from UCLA and his BA in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania. While neither degree prepared him for the hellscape of late capitalism, they did teach him about the power of stories, the worlds they build, and their potential to effect change in the real world.
He lives in Seattle, WA, with his cat, who might be more opinionated than he is. When he’s not writing, he can be found wandering museums, scouring the city for the best espresso, and annotating lists of his favorite Star Trek episodes.
Jasper is represented by Claire Friedman at InkWell Management. His short fiction has appeared in Mithila Review, Foglifter, and Plenitude. The (Un)Popular Vote (HarperCollins/Tegen 2021) is his debut novel.
The (Un)Popular Vote is out now so there’s never been a better time to grab a copy!
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You can order the book from major retail sites including Blackwell’s and Waterstones.
I’d recommend checking out your local indie bookshop! You could also use Hive.co.uk in the UK!
4 thoughts on “Time For Some Student Politics // The (Un)Popular Vote”
lovely review! I’m glad to see that the book’s topics were handled well in a nuanced way (and thank goodness for no forced outing, that always makes me anxious to read). I didn’t know it focuses so much on US politics, that’s not something I don’t know a lot about so I’ll have to consider that if I read it
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I think it’s still a fun book regardless of if you know much about us politics but you’d probably enjoy it more if you did enjoy that aspect? For the first half of the book I was like it’s taking itself a bit too seriously but when personal issues came more into focus in the second half I really enjoyed it! I hate how much forced outing is a trope in ya contemporary, I know it’s a common experience, I mean like I was outed in school, but I just want characters to choose to come out more often because I think that’s a lot more of a helpful conversation for young readers
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thank you for letting me know, I’ll power through the first half since the second half of it sounds really good. also I just want to say i’m so sorry you were outed when you were in school, that’s so terrible and I hope you’re okay ❤
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I hope you enjoy it! And thank you! im okay it was a super long time ago and it wasn’t as dramatic as it is in books 😅😛
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