by Jen Moyers (@jen.loves.books)
Thanks to Partner NetGalley for the digital ARC of Brandy Colbert's The Voting Booth in exchange for an honest review. The book releases Tuesday, July 7.
Brandy Colbert's The Voting Booth is a perfect YA book. It's socially conscious; features compelling, nuanced characters; and has just the right amount of romance--I was grinning for nearly the duration of the book, which alternates between the points of view of two high school seniors.
Marva has been waiting to vote her whole life. Now that she's 18, she can finally put the cap on months of canvassing and registering people to vote by going with her boyfriend and casting her first ballot. The only hiccup? Her boyfriend Alec has suddenly decided that the two-party system is ineffective, so he's just not going to vote. Duke also is excited to vote, though he's more laid back about it than Marva is (as he is about everything). Duke's older brother was an activist before his death, and Duke knows that he has to vote to carry on Julian's legacy, if for no other reason.
Marva and Duke begin their days on parallel tracks, heading out to vote before the beginning of the school day. They end up meeting when Marva is exiting the voting booth only to hear Duke being told that he's at the wrong voting jurisdiction. The eternal organizer, she immediately gets involved and, when Duke's car won't start, agrees to skip school to take Duke to the right place.
It's a great setup. The book takes place over the rest of this one day. As Marva and Duke travel around their city so that Duke can vote, they discuss--in a completely believable way--so many issues. Marva is Black and is keenly aware of the inequities that may keep some people from voting. Duke is bi-racial: his dad is Black, and his mom--with whom he lives--is white, so he takes on Marva's digs about white people while having the same concerns about empowering Black citizens. Marva attends a predominantly white private school; Duke and his younger sister Ida chose to attend public school. And the death of Duke’s brother shadows all of their discussion until Duke finally shares his story with Marva.
Colbert has great fun playing up the contrasts between the characters. Marva is directed and organized and assertive, and so when she comes up against Duke's teasing and laid-back attitude, she's at first dismissive of his commitment to voting. But as they talk, each has a positive effect on the other, with Marva giving Duke a push and Duke getting Marva to laugh and ease up a little bit.
The Voting Booth was a one-sitting read for me. I just couldn't put it down. I love these characters; I love their conversations; and I love the messages about social responsibility that Colbert embeds throughout the novel. I could not recommend it more, both for teenagers and adults. It's the bright spot, delivered alongside a serious and powerful message, that we all need right now.
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