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The [Un]Popular Vote

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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 as 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.


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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 as 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.

30 review for The [Un]Popular Vote

  1. 4 out of 5

    theresa

    The (Un)Popular Vote is a touching story of queer kids fighting back and the role of politics and politicians. It’s a story of finding your voice and fighting for what you believe in. I’ve been putting off writing this review because I don’t think it will be fair to the book. I read this while in hospital and thus not in a great headspace and I think that affected my enjoyment of the novel. However, I did overall enjoy it, particularly the journey Mark went on. Watching him go from hiding himself The (Un)Popular Vote is a touching story of queer kids fighting back and the role of politics and politicians. It’s a story of finding your voice and fighting for what you believe in. I’ve been putting off writing this review because I don’t think it will be fair to the book. I read this while in hospital and thus not in a great headspace and I think that affected my enjoyment of the novel. However, I did overall enjoy it, particularly the journey Mark went on. Watching him go from hiding himself and being pretty self centred and self important to really understanding what his role as student body president should be and accepting parts of himself he hadn’t before was really great to read. I particularly enjoyed how this played into his relationship with his friends and love interest and watching these relationships grow. I loved that the trans rep was so casual and yet such a significant part of the story, with references to Mark’s transition throughout. I also liked that the narrative around coming out didn’t ever suggest that it was necessary but instead showed that it’s always a very personal decision based on comfort and safety. However, I would like to mention that Mark’s dead name does come up a lot and is used maliciously against him which wasn’t easy to read. What really threw me off about The (Un)Popular Vote was how seriously these kids took themselves and their student government. Although I had realised by the end that it was over-dramatised in order to be satirical, it did require some suspension of disbelief to really get into and understand the significance of what was happening. I think part of this is also due to me being Scottish and completely believing that Americans would take student government that seriously when we don’t even have student government or anything similar and just finding it all a bit ridiculous and over the top. It also required a lot more knowledge of American politics than I was expecting or prepared for. Overall, The (Un)Popular Vote is a book I think I would have enjoyed more under different circumstances that are no fault of the book. However, it was an overall enjoyable read about friendship, the role of politicians and fighting for what you believe in and I would recommend it to fans of politics based media, particularly USA-based ones. I also talk about books here: youtube | instagram | twitter *Thank you Harper360 for an advanced copy. This has not affected my review.*

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    So I've had this ARC to read and review and I kept putting it off. My reasoning for that was I had read three other YA novels about transmasculine characters earlier this year, and I didn't enjoy two of them, and the other was a really heavy book. So I wasn't necessarily looking forward to another one. And at the same time, this book is very political and I was rather burned out on politics when I received the ARC. So I put it off. And I'm happy to say now that I wish I didn't! This book is real So I've had this ARC to read and review and I kept putting it off. My reasoning for that was I had read three other YA novels about transmasculine characters earlier this year, and I didn't enjoy two of them, and the other was a really heavy book. So I wasn't necessarily looking forward to another one. And at the same time, this book is very political and I was rather burned out on politics when I received the ARC. So I put it off. And I'm happy to say now that I wish I didn't! This book is really good and a super fun read. This book is about Mark Adams, who is a transman. He recently moved to a new city and new school after his congressman father isn't supportive of his coming out. And Mark just wants to keep his head low and blend in as another guy at school, but after a friend of his is the victim of homophobic bullying, and the people running for student council turn a blind eye, he decides to use what he learned from his father and throw his hat in the game. I really did enjoy this book. I loved the plethora of queer characters and especially Mark. I kinda loved how they referenced their school's GSA was ineffectual and started their own under French Club (A Geography Club reference?) The race and political part of this book was riveting, and the relationship subplot was very nice too. There's a whole lot of this book to enjoy. Mark was a great character! He was so fun to go on this journey with. I could tell he really was a student of politics, but also he had a really big heart and did care about people and what they were needing. And his steadfastness was great- this is probably the best trans book I have read so far and it's because of Mark. The supporting characters were great too! The queer gang was super great and I want to be friends with them all, from Pablo, Jenny, Rachel, Nadine, and especially Benji. All of these characters are so well rounded and have their own distinct personalities. They were all very developed and made this a fun book. And there was a lot of story and a handful of subplots, but also everything was very followable and interesting. And this book does have a lot of politics in it- both school level and national level, but it didn't at all feel overwhelming, if political books aren't necessarily people's thing. I want to note, I've seen a couple other reviews talk about the use of Mark's deadname, but in my experience as a transwoman six years into my transition- I have several family members with whom I have been in no contact with for several years- And I know (according to my brother) they still refer to me by my deadname when I come up. So I personally found it realistic how Mark's name was depicted in the book. It wasn't fun to read I guess, but I didn't have an issue with the books handling of it. My only main complaint is that, teenagers don't actually talk like what is in this book. Or at least I'm preeettty sure they don't. At least they didn't when I was in high school. I know this book takes place at an advanced program school, but I was in AP classes when I went to school too. BUT I think the counterargument to this criticism is that this book references The West Wing many times (And I LOVED the church scene homage to Two Cathedrals.) And a common criticism of Aaron Sorkin's writing is also "Nobody talks like that." So if the elevated language for teenagers is a nod to The West Wing, I'll buy it. (view spoiler)[ also the nitpicky-ist of criticisms, Mark reportedly gets pretty high after the first time he smokes marijuana while campaigning- and like that doesn't usually happen. I've seen very few people actually get high their first time. Again, nitpicky, but still it stood out to me (hide spoiler)] I shouldn't have delayed in reading and reviewing this ARC. I was super into it. I loved the characters and the story was fun too. 4.5/5 Thank you to Netgalley and HarperCollins for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Anniek

    Many thanks to the author for getting me an ARC of this, I'm so grateful I got to read this early! Let me start this review off by saying that you're going to absolutely LOVE this if you enjoyed The Politician on Netflix. Unfortunately, that wasn't really my cup of tea, and this book wasn't either. It's really just a matter of taste - it really wasn't a bad book, it just wasn't really my thing. That's mostly, same as with The Politician, because I felt like these kids were taking themselves so ex Many thanks to the author for getting me an ARC of this, I'm so grateful I got to read this early! Let me start this review off by saying that you're going to absolutely LOVE this if you enjoyed The Politician on Netflix. Unfortunately, that wasn't really my cup of tea, and this book wasn't either. It's really just a matter of taste - it really wasn't a bad book, it just wasn't really my thing. That's mostly, same as with The Politician, because I felt like these kids were taking themselves so extremely seriously, and I wanted them to put things in perspective and maybe go have some fun so badly. Quite honestly though, I'm not a fan of politics. I see it as a necessary evil to have to pay attention to it. So that ultimately makes this book not for me. I didn't really resonate with the trans rep either, but that's very much okay; not every trans book is going to be for every trans reader, and I'm just super glad in general that we're getting more trans books! One thing I thought was unnecessarily triggering was how often the MC's deadname was mentioned, sometimes really casual, even. So please be prepared for that if you pick up this book!

  4. 5 out of 5

    anna (½ of readsrainbow)

    sounds like my new favourite book & no, im not just saying this bc it uses rwrb as comp

  5. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    I very much loved this. I want more books to be like this--diverse af squads and ones that don't tokenize any of the characters. The Unpopular Vote is about Mark Adams, a trans boy who has recently transferred to a new school to transition. His father is a congressman and Mark has gotten his love of politics and sense of justice from him. Though he can't reconcile the father he loves with the dad that will only accept Mark as the girl they thought he was. When Benji is bullied for being gay and s I very much loved this. I want more books to be like this--diverse af squads and ones that don't tokenize any of the characters. The Unpopular Vote is about Mark Adams, a trans boy who has recently transferred to a new school to transition. His father is a congressman and Mark has gotten his love of politics and sense of justice from him. Though he can't reconcile the father he loves with the dad that will only accept Mark as the girl they thought he was. When Benji is bullied for being gay and strikes back at his bullies, the school gives him awful options. Benji chooses suspension and Mark knows that it's time to do something. He's ready to Make his Mark and he's running for student president. I loved Mark's platform and seeing him work a campaign was exhilarating. I loved seeing him and his friends come together and speak to all the students and see what was wrong with the system. This book really showcases that a lot of issues are about systemic disenfranchisement. The school system is only one cog in the wheel. Mark's friend circle is something I want in real life--hello all my friends move closer pls? The easy platonic affection. All of the boys in this show affection with each other--toxic masculinity? Don't know him. There is an adorable slow burn romance in this, but the friendship Mark has with everyone in this is much more the focus. How we can mess up in friendships, and the steps we take to fix them are all important. One of the things I loved was how much good communication was emphasized. It's not enough to talk, but to listen to what you're friends are or aren't saying. Mark was definitely selfish at times in this book and he makes several mistakes, but we see him go through a whole journey. We see him come to the realizations that what he did was stupid for x reason(s) and apologizing and figuring out what to do next. Lastly, the dedications says this is for queer readers, and just, my heart!! Rep: white pansexual transmasculine MC--diagnosed bipolar, Jewish gay love interest with generalized anxiety disorder, aromantic allosexual side character, Latine/x biromantic asexual side character, sapphic nonbinary hijabi side character, sapphic Jewish side character, gay femme side character. CWs: Bullying, transphobia, outing without consent of gay character, emotional abuse by parent, manipulation of minor by parent, toxic relationship-parent/child, alcohol consumption, talk of sexual encounters (not graphic), antisemitism, religious bigotry, grief, talk of past parental death, deadnaming, cursing, drug use-on page marijuana use, gaslighting, homophobia, panic/anxiety attack (on page).

  6. 4 out of 5

    Cody

    “Unflinching support is exactly what you deserve. Unconditional love. Unequivocal acceptance.” “It’s what we all deserve. Every queer kid in America.” As a Social Studies teacher, I LOVE reading novels that have a plot that involves something under the Social Studies umbrella: history, politics, economics, geography. It’s even better now that there are LGBTQ+ books being added into that mix! “I’M GOING TO STEAL THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.” My head jerks up, then back against the headrest. Pa “Unflinching support is exactly what you deserve. Unconditional love. Unequivocal acceptance.” “It’s what we all deserve. Every queer kid in America.” As a Social Studies teacher, I LOVE reading novels that have a plot that involves something under the Social Studies umbrella: history, politics, economics, geography. It’s even better now that there are LGBTQ+ books being added into that mix! “I’M GOING TO STEAL THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.” My head jerks up, then back against the headrest. Pablo’s eyes stay on the road. “That got your attention, didn’t it?” “National Treasure is no joking matter.” I know this isn’t everyone’s “cup of tea”, but I couldn’t help but laugh along with the characters when it came to the numerous pop culture and current real-life political references. The amount of “Olivia Pope” jokes never failed to make me crack a smile! Each character had their own style of humor that made each reference feel at-home, like you were part of the group yourself. What I loved most about this book was the amount of BIPOC representation on top of the slew of representation on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. It felt natural, like these were people the author knew and interacted with in daily life, which brought an authenticity to the characters. The author has a way with words that produces vivid imagery without being overly obnoxious. For example, “bubbles erupt on the batter like tiny volcanoes, leaving yawning craters in their wake” is the PERFECT description to add to a post-hangout pancake cooking scene; you can almost SMELL the dark chocolate chip pancakes! The (Un)Popular Vote by Jasper Sanchez is the emotional roller-coaster ride of what it’s like to be a high school student in today’s society. It’s the kind of book teens need to show them that there ARE people out there that are exactly like them; that their thoughts, ideas, and decisions are valid. I can’t wait to see what else the author has in store for us! **a HUGE thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for access to the ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!**

  7. 4 out of 5

    Dahlia

    *The* must-read queer YA for politics nerds. I liked this so, so much, especially because I love books where the kind of maybe a little bit self-righteous MC learns they might have a flaw or two after all. The love interest is definitely different, in such a good way, and yeah, every review that says fans of The Politician is correct.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Bartos

    Honestly, I don't have a lot to say about this book because I finished it 3 days ago, and already so much of it has left my mind. I wasn't ever really excited about getting back to it because the stakes felt pretty low, and while I sometimes got like a Sydney White vibe, that just made me wish I was watching that movie instead. This wasn't bad in any way, but it's not one that sticks out to me to recommend to others. Honestly, I don't have a lot to say about this book because I finished it 3 days ago, and already so much of it has left my mind. I wasn't ever really excited about getting back to it because the stakes felt pretty low, and while I sometimes got like a Sydney White vibe, that just made me wish I was watching that movie instead. This wasn't bad in any way, but it's not one that sticks out to me to recommend to others.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mimi

    I saw someone saying that you'll enjoy this if you loved The Politician on Netflix (and not only because of Ben Platt but the actual storyline but also BEN) and I couldn't agree more - the protagonists of the respective stories could for sure be best friends. I saw someone saying that you'll enjoy this if you loved The Politician on Netflix (and not only because of Ben Platt but the actual storyline but also BEN) and I couldn't agree more - the protagonists of the respective stories could for sure be best friends.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Gretal

    I am so glad this was my first book of the year. It was beyond incredible, and I just absolutely loved it. It was funny, it was heartfelt, it was joyous. Highly recommend.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Iris

    this was very good! I spent a little too much time cringing in secondhand embarrassment, and I had a couple bits I didn't love, but overall, I thought this book was very powerful. I did have to suspend a bit of disbelief at how seriously these kids were taking their school presidency, but maybe that's just me being a homeschool kid, I'm not sure either way, they characters were great, and this is super fun! this was very good! I spent a little too much time cringing in secondhand embarrassment, and I had a couple bits I didn't love, but overall, I thought this book was very powerful. I did have to suspend a bit of disbelief at how seriously these kids were taking their school presidency, but maybe that's just me being a homeschool kid, I'm not sure either way, they characters were great, and this is super fun!

  12. 5 out of 5

    caro(lee)na

    Tw: homophobia, transphobia This book follows Mark, who is a transgender teen who after seeing acts of homophobia in his school, decides to run for student body president. If you like politics and diverse reads, this is the book for you. It has trans, bi, pan, asexual, aromantic, lesbian, non-binary, and poc representation and I felt it was aimed at queer people everywhere who feel like they’re underrepresented in media. I really liked this book and what it represented. The author is also a trans m Tw: homophobia, transphobia This book follows Mark, who is a transgender teen who after seeing acts of homophobia in his school, decides to run for student body president. If you like politics and diverse reads, this is the book for you. It has trans, bi, pan, asexual, aromantic, lesbian, non-binary, and poc representation and I felt it was aimed at queer people everywhere who feel like they’re underrepresented in media. I really liked this book and what it represented. The author is also a trans man so I can trust the transgender representation is well written. Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Shelf Blame

    Thank you so much to Katherin Tegan Books for the ARC of this book! If you don't like reading about politics or dramatic monologues or kids who are smarter than you, this book isn't for you. That said, you'd be missing out terribly if you didn't read it. Mark Adams is new to Utopia Heights. He moved with his mom to get away from his old life and his old name and his old gender identity. Mostly, to get away from his politician father who refuses to acknowledge that he has a son instead of the daug Thank you so much to Katherin Tegan Books for the ARC of this book! If you don't like reading about politics or dramatic monologues or kids who are smarter than you, this book isn't for you. That said, you'd be missing out terribly if you didn't read it. Mark Adams is new to Utopia Heights. He moved with his mom to get away from his old life and his old name and his old gender identity. Mostly, to get away from his politician father who refuses to acknowledge that he has a son instead of the daughter he thought he had. Mark has been enmeshed in politics since childhood and when he sees one of his friends bullied for their sexual orientation, he decides the only way to make true change is to run for student body president. The only trick will be doing it while hiding who he really is. The entire plot of this book is a story is a study in democratic pillow talk. The kind of political strategy that says 'we're with you. we want to help you. it gets better.' with no real action behind it at all. Mark's father is a democrat, and while they'd have you believe they're the party of progression, this book makes it quite clear that the difference between the two-party system in the US is basically non-existent. Mark feels like he needs to make the big promises he knows he can't really keep to win the election because that's what we've been given our entire lives in this country. The characters are diverse both in race and orientation/how they identify, and I loved seeing a guy asexual character. I feel like so many times it's a girl and yes I'm also a girl but it's nice to see the guys being repped out there too. Mark's friends call him on his shit when he's being a shit, but mostly they're a group of queer found family who have been drawn to each other for their 'otherness'. Safety in numbers, and I loved seeing this group come together for each other. Overall, a really, really enjoyed this book, big dramatic speeches and all.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bertie (LuminosityLibrary)

    When I first started reading this I thought it took itself a little too seriously, but by the end, the characters had stolen my heart. I think especially looking at it from the perspective of someone outside the USA the amount of effort they put into their school president elections seems a bit ridiculous? I'm not sure you'd enjoy this book if you weren't at least somewhat interested in USA politics, because it's full of it. At the same time, I really enjoyed the main character's development. I When I first started reading this I thought it took itself a little too seriously, but by the end, the characters had stolen my heart. I think especially looking at it from the perspective of someone outside the USA the amount of effort they put into their school president elections seems a bit ridiculous? I'm not sure you'd enjoy this book if you weren't at least somewhat interested in USA politics, because it's full of it. At the same time, I really enjoyed the main character's development. I was on edge because I was sure there was going to be a forced outing scene, and there wasn't, so that's a huge bonus because I hate that trope with a passion. I also loved how the tension with the main character's dad was handled, because I've seen too many books just brush behaviour aside because 'family'. Topics in this book were handled thoughtfully and with a lot of heart, so if it sounds like something you'd enjoy you should pick it up! Thanks to Harper360 for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. Follow me on my Blog, Twitter, and Instagram.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Jeffers

    This was fine but it didn't blow me away. I think it's just because YA is so, so hit-or-miss for me as a thirtysomething Certified Old™. I'm here for the trans narratives and the snappy plot, but the teen characters felt a little too like a satire of high school and the romantic thread was lacking in chemistry, IMO. I did, however, appreciate the on-the-nose homage to Jed Bartlet in Two Cathedrals. There's always bonus points for a good West Wing nod. This was fine but it didn't blow me away. I think it's just because YA is so, so hit-or-miss for me as a thirtysomething Certified Old™. I'm here for the trans narratives and the snappy plot, but the teen characters felt a little too like a satire of high school and the romantic thread was lacking in chemistry, IMO. I did, however, appreciate the on-the-nose homage to Jed Bartlet in Two Cathedrals. There's always bonus points for a good West Wing nod.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

    4.5 Main rep: transmasc, Pan, gay, Jewish Side rep: bi, ace, aro, lesbian, non-binary, genderqueer, demigirl, POC, Muslim CW: transphobia, homophobia, dead-naming, underage drug usage, underage drinking, anxiety attacks, bullying

  17. 4 out of 5

    Pine Reads Review

    “Dad deals with my transness the way republicans deal with global warming: complete and categorical denial." Mark Adams is the son of a congressman, and it shows. He spends his free time working hard to achieve Ivy-League-level grades and staying up to date with the latest news in politics. But being the son of a politician also means that Mark has to put on a front to avoid damaging his dad’s career—meaning Mark can’t tell anyone he’s trans. Mark agrees to go to a new school and keep his true se “Dad deals with my transness the way republicans deal with global warming: complete and categorical denial." Mark Adams is the son of a congressman, and it shows. He spends his free time working hard to achieve Ivy-League-level grades and staying up to date with the latest news in politics. But being the son of a politician also means that Mark has to put on a front to avoid damaging his dad’s career—meaning Mark can’t tell anyone he’s trans. Mark agrees to go to a new school and keep his true self a secret, all while his father still pretends he has a daughter. Mark’s low-profile at school doesn’t last long when he decides to run for student-body president, inspired by an unfair instance of another queer kid being bullied at school. Faced by his father’s discouragement, a journalist on his tail, and a bully competitor, Mark must use all of his heart and political know-how to do what’s right. The (Un)popular Vote is a funny, complex read exploding with queerness that’s perfect for political nerds. I give my praise after having read (or listened, rather, to my first YA audiobook) the whole novel, but I will admit it was hard to get into in the beginning. Mark and his friends are passionate about doing the right thing, but at first it sounded a lot like teenagers taking themselves too seriously in a cloying, exaggerated way; however, as the book went on, I felt more affection for Mark’s group of friends. There was excellent queer representation and inclusion of characters in the novel that everyone can see themselves in, all written in a way that didn’t feel forced or tokenizing. I will warn any prospective readers that this book had quite a few vivid descriptions of bullying, including homophobic slurs, so it may be difficult for some readers to enjoy. The most stunning part of the book was its ability to discern that good and bad are not just defined by political lines. Mark’s transphobic father is a democratic politician, which Jasper Sanchez astutely points out, doesn’t mean he can’t also be a bigot. If you’re looking for your next political drama to binge, The (Un)popular Vote might just be a winner. Content Warnings: Transphobia, homophobia, dead-naming, hate-speech, underage drug usage, underage drinking, absent/unsupportive parent, discussion of mental illness, bullying, some violence, foul language Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook @pinereadsreview and check out our website at www.pinereadsreview.com for reviews, author interviews, blogs, podcast episodes, and more!

  18. 4 out of 5

    kit!

    THE WEST WING?????

  19. 4 out of 5

    booksandzoe

    what I found most interesting about this book was how the trans main characters father was very unaccepting and transphobic, and he was a democratic politician. I thought this was super interesting because democrats are often reflected as perfect angels especially in LGBT books when the authors are neo-liberals, which this book didn't do. just because American liberals are typically more accepting doesn't mean this shit doesn't exist! ESPECIALLY with politicians. as a leftist, I finally felt as what I found most interesting about this book was how the trans main characters father was very unaccepting and transphobic, and he was a democratic politician. I thought this was super interesting because democrats are often reflected as perfect angels especially in LGBT books when the authors are neo-liberals, which this book didn't do. just because American liberals are typically more accepting doesn't mean this shit doesn't exist! ESPECIALLY with politicians. as a leftist, I finally felt as like I could truly like the author and enjoy the politics of the book because it didn't feel like typical liberals-can-do-no-wrong cringe like red white and royal blue does. I really enjoyed this book! 4.5/5 stars

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jaye Berry

    TW: transphobia, homophobia, bullying The [Un]Popular Vote is about a trans boy named Mark. Everything he's learned about politics has come from his congressman father. To protect his father's image, Mark promises to stay stealth and keep his past hidden, letting everyone at his new school believe he's cis. When he sees a terrible and offensive candidate for student body president, he can't help but decide to run against them. This was okayyy. I liked the idea behind it but I'm once again tired of TW: transphobia, homophobia, bullying The [Un]Popular Vote is about a trans boy named Mark. Everything he's learned about politics has come from his congressman father. To protect his father's image, Mark promises to stay stealth and keep his past hidden, letting everyone at his new school believe he's cis. When he sees a terrible and offensive candidate for student body president, he can't help but decide to run against them. This was okayyy. I liked the idea behind it but I'm once again tired of reading a book with a trans mc / queer characters that just get hate crimed a lot. Also why is no one writing trans girl books? While I love the influx of trans stories being told in the YA sphere it just feels very boy. The hate wasn't as bad as it could have been (I say because I have read worse, yikes) but it was still there. Mark's father was terrible but also at times he just felt like a caricature of a transphobic parent and instead of a complex dynamic between them, he just felt like villain mcbadguy who would also deadname and misgender Mark through the entire book. I liked Mark and his friend group though and how they were all queer. Mark is a baddie who gets into all of this because he stood up for someone being bullied and I'm like hell yeah man do your thing. Maybe I just don't care about politics and I especially don't care about student politics but I never really connected to the plot otherwise. And unfortunately the romance never really wowed me. But oh my god the cover is so cute.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alex Kogay

    4.5 but rounding up for the sake of the début novel. I might be out of the loop, but this is the first YA story I’ve read that has some serious student body issues going that are not prom related. Not to dismiss any other queer YA out there that was either a coming out story or dealing with any other personal issues, but this one tackles bigger (even though still on the school level) political issues in a school setting and that was refreshing to me. The pop cultural references were Scandal, the W 4.5 but rounding up for the sake of the début novel. I might be out of the loop, but this is the first YA story I’ve read that has some serious student body issues going that are not prom related. Not to dismiss any other queer YA out there that was either a coming out story or dealing with any other personal issues, but this one tackles bigger (even though still on the school level) political issues in a school setting and that was refreshing to me. The pop cultural references were Scandal, the West Wing and Veep, rather than Harry Potter and the profound knowledge of US politics and literature classics was a bit over my head and pretentious, but it works… The plot kept going from adorably naive (I will change the world) to hopelessly frustrating (that man is an asshole!) and while it got a bit tiresome at certain points, I also thing it was done in purpose to reflect some other points mentioned in plot (no spoilers). The representation and inclusion among the characters is impressing and the Mark’s self awareness sometimes came at the right time to smack my privileged perspective along with his own. So overall, a great read & highly recommended to all Simon, Felix, and co fans out there

  22. 5 out of 5

    Joyfully Jay

    A Joyfully Jay review. 5 stars This is a book with a message. It’s standing proud and tall on a soapbox, and I for one am more than willing to buy the soap. There seems to be this thought in popular culture about people being “different” in the right way. A person can be quirky — you know, the funny one, the sassy one, the geeky one, the alternative one — so long as it’s digestible in it’s pop culture approved packaging. This book is light on the angst and heavy on the characterization. The pacing A Joyfully Jay review. 5 stars This is a book with a message. It’s standing proud and tall on a soapbox, and I for one am more than willing to buy the soap. There seems to be this thought in popular culture about people being “different” in the right way. A person can be quirky — you know, the funny one, the sassy one, the geeky one, the alternative one — so long as it’s digestible in it’s pop culture approved packaging. This book is light on the angst and heavy on the characterization. The pacing is very fast, with the story taking place over a few weeks, and the writing is wonderful. If you want a book filled with hope, optimism, heart, and love, read this book. It’s also just a really, really good book. Mark’s careful romance with Ralph, and his relationship with his mother, his father, and even himself is so well done … and I have added this author on my “to stalk” list. Read Elizabeth’s review in its entirety here.

  23. 4 out of 5

    pepper

    “Maybe I haven’t done enough to earn a reward, but what the hell have I done to deserve your wrath? Tell me. Was this body a punishment? What about the hate your gospel planted in this world? Did I deserve the hurt that bloomed in me? I’ll plead guilty to pride and wrath and lust. Hear this as my confession: I may be broken and flawed, but legend has it, you made me in your image. If I’m imperfect, then what does that say about you?” this book did what so many other ya contemporaries have tried. “Maybe I haven’t done enough to earn a reward, but what the hell have I done to deserve your wrath? Tell me. Was this body a punishment? What about the hate your gospel planted in this world? Did I deserve the hurt that bloomed in me? I’ll plead guilty to pride and wrath and lust. Hear this as my confession: I may be broken and flawed, but legend has it, you made me in your image. If I’m imperfect, then what does that say about you?” this book did what so many other ya contemporaries have tried. it actually tackled issues of intersectionality and privilege without tearing other groups down. it discussed religion and both its positive and negative effects, it was effortlessly diverse and engaging and its main romance was adorable. read it!!!!!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Starr ❇✌❇

    I received an ARC from Edelweiss TW: homophobia & transphobia, deadnaming on page, bullying, hate speech/slurs 2.8 Mark grew up in the political world- watching his father run, canvassing for elections, setting news alerts for the biggest stories. And politics is something that can't be taken out of his life, even after his father removes himself. They have a deal: Mark can live as the teenage boy he knows he is, if he stays stealth, stays away from politics, and doesn't do a thing to connect h I received an ARC from Edelweiss TW: homophobia & transphobia, deadnaming on page, bullying, hate speech/slurs 2.8 Mark grew up in the political world- watching his father run, canvassing for elections, setting news alerts for the biggest stories. And politics is something that can't be taken out of his life, even after his father removes himself. They have a deal: Mark can live as the teenage boy he knows he is, if he stays stealth, stays away from politics, and doesn't do a thing to connect himself to his father or complicate his run at governor. It's a promise he has no trouble making, until homophobic bullying leaves his friend in a possibly future ruining suspension, with no one willing to do a thing about it. The new class president might be able to change things- and stop the conservative, hate-mongering candidate- but can he really break his word to his father? I really wanted to love this book, and I really, really didn't. What I leaned from this book is never take a comparison to Red, White & Royal Blue as an actual endorsement. What did meet my expectations is the amount of diversity. Besides the trans main character you have a cast of characters with varying sexual and romantic preferences, as well as a character who comes out as nonbinary. And the love interest is very Jewish, and very connected to his faith, which is really nice to see. There's also a good amount of catharsis in this book. "The good fight" narrative is always popular, and it doesn't soften itself, so it's satisfying in the way it tears towards the victory. A major obstacle in this book, other than The Man and conservatives/queerphobic people, is obviously Mark's father, and that catharsis moment is one I feared would fall flat and didn't. There are almost moments where you do really root for Mark, or at least his campaign, and one of the things that did make me root was the disinterest in a soft "it gets better" stance of future progression. There's a fierceness and a refusal to budge that I respect a lot. However, this book made me so angry and frustrated. Angry, because Mark is terrible and I hate him. I'm all for main characters who are flawed, or even unlikable, but Mark is clearly supposed to be a likable character and just fails at that. He's irritating, selfish, pretentious, and barely feels like an actual character. He is, without a doubt, made up of about half Alex Claremont-Diaz and while a trans, high school version of Alex sounds great in theory the execution is terrible. He lacks all of the relatability, likability, and willingness to learn that Alex does, and instead feels like nothing but a political voice to text option. Part of the reason Mark feels that way is because the dialogue is not organic at all. This book is made up of monologue after monologue of big, dramatic speeches which not only is not the way people talk, but took any really weight off of them because they got overused. The characters in this book even beyond Mark feel like political sock puppets. No high schooler talks like these high schoolers, no one quotes politics or history as much as these high schoolers, no one care that much about the student handbook. Had all of those interests been only traits of Mark it may have worked- special interests exist- but instead this is apparently set in a world where teenagers all have a deep knowledge and investment in those things. That doesn't just go for the political things- it also goes hand in hand with the clunky way Sanchez attempts to educate people. While the diversity is a positive factor in this book, and it's good that is gets brought to the surface at times, it gets brought up in ways that feel like I'm watching a poorly acted high school assembly on Diversity™. There are strangely phrased questions meant to set up learning moments, and learning moments out of the blue that then get highlighted for a paragraph or two of internal monologuing. I do think that it's good to have some education- though in implicitly queer media, I think there should be an assumption that the reader doesn't need a 101 class- but this is definitely not the way to do it. And the story in general just didn't do it for me. There's a romance at work here that has its moments, and is, in general, very sweet, but runs into the same problems I have with the rest of the book. For one thing, Mark himself making terrible, terrible, self-centered decisions. But also a lack of build up to an organic place or a realistic quality. The same way that Mark's decision to run for president didn't feel like an organic choice or have enough context on page to make that leap, the romance starts after the characters have a single, non-deep conversation and then all bets are apparently off and we're meant to assume that was a life changing enough conversation for them both to suddenly think of each other differently. Also, cute as it sometimes is, the chemistry just wasn't there for me. I am, as always, really glad that there are stories like this on the shelf- trans main characters in general make me really happy, the diversity on page is something you wouldn't have been able to find a decade ago. And I know I'm probably going to be in the minority of people who honestly really don't like this book, just because of the celebration of queerness alone working for people (which is valid). But this is a book I didn't enjoy reading basically at all.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    I truly loved this book so much! Mark is such an amazing character and does the most to try and make his school a better place for his friends and those coming after him. I think he is such a strong character and I LOVED the romance aspect in this book. I thought it was really well done and beautiful and I loved it! Content Warnings Graphic: Transphobia, Deadnaming, Homophobia, Bullying, and Violence Moderate: Abandonment

  26. 4 out of 5

    dani

    i love teenagers who go crazy for politics

  27. 4 out of 5

    Solly

    I enjoyed this a bit more than I thought I would, to be honest. Reviews comped this to The Politician and I couldn't make it past the first episode of that show, but I think my taste in books vs. movies/TV shows is super different in some places and that's why. I'm a bit of a politics nerd, so it was great for me. I tend to enjoy non-American politics more, because American exceptionalism is a plague, so this annoyed me in places, but not more than politics usually annoy me. I'm a politics nerd I enjoyed this a bit more than I thought I would, to be honest. Reviews comped this to The Politician and I couldn't make it past the first episode of that show, but I think my taste in books vs. movies/TV shows is super different in some places and that's why. I'm a bit of a politics nerd, so it was great for me. I tend to enjoy non-American politics more, because American exceptionalism is a plague, so this annoyed me in places, but not more than politics usually annoy me. I'm a politics nerd but I don't *love* politics, I'm just very involved in my local and national politics as an activist, and all of my friends are, so it's something I can talk about for hours. So seeing teens deep into politics was really enjoyable to me, as I've been discussing politics with friends since middle school (my very political far-left best friend got me into it haha). It was still a bit unrealistic in places. Not so much because kids can't be this involved in politics but because EVERYONE was. Everyone was taking themselves so seriously and while I believe some kids are very politically oriented, a lot aren't. So this whole dramatic election thing demanded some suspension of disbelief in places but, hey, it's fiction and I was happy to give in. I really enjoyed the ace best friend and the aro best friend rep, they were both fully realised characters and there wasn't any aphobic stuff that I caught, and it made my aroace heart really happy. The LI was sweet too, though I wish the romance subplot had been a little bit more engaging in places. There's a few times throughout the book where I wanted people to be MORE angry at Mark instead of just accepting apologies straightaway or refusing his apologies. Binder safety also just... wasn't it in this. Mark wears his binder to work out at the gym, wears it in the water... it's not good, despite him mentioning binder safety earlier/taking his binder off after 8 hours of wearing it. I know a lot of trans teens don't follow safety guidelines because dysphoria is a bastard, but it wasn't even mentioned that Mark wasn't respecting said safety guidelines, so that was a meh aspect of the book to me. Overall, I still enjoyed it a lot. There's a lot of misgendering and deadnaming but I didn't mind, there has to have space for trans stories where this is central. It's understandable if some readers wanted to avoid it, though, so be warned. I enjoyed the questioning Mark had to go through to find his ground in politics, I enjoyed that one of the best friends was a self-assumed politician shark, I enjoyed some of the subverted tropes, and I enjoyed that this didn't glorify politics/politicians and that it had some critical lines about the whole thing. It was good! Probably not for everyone for several reasons, but it was good.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Deepti Patel

    “Unflinching support is exactly what you deserve. Unconditional love. Unequivocal acceptance. It’s what we all deserve. Every queer kid in America.”/the world. TW: Various mentions of Scandal & Olivia Pope. 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 blatant injustice “Unflinching support is exactly what you deserve. Unconditional love. Unequivocal acceptance. It’s what we all deserve. Every queer kid in America.”/the world. TW: Various mentions of Scandal & Olivia Pope. 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 blatant injustice in the school, Mark decides to risk the low profile he assured his father and insert himself as a political challenger. Jasper Sanchez’s book is ripe with pop-culture references and he Akins the novel to a West wing rip off. West wing for YA, what could be better! The Mc is a trans guy, and the book ranks well in the representation and inclusion of the lgbtqia+ spectrum. I loved Mark’s mom. Every child deserves parents like her. My qualm is with the father’s characterisation. On one hand he is portrayed as a shrewd politician and on the other he suppressed his own son knowing full well he could have supported Mark and furthered his own Political agenda in the same go. The conflict was needed for the plot, but it wasn’t very plausible/well developed. All the characters are crafted so well, you feel like the author is telling you about actual people he knows in real life. Mark & Ralph’s love story will warm your hearts! This is not a thriller,so you have a fair idea of how things are going to turn out, but the magic is in the telling. Both the story and the writing are compelling enough to keep you coming back. “Maybe I haven’t done enough to earn a reward, but what the hell have I done to deserve your wrath? Tell me. Was this body a punishment? What about the hate your gospel planted in this world? Did I deserve the hurt that bloomed in me? I’ll plead guilty to pride and wrath and lust. Hear this as my confession: I may be broken and flawed, but legend has it, you made me in your image. If I’m imperfect, then what does that say about you?” Such a well written debut book. Don’t miss this one.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lyndsay

    I implore you to read this book! Jasper Sanchez delivered us an incredibly intelligent, witty, and emotional story. The main character, Mark Adams, is a transgender teenager who recently moved to new town with his mother at the request of his father, as to not interfere with his father’s rising political career. Mark lives a “stealth” high school life until a friend of his is bullied by the football jocks because of his sexual orientation. This sparks Mark’s activism and ignites his inner politi I implore you to read this book! Jasper Sanchez delivered us an incredibly intelligent, witty, and emotional story. The main character, Mark Adams, is a transgender teenager who recently moved to new town with his mother at the request of his father, as to not interfere with his father’s rising political career. Mark lives a “stealth” high school life until a friend of his is bullied by the football jocks because of his sexual orientation. This sparks Mark’s activism and ignites his inner politician, resulting in Mark ultimately running for student body president. The cast of characters are a beautiful representation of LGBTQ+ students from various socioeconomic backgrounds and the story highlights the importance of visibility and representation. As I said in my review for The Passing Playbook, it is so vitally important that this story exists in the world.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sydnie Shea

    4.5 stars (rounded up)

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