AD • I received a copy of this book from the publishers. My review is voluntary and opinions are entirely my own.
Happy pride month, friends! I’m delighted that my first review of the month is filled to the brim of amazing LGBTQIA+ rep. Today I’ll be sharing my thoughts on The (Un)Popular Vote by Jasper Sanchez. And friends, it was as good as I expected. It’s an incredible coming-of-age story that carefully examines identity and the assumptions we make about others. There are plenty of fun pop culture references in here including Parks and Rec (my favourite!) and The West Wing (which I also LOVE) so you know it’s going to be a good one. So let’s explore the book in a bit more detail, shall we?
The (Un)Popular Vote
by Jasper Sanchez
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Date of Publication: 8th July 2021
Genre: Young Adult
Format: Paperback (416 pages)
Note: The (Un)Popular Vote is out now in eBook format!
Red, White, & Royal Blue meets The West Wing in Jasper Sanchez’s electric and insightful #ownvoices YA debut, chronicling a transmasculine student’s foray into a no-holds-barred student body president election against the wishes of his politician father.
Optics can make or break an election. Everything Mark knows about politics, he learned from his father, the Congressman who still pretends he has a daughter and not a son.
Mark has promised 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 risks his low profile to become a political challenger.
The problem? No one really knows Mark. He didn’t grow up in this town, and his few friends are all nerds. Still, thanks to Scandal and The West Wing , they know where to start: from campaign stops to voter polling to a fashion makeover.
Soon Mark feels emboldened to 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 the bully frontrunner standing in his way, Mark will have to decide which matters most: perception or truth, when both are just as dangerous.
There’s so much to say about this book that I don’t really know where to begin! First of all, the cover is STUNNING. I think it’s graced my IG feed more than any other title and that’s largely because of how aesthetically pleasing it is.
In terms of the story itself, there’s a lot more here than your typical contemporary YA. It’s obviously LGBTQIA+ with an inclusive cast of characters identifying as gay, bi, aro, ace and pan plus a mix of gender identities and different faiths too. So there are elements of it being a ‘coming out’ story and there’s a side romance as well as lots of strong platonic relationships too. (It was the perfect amount of romance for me. Light and more about the emotional bond than anything else.)
But then it also has this strong political storyline which was equally fantastic. Having been heavily involved in student politics myself, I could relate to a lot. (Like Mark, I also ran as a representative of the underdogs against the popular kids.) The mirroring between Mark’s campaign and his dad’s campaign was done really well. I loved that he ultimately has to decide what matters to him and whether he still sees his dad as a role model.
There are a lot of important discussions here about identity, acceptance, privilege and heteronormativity. I especially enjoyed the discourse on cis and hetero norms being the assumed ‘default’ and how we need to move away from making those assumptions about others. This was something that I’m certainly guilty of doing myself so it’s challenged my perspective. (And I suspect it will do the same for many other readers!)
Likewise the discussion on passing was handled really well. As a straight passing ace, I found it incredibly relatable and I’m sure the same can be said for anyone who passes as straight or cis when they’re not. Passing is a privilege that can also be sort of invalidating because often you’re seen as not being queer enough. So it was great that both sides of that were addressed.
Mark is a fantastic character. I loved his overall arc. I thought it was really well executed especially in terms of establishing boundaries with his transphobic dad. (And I thought it was really important that that conflict wasn’t resolved, that Mark realised he shouldn’t need to work so hard for his dad’s acceptance.) On the other hand, his mum is the kind of parent I hope that I will be as my son grows up.
The character I connected with most was Pablo. (It’s always fantastic to see ace rep in books.) But all of the characters are great – except for Mark’s dad who is just awful. The support and acceptance that they all had for each other was another level. If found family is a trope you enjoy, then you’ll fall in love with the members of Club Francais.
Read This If You…
- Want to read a new LGBTQIA+ book for Pride (or any time!)
- Identify as transgender and/or pansexual and want to see yourself represented as a main character
- Are questioning or closeted and want to see a group of queer kids being accepted exactly as they are
- Enjoy contemporary YA
- Like first person singular narratives
Will you be adding The (Un)Popular Vote to your TBR? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.