Sunday, February 07, 2021

The Voting Booth, by Brandy Colbert

Marva is eighteen, which means that she finally gets to take part in her first election.  She's completely on top of this.  She's been studying the ballot and she's been doing everything she can think of to help get others out to vote.  It's time to change the way things have been run and that will only happen when the right people get elected.  On the day of the vote, she gets up early and is even the first person in line at her polling place.  She's done well before school starts.

Duke is the same age and determined to vote, because in his family, being politically active is expected.  But his mind is really on his band's first paid gig tonight and he just wants to get in and get out.  However, that's not how it turns out.  He's not on the rolls and when Marva overhears his plight she takes him under her wing and drives him from place to place trying to get him his vote.  Through a day filled with every possible (and sadly familiar) set back from closed polling places to ballot shortages and long lines, the two young people become friends and more as they share the quest to participate in the democratic process.

It's a clever setting for a YA romance that would have made an excellent short story.  Even as a novella, it probably would have had room for all the politics that Colbert puts in (voter suppression, BLM, interracial marriage, racial identity, etc.).  As a novel though the material is too thin.  So, Colbert throws in dead siblings, failed relationships, and even a missing cat -- much of which seems distracting and immaterial to the story.  Sometimes a great story doesn't need to be a novel, but I guess it was a more commercial proposition to make it so.

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