A Guide to the This Mortal Coil Trilogy

This Mortal Coil
This Mortal Coil Book One
Written by Emily Suvada
Science Fiction, Dystopian
448 Pages
Thank you to Penguin Teen Australia
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When a lone soldier, Cole, arrives with news of Lachlan Agatta's death, all hope seems lost for Catarina. Her father was the world's leading geneticist, and humanity's best hope of beating a devastating virus.

Then, hidden beneath Cole's genehacked enhancements she finds a message of hope.

Lachlan created a vaccine.

Only she can find and decrypt it, if she can unravel the clues he left for her. The closer she gets, the more she finds herself at risk from Cartaxus, a shadowy organization with a stranglehold on the world's genetic tech. But it's too late to turn back.

There are three billion lives at stake, two people who can save them, and one final secret that Cat must unlock. A secret that will change everything.
To celebrate the release of This Vicious Cure, the conclusion to the This Mortal Coil Trilogy by Emily Suvada, I'll take you on a journey to explore the desolate wasteland, the plague decimating the population and the technology and characters who are entrusted to salvage humanity.

The Characters
Protagionist Catarina Agatta is an intelligent and resourceful young woman evading Cartaxus capture. Catarina is the seventeen year old daughter of the renowned geneticist Lachlan Agatta, a former Cartaxus programmer and genetic engineer, now recaptured along with his assistant to manufacture an antidote for the contagion decimating the country. Surviving within the isolated Black Hills and diagnosed with Hypergenesis, Catarina remains genetically unenhanced, relying upon her intellect and perception to survive.

Lieutenant Cole Franklin is an enhanced Cartaxus agent, the organisation who is holding her father captive in addition to his programming assistant. Cole has deflected and been assigned by Lachlan Agatta to protect Catarina and although she's malnourished, isolated and her only companion an elderly neighbour, is determined to become her own saviour. Cole is an interesting character and although he remains an agent of Cartaxus, he was raised within the confines of a laboratory and endured invasive experimentation under the guise of genetic manipulation.

The children, now adolescents of the genetic program have escaped the Cartaxus corporation, the remainder enlisted as soldiers. Leoben, Ziana, Cole, Anna and Jun Bei, children who endured torture and experimentation of consumer technology and programming under the guidance of Lachlan Agatta. Each character is tangible, created distinctly and introduced throughout the series.

World Building
The series is created within a desolate and American dystopian. The virus has ravaged the land and communities are living underground within Cartaxus bunkers. Those who remain on the surface live in isolation or in communities established with fortresses to protect the living from those effected by the virus. Throughout the series, several characters are collaborating on the coding that may inoculate the population, currently the only method of protection is to consume the flesh of the effected before they detonate vaporising into a mist and infecting those in the vicinity.

Entropia is an independent genehacker community, those living above ground protesting the invasiveness of the Cartaxus corporation and their militant methods. Throughout the series, Entropia becomes an important aspect of the narrative, introducing influential characters and emerging confrontations.

The Technology
Our lives are consumed by programming. Through a panel located on your forearm, applications are downloaded to change your appearance, regenerate our bodies, our senses, programming to create superior beings. The essence of This Mortal Coil is genetic manipulation and biotechnology, developed by Lachlan Agatta and administered to infants as nanotechnology. It allows programmers to create applications that download directly into the body, collaborating with our human genetics. Cartaxus monopolises the genetic applications, with the ability to deny survivors essential health enhancements.

Why You Need This Series in Your Life
Emily Suvada has studied mathematics and astrophysics, she's created a world where females are thriving as programmers, as soldiers and survivalists. Strong, remarkable women as heroines, villains and the morally ambiguous surviving against all odds. An airborne virus morphing formerly healthy individuals into bloodthirsty monsters and an all encompassing corporation determined to regulate and manipulate the civilian population as opposed by a community of genehackers. A science fiction thriller blending friendship, romance and a revolution of mammoth proportions. 

The This Mortal Coil Trilogy is an intelligent, captivating and atmospheric science fiction dystopian. Absolutely phenomenal.

This Cruel Design
This Mortal Coil Book Two
Written by Emily Suvada
Science Fiction, Dystopian, Survival
448 Pages
Thank you to Penguin Teen Australia
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Catarina thought they'd stopped the Hydra virus. She was wrong.

After laying everything on the line to decrypt the vaccine, Cat realises that Lachlan's daemon code is in the panel of every person on the planet's surface. With it, he can reprogram humanity.

She, Cole and Leoben set out to stop him, but they're on a timer. Cartaxus, the shadowy corporation that's both helped and hindered them, has a deadly end game in play. The virus is evolving, the vaccine is dying, and if Cat can't find Lachlan in three days, they'll use lethal code to wipe out every person on the planet.

Their path takes them to Entropia, an underground city deep in the desert and home to the most extreme gene hackers, run by the queen of coding, Regina.

Struggling with the revelations about her past, and plagued by strange visions, what Cat finds in Entropia is more than just a trail to Lachlan. Because in the vaulted chambers of Regina's kingdom, Cat is forced to question everything she knows and everyone she trusts, and discovers that the biggest threat of all may be buried in her own mind.

This Vicious Cure
This Mortal Coil Book Three
Written by Emily Suvada
Science Fiction, Dystopian, Survival
400 Pages
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Two factions at war.

A plague that can't be stopped. A cure that could destroy them all.

Cat's hacking skills weren't enough to keep her from losing everything, her identity, her past, and now her freedom.

Meanwhile, the person who's stolen everything from her is close to realising a hacker's dream, the solution to humanity's problems in gene form. Or so she thinks.

But now a new threat has emerged, a threat that could bring the world to the brink of a devastating war.

Both sides will stop at nothing to seize control of humanity's future, and that the centre of this war is Cat, and a race against the clock save millions of lives.

Don't Read The Comments

Don't Read The Comments
Written by Eric Smith
Contemporary, Gaming, Friendship, Online Safety
284 Pages
Published January 20th 2020
Thank you to Harlequin Teen Australia
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Divya Sharma is a queen. Or she is when she’s playing Reclaim the Sun, the year’s hottest online game. Divya regularly leads her #angstarmada on quests through the game’s vast and gorgeous virtual universe. But for Divya, this is more than just a game. Out in the real world, she’s trading her rising star status for sponsorships to help her struggling single mum pay the rent.

Gaming is basically Aaron Jericho’s entire life. Much to his mother’s frustration, Aaron has zero interest in becoming a doctor like her, and spends his free time writing games for a local developer. At least he can escape into Reclaim the Sun and with a trillion worlds to explore, disappearing should be easy. But to his surprise, he somehow ends up on the same remote planet as celebrity gamer Divya.

At home, Divya and Aaron grapple with their problems alone, but in the game, they have each other to face infinite new world and the growing legion of trolls populating them. Soon the virtual harassment seeps into reality when a group called the Vox Populi begin launching real world doxxing campaigns, threatening Aaron’s dreams and Divya’s actual life. The online trolls think they can drive her out of the game, but everything and everyone Divya cares about is on the line.

And she isn’t going down without a fight.
Reclaim The Sun is a popular online multiplayer game, players from all over the world board their ships ready to explore the universe, colonise planets and mine for resources. For gamer and streamer Divya Sharma, it's how she earns a living. Through sponsorship and revenue to help her single mother make ends meet while she puts herself through college.

Being a female gamer is hard enough, avoiding trolls and online abuse from arrogant males laying claim to online spaces. Divya has tried to protect her personal information. She doesn't use her real name, location or allow people past the virtual walls she's built around herself, she knows all too well how unsafe the world can be for females after her best friend, gaming buddy and streaming producer Rebekah was attacked in an elevator on her college campus. But when Divya is attacked and ambushed in game by a group of dudebros calling themselves the Vox Populi, the online trolling spills into her real life, comprising her safety.

Any girl gamer who's ever played an online multiplayer can attest to Divya's story. I'm no stranger to online gaming. In my younger years playing Call of Duty online and the amount of assholes who try to intimidate and target females is infuriating. Often console support will suggest you block other users or turn off the in game chat, sure, that solves the issue. I would have thought of that myself but my simple female brain is too occupied with flower arranging and darning socks. The issue is that for so long, they've allowed male gamers to create a toxic environment online where these losers living in their mother's basement get together and drive female gamers from the community. Back then, girls would meet online at a specific time and have female only sessions of online games. Safety in numbers is instilled in us because of men and allowing them to become faceless behind a keyboard only perpetuates their male fragility.

Aaron Jericho is a part time online gamer, his real interest lies in creating games and storyboarding, working for an independent developer who is trying to dodge paying wages for his staff. With no wage and an overbearing mother who refuses to support his dream of becoming a game developer, he's built himself a Frankenstein computer made from dumpster spare parts and pieces found in the neighbours trash. It works and is good enough to run Reclaim The Sun where Divya and her armada has just been attacked.

Aaron is a kindhearted young man and while he's never experienced trolling as Divya is now experiencing, he wholeheartedly supports her and her need for privacy while still checking in to make sure she's doing okay. Aaron's narrative explores the issue of creators not being paid appropriately for their work, taking advantage of because they're afforded experience. Experience doesn't pay the bills. Aaron's blossoming friendship with Divya allows him to escape and seek solace online and although he'd like to meet her, he respects Divya's need for privacy and allows her to set boundaries within their friendship. Never pushing her to meet offline or for her phone number.

The focus of the story is how unsafe online spaces can be for females in particular and like Divya, we can protect ourselves and our personal, sensitive information but online communities whether it be social media or gamer communities, it allows others to have access to us. Streaming her gaming attracts large audiences and although it's wonderful for Divya who can earn money from sponsorship, being a public figure shouldn't mean that her life should be for public consumption. Her private life is her own. These online trolls who are aggressively targeting Divya, her friends and family are dangerous. As soon as your safety is compromised, these faceless assholes become a danger and more needs to be done to be able to persecute those who engage in online targeted harassment and doxxing.

Don't Read The Comments is an incredible narrative of girls fighting back against those who attempt to silence us. Eric Smith is an impeccable author, creating discussion surrounding creating safe online spaces for females and supporting young creators. There's a saying, the standard you walk past, is the standard you accept and we need to be more mindful of one another online. If you see targeted harassment, report harassers. If a young woman is being abused, speak out and if you're a male gamer who doesn't believe in females occupying online spaces, then fuck off. 

The M Word

contains sensitivities such as self harm, suicide and depression
The M Word
Written by Brian Conaghan
Contemporary, Mental Health, Mature Themes
Published October 15th 2019
320 Pages
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
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Maggie Yates talks to her best friend Moya every day.

She tells her about Maggie's mum losing her job. She tells her that Mum's taken to not opening the curtains and crying in secret. And she tells her about how she plans to cheer Mum up, find her a fella with a bit of cash to splash.

Moya is with her every step of the way. You're surfing a rainbow if you think someone like that exists round here, she smiles. But I'll help.

But at the back of her mind Maggie knows that Mum's crying is more than sadness. That there are no easy fixes. And that Moya's not really there. Because though she talks to her every day, Moya died months ago.
Maggie has never had much, she isn't wealthy, her single mother yells at her at every opportunity and she's never snogged anyone. The one thing she's always had is Moya Burns, her best friend. While Moya lives a carefree life, she's not all that interested in school and prefers a good old snog and shag, she's always relied on Maggie. Until she doesn't. Now Moya talks to Maggie through a manky old bear, dishing out advice on finding her mum a bloke or to stop being a tosser.

Attending her counselling sessions isn't any better, Maggie scoffing at the new age mediation and loved up approach of Anna, her grief counsellor. Maggie's coping, barely. So when her tuck shop lady mum loses her job and sole income, Maggie watches her mum deteriorate much in the same way as Moya did. She chain smokes, has boarded herself inside and pitches a fit when the curtains are drawn, willing to clobber Maggie at the mere suggestion of opening a window. Maggie's mum has depression and the bad days are outweighing the good lately, which is driving Maggie deeper into a pit of grief and self harm.

Maggie's narrative is harrowing, she's trying to gather her life together after the death of her best friend. She hears Moya speaking though and old tattered teddy bear she carries as a protective shield. It's always been Maggie and Moya against the world but while Moya cycled through skint, tracksuit clad boyfriends, Maggie knew the only way to escape their suburban shithole was to make something of her life.

As Maggie is accepted into art school, Moya continues her snarky commentary by invading Maggie's thoughts. When she's placed in a group assignment with Plum, her boyfriend and Davis, who Maggie begins crushing on, Moya is there, egging her on, giving her useless advice but she helps Maggie to feel not so alone. The night that Moya died, Maggie begun to self harm as a distraction from the pain of losing her friend. As her mum loses her job and with little welfare to make ends meet, Maggie's mum locks herself away in a house of stale cigarette smoke and trashy reality television. When the ache becomes too much, Maggie cuts. 

Although we only see Moya through Maggie's perception, her character is larger than life. She's rough around the edges and wouldn't hesitate to knock you into next week but she loves Maggie, hiding her feelings between crass jokes and snarky comments. Fractures start to form in Moya's character as Maggie considers applying to art school. Moya felt as though she's being left behind, picking up with another tracksuit clad tosser who treats her like shit. Moya wants to be loved, deserved to be loved and assholes seemingly used and abused her, her casual boyfriend posting photos on Instagram without her consent, the comments and abuse coming thick and fast. Moya tried shaking it off, pretending she didn't care. She did. Maggie blames herself, if only she'd been there, if only she said something, if only Moya had still relied on her.

The storyline is confronting and packs an emotional punch. Poverty, suicide, depression, grief, toxic relationships, abuse and self harm. Many of these issues go hand in hand and Brian Conaghan has skilfully layered them throughout the storyline to create genuine characters who endure and survive what are ultimately shit circumstances, illness and hardship. They're flawed, genuine and most importantly, relatable. I loved the bright moments in Maggie's life, when she remembers Moya, sitting in the bath together removing their public hair, Moya's politically incorrect commentary, meeting Davis, her new and very unassuming friend Plum wanting to call their band The Flaps, Maggie and Davis setting her mum up with a man without her knowledge and while of course I don't condone catfishing, the misguided experience brought Maggie and Davis together.

This is by no means a love cures all storyline, actually love just makes Maggie's life more complicated, it drove home the message of how important emotional support can be. I loved grief counsellor Anna. Even as often as Maggie scoffed at her methods and lashed out at her, she was patient and showed an incredible amount of kindness. She also wasn't afraid to tell Maggie a few home truths when push came to shove. 

It was bloody brilliant. I'm always a little sceptical when it comes to male authors writing about the teen girl experience, yes, yes, sexism and that but it felt incredibly authentic. Maggie could be a girl that lived next door, sat behind me in class, she's a girl I would have been friends with, I even see parts of myself reflected in Maggie. 

Borrow a copy, buy a copy and ditch that tracksuit clad boyfriend and read it. While you're in the bath removing your pubic hair if that's you're thing. This is what young adult is about. 

Ember Queen

See my reviews for Ash Princess and Lady Smoke
Ember Queen
Ash Princess Trilogy Book Three
Written by Laura Sebastian
Fantasy, Political, Romance
480 Pages
Published February 11th 2020
Thank you to Pan Macmillan
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Smoke clears
And flames die,
But one burning ember
Can ignite a revolution.

Princess Theodosia was a prisoner in her own country for a decade. Renamed the Ash Princess, she endured relentless abuse and ridicule from the Kaiser and his court. But though she wore a crown of ashes, there is fire in Theo's blood. As the rightful heir to the Astrean crown, it runs in her veins. And if she learned nothing else from her mother, she learned that a Queen never cowers.

Now free, with a misfit army of rebels to back her, Theo must liberate her enslaved people and face a terrifying new enemy: the new Kaiserin. Imbued with a magic no one understands, the Kaiserin is determined to burn down anyone and everything in her way.

With more at stake than ever, Theo must learn to embrace her own power if she has any hope of standing against the girl she once called her heart's sister.
Queen Theodosia Eirene Houzzara is reclaiming Astrea from the Kalovaxian Empire, her homeland, her birthright and the freedom for Astrea from oppression and servitude. Theodosia has returned from the Fire Mine, stoking her ability to bring forth the blaze she needs to defend Crescentia, her former friend and now Kaiserin. The Kaiser slain by his forced bride's hand. Queen Theodosia is amassing her army of guardians and warriors to storm and lay siege to the capital, liberating those taken into slavery at the mines along her journey.

Theodosia is formidable, able to call upon her ability to create and manipulate fire with ease and not unlike Blaise and his own ability, will need to nurture and develop self control to weaponise her gift into something tangible to defeat Crescentia. Underneath her fearsome facade, lies a girl who is terrified of letting her people down and compares herself to her mother's reign. While her mother was known as the Queen of Peace before the siege that decimated her lands and took her country hostage, Theodosia is the Queen of Flame and Fury and will stop at nothing to see her kingdom liberated. Above all else. For the good of Astrea.

Throughout the series we've seen Theodosia blossom, from young girl adorned in her crown of ashes awaiting rescue, to the woman she's become. Her experiences have shaped her character, she's resilient, formidable and can rescue herself. She's the heroine of her own story. Theodosia is leading her misfit army, created from communities of Miners that had been enslaved by the Kalovaxians, their homelands conquered and left to ruin before their oppressors moved to conquer the next colony. Theodosia and her close knit circle of friends and warriors are fighting for those decimated by colonisation, daring to hope that after the war is won, Kingdoms will be rebuilt and the Kalovaxians will no longer reign.

This battle is intensely personal for both Theodosia and Crescentia, the girl who once described her friend as her heart's sister. Growing up in the castle after she was captured as a young girl, Crescentia befriended the young Ash Princess, despite the fury of her father. Crescentia believes that Theodosia is dead so when the two former friends begin connecting through Theodosia's dreams, Crescentia believes she's haunting her from the grave, spilling her secrets and plans for her Empire. What's evident is Crescentia's loneliness.  Her father is dead, her husband is dead and her only friend wants her dead. In Theodosia's absence, Crescentia has been administering the poisoned elixir to ladies formerly of the Kalovaxian in the hope of creating a replacement.

The friendship between Artemisia, daughter of Dragonsbane and Theodosia was one of the highlights of Ember Queen. Artemisia was raised with a stern hand by her mother and in Dragonsbane's world, there was no room for weakness and comfort. Slowly Artemisia's icy facade begins to thaw, sharing with Theodosia her time in the Water Mine, growing up and her thoughts on love. Surprisingly. Heron continues to be the voice of reason while Theodosia begins to mend her friendship with Blaise. And Søren. I like Søren as a character despite the blood on his hands from when he was Prinz under his father's reign. He's atoning for his sins and although his relationship with Theodosia has been turbulent, he will fight for the freedom of Astrea. Sacrificing himself for the cause. Theodosia and Søren seem to work better as friends but having said that, the few intimate scenes between them were gentle and lovely, it brought a softness to the storyline and allowed Theodosia a few moments of peace and hope.

I really enjoyed seeing the discussions taking place in regards to how to rebuild society. With many Kingdoms left to ruin under the Kalovaxian reign and communities displaced, discussion turns to how to deal with Kalovaxian survivors. Continuing to plan the siege to take back her mother's throne, Theodosia will be faced with the prospect of killing Crescentia, unlikely that the now Kaiserin will allow herself to be taken alive. Crescentia may be a dangerous foe but she underestimates the strength of Theodosia and her resilience.

The Ash Princess Trilogy is innovative, imaginative and inspiring. It ignites discussion and explores themes of colonisation, displacement, asylum, gender violence, slavery and equality. It champions diversity. Throughout the Kingdoms are communities of varied languages and ethnicity. Characters of colour and sexualities, both male and female same sex relationships with one character possibly identifying as asexual, although not specifically expressed.

It was glorious. The series is phenomenal and although I'm disappointed to bid farewell to characters I've grown so incredibly fond of, I can't wait to see what Laura Sebastian is working on next. I can't recommend this series highly enough!

Lady Smoke

Contains spoilers, see my review for Ash Princess
Lady Smoke
Ash Princess Book Two
Written by Laura Sebastian
Fantasy, Political, Romance
512 Pages
Published February 12th 2019
Thank you to Pan Macmillan
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The Kaiser murdered Theodosia's mother, the Fire Queen, when Theo was only six. He took her country and kept her prisoner, crowning her Ash Princess, a pet to toy with and humiliate for ten long years. That era has ended. The Kaiser thought his prisoner weak and defenceless. He didn't realise that a sharp mind is the deadliest weapon.

Theo no longer wears a crown of ashes. She has taken back her rightful title, and a hostage, Prinz Soren. But her people remain enslaved under the Kaiser's rule, and now she is thousands of miles away from them and her throne.

To get them back, she will need an army. Only, securing an army means she must trust her aunt, the dreaded pirate Dragonsbane. And according to Dragonsbane, an army can only be produced if Theo takes a husband. Something an Astrean Queen has never done.

Theo knows that freedom comes at a price, but she is determined to find a way to save her country without losing herself.
Theodosia has escaped her gilded confinement of the Kalovaxian empire, capturing Prinz Søren and reclaiming her throne from the totalitarian monarchy of the Kaiser. Freedom is momentary, infamous marauder Dragonsbane commanding her armada as Theodosia travels to the kingdom of Sta’Crivera. A treacherous journey fraught with uncertainty. Theodosia must conquer the Kalovaxian reign and although historically an Astrean Queen reigns alone, Theodosia is obligated to form an alliance, despite her reluctance to be betrothed.

Theodosia is a formidable young woman, enduring imprisonment, humiliation and enslavement. The Kalovaxian reign has decimated her country, Astrean Guardians were imprisoned and villagers bludgeoned, the Fire Queen extinguished as Theodosia comforted her mother during her final moments. Theodosia is unyielding and resilient, defiant when confronted with adversity. In Ash Princess, Theodosia portrayed a demure and despondent young woman, underestimated by the Kaiser, Theyn and Prinz Søren and despite the imprisoned young warrior leading the Kalovaxian military, Søren continues to remain captivated by the young Queen.

The kingdom of Sta’Crivera is opulent and extravagant, welcoming Queen Theodosia and her companions as she reluctantly entertains suitors to assure a military alliance for Astrea. Pretentious, arrogant and elderly suitors journey to Sta’Crivera, the King hosting banquets and receptions in an exhibition of extravagance. King Etristo is patronising and considers Theodosia as a juvenile and foolish girl incapable of the Astrean reign and on the threshold of securing an alliance, the Sta’Criveran palace is embroiled in an assassination.

Theodosia is a feminist challenging the archaic, patriarchal society. Theodosia considers the aspect of betrothal demeaning and primitive, challenging Etristo who has the audacity to suggest that women who have survived sexual abuse are tainted and inappropriately suggests Theodosia endure an examination to ensure her virginity. Among the suitors is Giosetta, an Empress from Vecturia identifying as being attracted to men and women, a wonderful inclusion proposing an alliance and platonic partnership with Theodosia.

Throughout her time in the ostentatious Empire, Theodosia and her advisers, Artemisia, Blaise and Heron, discover the refugee encampment, home to displaced communities including Astreans. The conditions are inhumane, the community is malnourished, the prosperity of the Sta’Criverans not extended to those seeking refuge. Laura Sebastian continues to encourage discussion and recognition of colonisation and displacement throughout her narratives, creative an environment resembling the experiences of refugee communities.

Beautifully written and wonderfully imagined, the Ash Princess series is exceptional. Inspired reading!

Yes No Maybe So

Yes No Maybe So
Written by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed
Contemporary, Political, Diverse
448 Pages
Published February 4th 2020
Thank you to Simon & Schuster Australia
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Jamie Goldberg is cool with volunteering for his local state candidate, as long as he’s behind the scenes. There’s no way he’d ever knock on doors to ask people for their votes. Until he meets Maya.

Maya Rehman’s having the worst Ramadan ever. Her best friend is too busy to hang out, her summer trip is cancelled, her parents are separating and now her mother thinks the solution to her problems is political canvassing, with some awkward guy she hardly knows.

Going door to door isn’t exactly glamorous, but maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world. After all, the polls are getting closer and so are Maya and Jamie. Mastering local activism is one thing. Navigating the cross cultural crush of the century is another thing entirely.
It isn't that Jamie Goldberg is painfully shy, he's awkward and isn't a fan of social interactions after once vomiting during a conversation. Volunteering for the Jordan Rossum campaign suits Jamie just fine, he's happy to work behind the scenes, relishing his role as the official provider of snacks along with younger sister Sophie. Sophie is preoccupied by her upcoming bar mitzvah, his mother either working long hours or party planning for the event of the season, while Jamie finds solace wandering through his favourite store Target, contemplating life in the patio department.

Maya Rehman just can't catch a break. Her best friend Sara is preparing for college with her roommate, her parents are on a trial separation and all during the month of Ramadan. Two homes, no friends and no car. When Jamie and the Rossum campaign visits Maya's iftar feast to celebrate the holy month, Maya and Jamie are volunteered by their mothers to canvas for the campaign, knocking door to door to ensure democratic votes in the local election to fill a vacant seat.

What begins as two teens and former childhood friends reconnecting during the campaign, turns out to be a passion for change, to represent marginalised communities and push back against racist ideals of the conservative party. Such a timely read. With many conservative governments holding power within the western world, now more than ever we need books that emphasise the blatant racism and discrimination by our governments and how the smallest of actions can inspire change.

Jamie comes across as quite sullen, he's socially awkward and although he dreams of one day representing his community and becoming a senator, he can't imagine speaking in public without his lunch making a reappearance first. Although Jamie's parents are separated, his father rarely seeing Jamie and his sister Sophie now he's living in the Netherlands, his mother is a force to be reckoned with. She too works long hours for the local senator and involved in every aspect of her children's lives. Jamie is awestruck by Maya's beauty and her tenacity to fight for equality and although he's reluctant to meet new people by canvassing for the campaign, relishes the opportunity to spend time with Maya.

Maya is the more likeable character of the two. Although she's having a terrible time of it lately, she still tries to remain upbeat and positive. Hopeful that her parents trial separation is only a temporary measure. Maya's parents have one rule, no dating, her education is first and foremost. Being Muslim, Maya is also a character of faith and shares her experiences of racism and discrimination, more so of her mother who wears a hijab. In the local election, a racist conservative plans to introduce a new bill which would see head and face coverings banned and deemed as a security risk, the bill targeting Muslim women in particular who choose to wear the hijab. Maya's anger is palpable and with Jamie's support, the two teens petition the local office of the conservative senator to oppose the blatantly racist bill.

Yes No Maybe So isn't about the end result, it's about the journey we take to get there. Both Jamie and Maya are from marginalised backgrounds, essentially fighting against the conservative vote who encourage discrimination against marginalised communities, often hiding hate speech behind their Christianity. For many diverse communities in western countries, this is their reality. Even though both Jamie and Maya's concerns are dismissed by the local conservative candidate, it was interesting to see how tolerable both teens were of those with strong conservative beliefs. I'm not sure I could have extended such kindness. This is such a wonderful introduction to political activism for teens, start small and don't be afraid to set boundaries, it also reiterates the importance of how even the smallest of victories are still a positive step towards change.
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