“The Voting Booth” by Brandy Colbert tells the daylong adventure of 18-year-olds Marva and Duke, two strangers who become united in the effort to make sure Duke gets to vote on his first Election Day.
“The Voting Booth” is a fun, lighthearted teen adventure and love story, but it still taps into more serious topics with depth and maturity.
The two characters are familiar -- even for those of us who are far from our teen years. Marva’s passion for politics may seem a little over the top at times, but I can relate to her excitement. I felt it my first time voting. Now I didn’t go so far as to take in the smell of the voting booth, but I do remember the setting well. My first election was also a presidential election, so it added an extra air of importance to it. (Though, as we know, all elections are important!)
This book brings the reader back into Marva, and even Duke’s, mindset of voting. It is an exciting and important civic duty. It’s difficult, especially in 2020, to feel anything but fatigue these days. The youthful outlook of Marva and Duke, though, provides some newfound optimism and eagerness.
The two characters seem so different at the beginning -- Marva with her strong-willed, hyper focus on civics, and Duke with his more laid-back attitude about, well, most things. As the story continues though, it’s easy to see the similarities between the two, and the impact they have on each other. Duke helps Marva remember she’s allowed to take a moment and breathe, and she inspires him to step up and find his voice.
It seems a little strange to call this a light read, considering the heavy topics it covers, but Colbert presents them in a way that is accessible and easy to digest. And she surrounds them with hope and lightheartedness. Among the discussions of voter suppression, discrimination and grief, she gives us moments of love and joy. Just like Duke brings Marva to the beach, Colbert also gives us time to relax and appreciate the good
-- Rebecca Mariscal
“The Voting Booth” weaves together a collection of themes and topics that are important in the lives of teens as well as those who are no longer in high school. In her book Brandy Colbert touches on individual voice and experience, racism, systematic injustice, loneliness, grief, family and, of course, voting. Somehow, the author is able to seamlessly combine all of these themes into one novel.
We follow Marva, a high school student passionate about the election as she goes to vote before school. When she meets Duke and sees that he is unable to cast a ballot at her polling location, the two first-time voters begin a journey to ensure that Duke can vote. Throughout the day Marva and Duke begin to become friends and open up about their common experiences.
One thing that I appreciate about this book is that Colbert makes it clear that the story is set in the present. While she never gives the reader the year in which her novel is set, Colbert uses contemporary references to imply the time period. For example, Marva, has an Instagram account for her cat with over 400,000 followers.
I found that the novel started a little slow, at times the attempt to write like a teenager felt a little forced (granted, I am not a teenager. It is very possible that Colbert is more aware of that age group’s pattern of speech than I am.) But, as the book went on I was pulled into the story and enjoyed the writing.
I would recommend this novel to the YA readers that I know. Along with exploring important, contemporary issues it portrays characters who are unique and not afraid to show who they are.
-- Rachel Fergus
This month RiverTown Reads will be reading “ The Night Watchman” by Louise Erdrich. Based on the story of her own grandfather, Erdrich’s fiction novel follows Chippewa council member Thomas Wazhask as he fights the U.S. Congress’s termination bill in 1953. On the same reservation, Pixie(Patrice) Paranteau is trying to find out what happened to her sister Vera, who moved to the big city and hasn’t been heard from in months.
Questions to consider while reading:
How much did you know about the Indian Termination Act before reading this book?
Throughout the novel, we see the perspective of different people within the community, beyond our main characters of Thomas and Pixie. What impact does this have on the story?
The concept of names is common throughout the novel - Patrice with her nickname of Pixie and Thomas with his pride in his muskrat surname -- what role does it play in the story?
How do the traditions of the tribe mesh with the modern world of the story?
Would you recommend this book to others? Why or why not?