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.
This is a book with a trans main character. That means I absoluetly wanted to read it. I also knew that it featured an MC who had to be stealth because his dad is a politican who wants to keep his son’s transition on the downlow. And the MC wants to run of student body president because a complete asshole is trying to run as well. It sounded like an interesting book and I was eager to see what it would hold! Trigger warnings: homophobia, dead naming, transphobia
I’m not quite sure how I feel about this book and that is odd because I think it’s a really, really solid book. It’s weird that I don’t have stronger feelings toward it!
First off, I want to gush about the writing. Because WOW can Sanchez write. It’s hard to describe it other than really freaking good, because it’s just completely solid writing. The author knew what he wanted to do with this story and he did it incredibly well.
The other thing I loved about this book was the friend group. It’s full of so much love, and incredibly freaking queer. I also loved how it wasn’t perfect. There are fractures here and there, and those need to be dealt with. The characters aren’t perfect and their actions reflect that. They also live in an imperfect world, and that is also something they have to deal with.
Really, I loved the relationships in this book as well. The friendships, the familial one, and the romantic ones! They’re all messy and complicated, and it’s brilliant. Plus, the love interest is the sweetest, dorkiest person, and I just love them so much.
The complicatedness of this book was another thing that I really enjoyed. It’s about politics, of course it’s going to be complicated. There is, a lot going on in this book. A lot of questions that Mark has to grapple with and a lot of situations with no perfect answer that he has to navigate, are what make up this book. I love when books get messy, because that’s just true of real life. And this book definitely gets messy.
The politics in this book are many. It doesn’t feel weighed down by them by any means! I just do not feel confident enough to comment on them. Mark is fighting for a better future for queer kids at his school, but he also has his own biases and primages. There is a lot to navigate with them, I just don’t feel like I’m the person to speak on them. But I do want to mention that they are there.
Overall, while surprised that I don’t have stronger feelings towards this book, I did enjoy it! It’s complicated and messy, and it has incredibly sweet moments at the same time. It’s also spectacularly written! Really, a good book all around.