Thursday, August 15, 2019

Book Review: The Beginner's Guide to Winning an Election

Kind of a perfect read for right now with all of the elections gearing up, right? It's not quite that kind of book, but it's a cool young adult book that looks at elections in high school and brings up similarities to our adult elections. It's a good read for your kids but also a good perspective for adults, too.

The Beginner's Guide to Winning an Election - Michael R. French
In 2025, the “youthification” of democracy has inspired younger candidates to challenge the ineffective and hypocritical gray-hairs in Congress. Running for student body president at an Indiana high school, political novice Brit Kitridge takes on incumbent Matthew Boltanski, who, with help from a mystery backer, already has his eyes set on Washington. Brit gains courage and insights from a wise history teacher on how to win, but ultimately finds a maze of deceit and corruption in her school. Is exposing the truth enough to win the election?

I'm going to give you full disclosure- I'm a grown up, a parent, and I was the PTO President at my kids' elementary school for years. I know how hard it is to get something done in a school so in that way I had some feelings throughout this book so I maybe have a different perspective. Though, I am not in a school district that has corruption like this, so perhaps it's not the same at all, but I know there are areas where this level of awful exists. Also, this book takes place in the future so they refer to stuff like #metoo and #neveragain in the past tense, so that was kind of cool- so think about kids learning about all of our current stuff in the future. I just hope we come out OK.

In this book we have Brit, the do-gooder kid who is running for student body president under the principle of being honest, unlike her opponent. She went in knowing that her opponent was a liar who would do anything to win, but what she didn't anticipate was everyone around him being in on it. During the race she uncovers serious issues, discrepancies, and serious corruption and she makes attempts to uncover it all, but quickly realizes that sometimes knowing the truth and bringing it to light doesn't even matter if people think they'll benefit from all of the corruption. (I could turn right here and make comparisons to our current political climate but I won't because my fingers cannot physically handle the task.)

My favorite line in the entire book which I have thought about a lot since reading it was on page 151:

Brit couldn't believe how much Nathan was revealing. "Does it bother you that Mr. Barnes and PTE pull your strings?"
"Not really. No one gets anything done alone anymore. The age of individualism is pretty much dead. Everything and everyone is interconnected. To survive, you have to be on a team, the stronger the better." 
Is that not that absolute truth, though? They always tell you to follow the strings and that sums it up right there, and that's really what this book is. It's like a weird kaleidoscope that shows the small world of high school politics expands to the teaching staff, then the school board, and so on and so on all the way up to state politics.

My favorite character in the whole book though? Mr. Wilson. The teacher that led the revolution (kind of) and was a lasting impression in every student's educational journey, someone that they learned life lessons from that they would keep forever. His arc in the story is kind of rough and I thought he was going to have a terrible ending but the very, very end of the book gave me a good feeling and that's the best.

Overall? I really, really loved this book. My 14 year old is reading it right now, I plan to gift it to my friend who teaches in a high school for her to read and share with her classes. It made me realize how big of a job high school teachers have. They are the last learning stop before kids go out into the world. Sure, some go to college and that's a continuation but high school is where most everyone learns the core beliefs they have and that's where you learn to question things and keep learning or just put your head in the sand and go with the flow.

If you're looking to fill up a school library, a classroom library, have some books on hand for your kids to read, add this one to the list. It would be really interesting to hear a high school, or even middle school, student's perspective on this book.
A big thanks to Michael R. French, Moot Point Productions, and TLC Book Tours for my copy! All thoughts are my own, and affiliate links are used in this post to help keep this blog going. If you pick up a copy of this for your child(ren), I suggest you give it a quick read too!

1 comment:

Michael R. French said...

Hi Sara,

thanks so much for your kind review of my novel, Beginner's Guide to Winning an Election, including choosing Mr. Wilson as your favorite character--he's mine too. The importance of the relationship between a curious student and a great teacher can't be overestimated.