The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert

Published: 7th July 2020 (print)/7 July 2020 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Disney-Hyperion/Dreamscape Media
Pages: 292/6 hrs and 5 mins
Narrator: Robin Eller and Cary Hite
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★  – 2 Stars

Marva Sheridan was born ready for this day. She’s always been driven to make a difference in the world, and what better way than to vote in her first election?

Duke Crenshaw is so done with this election. He just wants to get voting over with so he can prepare for his band’s first paying gig tonight. Only problem? Duke can’t vote.

When Marva sees Duke turned away from their polling place, she takes it upon herself to make sure his vote is counted. She hasn’t spent months doorbelling and registering voters just to see someone denied their right. And that’s how their whirlwind day begins, rushing from precinct to precinct, cutting school, waiting in endless lines, turned away time and again, trying to do one simple thing: vote. They may have started out as strangers, but as Duke and Marva team up to beat a rigged system (and find Marva’s missing cat), it’s clear that there’s more to their connection than a shared mission for democracy.

I found this and thought I would give it ago since even in Australia we’re inundated with news about US politics and the election. After having sat through Red, White and Royal Blue and enduring political explanations I didn’t care about in book form, I was unsure I wanted to read a book seemingly even more dedicated to it. Turns out I was right but not for what I was expecting.

I thought it would be an ok read about two teens meeting on election day and fighting to get a vote counted, no doubt falling in love on the way in this 24 hour type story. What I didn’t expect was every other issue under the sun to come up and so many subplots that by the end I essentially forgot it all began with a voting issue.

The first half is all about voting as Marva and Duke, both from politically focused families, talk about their voting day plans as first time voters. Marva is an activist and passionate about voting rights and making the system easier for people, while Duke lives in the shadow of his brother who was more politically active than he is but still wants to do the right thing.

What I didn’t need was to sit through 27 plus chapters reminding me about how ridiculous the US election process is and I don’t know whether it is because it isn’t my experience or that it is so in your face about how broken their system is, and I get that a few people need to hear this, but it was less of a story and more of a PSA about the troubles in voting and the hassles people have to go through. Side stories about siblings and cats aren’t enough of a distraction from the fact I was over the story and the different blockades in place for Marva and Duke to deal with. I never felt there was an actual story here.

After all of that the voting actually felt like the least important thing in the end once all the unimportant subplots and other issues were discussed. After all the complications it gets brushed over and you forget that that was the start of the book. If it was mean to be a jumping off point for their meeting maybe there shouldn’t have been half a book dedicated to Marva explaining how important it is if it gets pushed aside so quickly.

To Colbert’s credit, her use of chapter headings and flashbacks are a good way to introduce character histories and family relationships. But so many important issues try to be covered in the story that are important during their scenes but then are forgotten just as quickly. Social justice, racial prejudice, class difference, grief are all subjects woven through this story and it is done naturally and sometimes quite well but they are also brushed over very quickly.

There is not much in the way of romance either. Duke and Marva do gradually start to like one another as they traipse all over town which feels like a nice, normal start to a friendship, but the leap to romance felt unnecessary and through the whole thing there were barely any indicators that that’s where the story was headed. Even for a 24 hour type story this was a rushed convenience and it felt out of place.

The blurb makes it sound like the issue in voting is going to be a larger part of the story, and it was in a way but it also meant giving the characters time in a car or waiting in line to talk about everything else. There are too many unnecessary subplots which felt like time fillers when more time could have been spent on establishing the characters themselves and their growing relationship together. The saving grace is that it was short and easily forgettable.

You can purchase The Voting Booth via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible