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 don’t know how Brandy Colbert does it. I don’t know she deftly balances a story that is both incredibly warm and soft but also incisive in its discourse in activism and privilege. After reading The Voting Booth, I came away with these warm and fuzzies because the love story is such a treasure and a delight but I also loved how it made me think, reflect, and feel deeply about the Black experiences portrayed in the story.
The Voting Booth follows Marva, a Black teen driven to make a difference in the world starting by getting people to vote about issues that they care about, and Duke, a biracial Black/white teen who carries his grief with him and just wants to get voting over and done with so he can prepare for his band’s first paying gig. When Duke discovers that he’s unable to vote, Marva overhears and takes it upon herself to help him vote. What follows is a whirlwind journey as the two team-up to exercise Duke’s right to vote, find a missing internet-famous cat, and maybe fall in love along the way.
I think most people will go into The Voting Booth with trepidations about the ‘falling in love all in one day’ premise. Maybe it sounds too much like the ‘love at first sight’ trope (which I think can be a really interesting trope if done right and it isn’t inherently bad!) but it isn’t! Though The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon, in which the story took place in one day, celebrated the serendipity and beauty of life and chance, The Voting Booth feels a little more down-to-earth. However, what I love about these ‘all in one day’ storylines is that they depict how transformative and life-changing a single day can be. Meeting someone new, particularly someone who you really connect to, can take your life in an entirely new direction – and these days can feel so magical and beautiful.
Frankly, I adored the romance in The Voting Booth. The character may not ‘love’ each other by the end, but there is an undeniable attraction and they are drawn to each other and click together. Moreover, I just love how The Voting Booth depicts these two characters, who are very different in their own ways, and how their lives intersect at the moment they needed each other the most. Indeed, the romance between Marva and Duke is so good; there is so much chemistry between the two, they find themselves able to connect to each other in meaningful ways, and despite the fact that this book takes place in one day, their romance feels gloriously slow-burn.
Readers going into this book should be aware that Marva is in a relationship with another boy at the beginning of the story, but rest assured that Colbert handles this conflict really well and outlines the subtle ways why interracial relationship dynamics can be incredibly complex and challenging. As someone in an interracial romance, I felt like Colbert’s portrayal of the relational conflicts between Marva and her boyfriend (at the beginning of the book) was spot-on. Furthermore, there is no cheating involved and I felt that how Marva and Duke’s relationship grows was well-paced and organic.
The Voting Booth is indeed a romance, but it’s also an incisive story that explores what it’s like being Black in America, the systemic barriers Americans face to voting, and privilege. Shown in a sensitive and genuine way through the eyes of both Marva and Duke, we see from the story that Black identity and Blackness is diverse and can be lived and experienced differently depending on upbringing and identity. However, the story shows that there are commonalities too, highlighting the systemic anti-blackness racism pervasive in America. All of these themes are explored and depicted fantastically; there are some heavy moments balanced with some lighter moments that make this book so rich and well-developed.
MY CONCLUSION: RECOMMENDED
The Voting Booth is criminally underappreciated and I just want more people to read this wonderful book. If you loved The Sun is Also a Star, are intrigued by the idea of a book set on Election Day that explores politics and some wholesome Black joy and love, then I cannot recommend The Voting Booth enough.
Is this book for you?
Premise in a sentence: Follows two teens in one day on Election Day in America; Marva, a Black teen passionate about voting rights and driven to make a difference in the world, and Duke, a biracial Black teen who carries grief with him and just wants to vote so he can focus on his band’s first paying gig.
Perfect for: Readers who loved The Sun is Also a Star; interested in a book that takes place during Election Day and explores adjacent issues; readers looking for a story about Black love and joy
Think twice if: You’re not a fan of ‘all in a day’ books.
Genre: young adult contemporary, romance
Trigger/content warning: death of loved one, racism, mentions of gun violence, main characters are stopped by police, discussion of police violence