The (Un)popular Vote | Jasper Sanchez


The (Un)popular Vote by Jasper Sanchez

Out Now from Katherine Tegen Books; 416 pages

Content Warnings: Transphobia, homophobia, dead-naming, hate-speech, underage drug usage, underage drinking, absent/unsupportive parent, discussion of mental illness, bullying, some violence, foul language

About the Author: “Jasper Sanchez is a queer transmasculine author who writes glittery gay stories about characters who care a little too much. Born and raised among idyllic California wine country vistas, he developed a fierce love-hate relationship with his suburban small town and an enduring passion for chiles rellenos. He earned his MA in Cinema and Media Studies from UCLA and his BA in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania. While neither degree prepared him for the hellscape of late capitalism, they did teach him about the power of stories, the worlds they build, and their potential to effect change in the real world. He lives in Seattle, WA, with his cat, who might be more opinionated than he is. When he’s not writing, he can be found wandering museums, scouring the city for the best espresso, and annotating lists of his favorite Star Trek episodes.” (Bio taken from the author’s website.) 

Find Jasper Sanchez on the following platforms:

“Dad deals with my transness the way republicans deal with global warming: complete and categorical denial. “

Mark Adams is the son of a congressman, and it shows. He spends his free time working hard to achieve Ivy-League-level grades and staying up to date with the latest news in politics. But being the son of a politician also means that Mark has to put on a front to avoid damaging his dad’s career—meaning Mark can’t tell anyone he’s trans. Mark agrees to go to a new school and keep his true self a secret, all while his father still pretends he has a daughter. Mark’s low-profile at school doesn’t last long when he decides to run for student-body president, inspired by an unfair instance of another queer kid being bullied at school. Faced by his father’s discouragement, a journalist on his tail, and a bully competitor, Mark must use all of his heart and political know-how to do what’s right. 

The (Un)popular Vote is a funny, complex read exploding with queerness that’s perfect for political nerds. I give my praise after having read (or listened, rather, to my first YA audiobook) the whole novel, but I will admit it was hard to get into in the beginning. Mark and his friends are passionate about doing the right thing, but at first it sounded a lot like teenagers taking themselves too seriously in a cloying, exaggerated way; however, as the book went on, I felt more affection for Mark’s group of friends. There was excellent queer representation and inclusion of characters in the novel that everyone can see themselves in, all written in a way that didn’t feel forced or tokenizing. I will warn any prospective readers that this book had quite a few vivid descriptions of bullying, including homophobic slurs, so it may be difficult for some readers to enjoy. The most stunning part of the book was its ability to discern that good and bad are not just defined by political lines. Mark’s transphobic father is a democratic politician, which Jasper Sanchez astutely points out, doesn’t mean he can’t also be a bigot. If you’re looking for your next political drama to binge, The (Un)popular Vote might just be a winner. 

PRR Writer and Lead Editor, Grace Kennedy