Loyalties will be tested as three political candidates vie for the presidential spot in this satire about a high school student government race. (Which is eerily accurate to my own high school, despite it being a satire and my high school…not being a satire.)
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Gordon Jack’s Your Own Worst Enemy! Not only do we have an awesome guest post, straight from Gordon, but I have a review of this awesome book and a giveaway you’ll want to check out!
Your Own Worst Enemy revolves around Stacey, Julia, and Tony who are all vying for that presidential position in student government. Stacey thought she was a shoo-in until Julia, the people’s choice, and Tony, the outsider who is protesting the loss of his favorite chocolate milk in the school cafeteria, enter the fray.
But it goes even further than that. Not only is Tony being controlled by a freshman mastermind, that freshman mastermind is the brother of Stacey’s campaign manager. Who also happens to have a huge crush on Julia. Loyalties will be tested as this election–not just a popularity contest–brings students to new lows for…very little reward.
Dear Political Guru,
I have devoted my life to public service at my high school. I’ve forsaken all the usual teenage experiences in order to devote myself full time to spirit rallies, float competitions, and fundraising. Now that I’m a junior, I thought my peers would acknowledge my sacrifice by electing me student body president. But no! They are divided between me and two other people WHO HAVE NEVER DONE ANYTHING for Lincoln High School. Now the race is turning into a popularity contest and I’M LOSING!!! How do I keep smiling at voters when all I see are petty, backstabbing, traitors?
Signed, The Best Candidate for President
Dear Best Candidate,
I can tell by your use of capital letters that you are frustrated. That’s understandable. You would think that your experience would make you the best candidate. But it doesn’t. Some years, voters want the tried and true and some years they want change. Sounds like you’re running in a year when voters are tired of the status quo and are looking to shake things up a bit. My advice to you is to find some issue that can re-brand you as a radical. What is a tradition at your school you could abolish? Homework maybe? Homecoming? I know one candidate who wanted to get rid of all assignments requiring public speaking. She didn’t make a single campaign speech (obviously) but she won in a landslide.
Dear Political Guru,
My best friend, I’ll call her Stephanie, is running for student body president and I am her campaign manager. I would do anything for her but lately I’ve started developing feelings for the girl who’s running against her, let’s call her Esperanza. In my head, I know I should not pursue this relationship. It’s a betrayal of my best friend and besides, how do I know Esperanza isn’t using me to learn all our campaign secrets? But I can’t stop thinking about her. I’m even slowly coming to realize she might be a better president than Stephanie. What do I do?
Signed, In Love and Indecisive
Dear In Love and Indecisive,
This is dilemma that every voter faces sometime in their life: Do I vote with my head or my heart? Some issues make this debate more combative than others. Do I want to save the planet? Of course I do! Do I think the best way to do that is to imprison people who buy those tiny, plastic water bottles, the kind that hold maybe two sips of water? Well, yes, I actually wouldn’t be opposed to that. But do I want to ban all plastic water bottles? Maybe not. It’s hard when your head and your heart are in conflict. The worst thing you can do is mute one and turn up the volume on the other. Listen to both, let them argue, and try not to let other body parts get involved.
Dear Political Guru,
So, the other day the cafeteria stopped selling chocolate milk. “What gives?” I ask the cafeteria lady. “Chocolate milked is banned,” she goes. “It’s unhealthy.” This was a major bummer as Space Cow’s unique blend of chocolate milk is an important component of my wake and bake routine. “You should run for president,” this little dude with a blue Mohawk tells me. “Bring back Space Cow.” “Sure,” I go. “Why not? It’s not like I had anything else to do.” I thought running for president would be fun but now that I’m winning I’m worried I might have to, you know, work. How do I drop out of the race without appearing like a total loser?
Signed, Polling Really High Right Now
Dear Polling Really High Right Now,
First off, are you high, like, right now? Because it kind of sounds like you are. Who runs a political campaign on the single issue of bringing chocolate milk back to the cafeteria? Seriously, how are you winning on such a weak platform? Do you go to school with a bunch of 14-year-olds addicted to sugar, fat, and carbohydrates? Oh, you do? Well, then you’re screwed. It sounds like you’ve either tapped into a real concern of the voting public or all your supporters think your candidacy (and democracy) is a big joke. There’s not much you can do except become a joke president who will bring his school to ruin. But don’t worry too much. You’re not the first candidate to do that and you won’t be the last.
Dear Political Guru,
When you’re biracial, people make a lot of assumptions about you. I’m Canadian, brown skinned, and speak with a French accent, which makes it even harder for people to place me in a racial box. Usually when someone asks, “So, what are you?” I don’t go into my backstory because, it’s, well, complicated. But now that I’m running for student body president, I have a bunch of Latinx students supporting me because they think I’m one of them. And I am one of them. At least, I feel like I am. But is there a way to tell for sure?
Signed, Never Had a Quinceanera
Dear Never Had a Quinceanera,
Race is complicated, you of all people understand that. It’s biological in that small genetic variations create diverse physical appearances. But it’s also social in that the significance of those appearances depends on where and when you are living. Recently, a U.S. Senator claimed she was Native because her DNA test showed Native American ancestry. But most Native American people claimed she was not because she wasn’t part of the community. It sounds like you want to be part of the Latinx community because you feel a connection to its culture. I think that’s great. I’m just not sure you should use that connection to get elected. Be honest with people, explain the complications of your past, and care deeply about the issues that matter to the Latinx community and you will have their support.
Weren’t those great? I loved reading these Ask Gordon letters, and they really embody the characters’ personalities well (almost too well, if you get what I mean).
This is just a small taste of what Your Own Worst Enemy is like, but read on for my review & to learn more about my thoughts on this book too!
I was definitely really excited for this as I was going in, and it ended up being just as good as I expected.
I’m always a sucker for satire-novels, and one endorsed by Mindy McGinnis is sure to make it on my list. This didn’t disappoint, balancing ridiculousness with truth really well.
I can’t tell you how many times students in my own school have been so competitive over a class office position, and although Your Own Worst Enemy takes it to a whole new level, it was still wholly relatable in the way that yes–students can get this competitive.
Plus, I still found the satire part funny and a little bit silly in some of the characters and their motivations. I think Jack did a really good job of using stereotypes to emphasize something, but not overusing them and losing depth in his characters.
Yes, Stacey draws on basic overachiever white girl, but she also has other things going on at other times. And yes, Julia is the stereotypical underdog, but she also struggles with the fact that she doesn’t actually know if she’s Latinx (oh, the irony). And Tony is not a stereotypical Asian, but a pretty stereotypical stoner, and the fact that he’s being controlled by a freshman mastermind adds to the novel.
But my favorite character would have to be Brian, who was honestly the root of a lot of the problems. He has connections with each campaign in a different way, and sorting through all of these is what I feel this book is really about. Brian has a lot to learn about friendship and love (and did I mention he’s bi?) and family, and I think Jack did a really good job with the friendship and love part.
Yet, I still really wished Brian and Kyle’s relationship was explored more. I think there was still a lot to go into with their relationship, and their ending together was so unsatisfying. Everything else wrapped up really well, but this was one of the most important relationships in the story in my opinion, and it just wasn’t done justice (hence, the 4 stars).
I also thought some of the racial elements weren’t done badly, but I also feel in some ways that what wasn’t included could have been done. Yes, this is a satire, and Jack has to talk about race, since it’s really critical to the political atmosphere at their high school.
But Stacey I felt like was still low-key racist at the end (in the sort of “don’t discriminate against me because I’m white!!!” sort of way that isn’t actually discrimination) even though she managed to make amends with Julia.
Also, I do wish that Jack featured more of non-Latinx minorities as well, though I did think it was nice that we got to see such a wide spectrum of Latinx characters.
Overall, this was a goofy and a little bit silly and exaggerated satire read about student politics, and one I definitely enjoyed and could relate to given my own time in high school. I’d definitely recommend if you’re looking for a fun novel to just take your mind off of things!
More About the Book
Your Own Worst Enemy by Gordon Jack
Release Date: November 13, 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Three candidates, three platforms, and a whirlwind of social media, gaffes, and protests makes for a ridiculous and hilarious political circus in Gordon Jack’s second highly satirical novel. Perfect for fans of Andrew Smith and Frank Portman.
They say that with great power comes great responsibility. Unless you’re student body president at Lincoln High School. Then you get all the responsibility but none of the power. And the three candidates running for president know all about that.
Stacey Wynn is the front-runner, but she didn’t count on Julia Romero entering this race. Julia is challenging Stacey for the title while also putting the moves on Stacey’s campaign adviser and only friend, Brian. And then there is Tony Guo, the way outsider. Tony is usually oblivious to the school’s political campaigning, as he’s oblivious to anything that isn’t about getting high and drinking all the Space Cow chocolate milk he can stomach. But when his favorite beverage is banned at school, a freshman political “mastermind” convinces Tony to become the voice of the little guy. But what kind of voice is that, really?
If this were an ordinary high school election, the winner would be whichever candidate was the most popular. But this year, each candidate may have to sink to a new low to win an election that could change the course of…very little.
More About the Author
Gordon Jack always wanted to be a writer. In third grade, he put that on his “What I want to be when I grow up” list, just behind astronaut and professional dog walker. While working towards this goal, he had jobs as an advertising copywriter, English teacher, librarian, and semi-professional dog walker. The Boomerang Effect was his first novel. He lives in San Francisco with his family.
Want to try your luck at winning your own copy of Your Own Worst Enemy? Then enter the giveaway through the Rafflecopter button below where two lucky winners will receive a signed copy of the book and swag! (US Only) Or you can guarantee yourself a copy using one of the buy links in the “More About the Book” section. Good luck!
Thank you so much to The Fantastic Flying Book Club, Gordon Jack, and Harper Collins for providing me with an advance reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review! Don’t forget to check out the rest of the tour stops below for more awesomeness!