Your Own Worst Enemy brings up some interesting conflicts but ultimately feels lacking in the character and plot departments. This was kind of disappointing to me because I purchased it for my school library. Hopefully students will relate more to the fictional ASB election in the book since there is a very active ASB on campus, but it wasn’t a good read for me.
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.
The summary makes the book sound full of shenanigans and humor but it definitely isn’t. Instead, there’s a lot of overt political satire that drowns out most of the plot and characterization. I definitely don’t mind political satire but this felt too heavy and too forced through much of the book. On the positive side, some good points about race, self-identity, family, and friendship are made throughout the book.
Let’s start with the characters. The only character that seemed remotely fleshed out was Brian and he wasn’t even one of the kids in the election race. Second to Brian is Julie who had some solid internal conflicts, a challenging past, and some family issues. Stacey was too annoying, Tony didn’t really have much of a purpose other than some comic relief, and I have a lot of problems with the way Brians brother was totally brushed over. He had some serious mental issues from a traumatic incident in the past and was used mostly as the comic relief and butt of jokes. The way his character was treated made me really uncomfortable. Maybe it is some sort of satire that I’m not picking up on but I still did not enjoy reading how his character was used.
One thing I did enjoy was the examination of race and how it impacts people. Julia’s sperm donor father remains a mystery to her, as does have of her genetic makeup. People at her school assume she’s Latina because of her darker complexion and her last name. Because of this, Julia feels like an imposter pretending to be Latina to win the vote. The DNA mystery leads to a lot of internal and external conflict that helps make Julia’s character more well-rounded than the others.
The satire in this book was OK at first and then it just became too much. I do like to stay up-to-date in politics which, combined with my sarcasm, should make me enjoy satire. And I do, but this was so obvious and over the top that it took away from the story’s plot and character development. If the author wanted to write a purely satirical piece he might have had more success with a different target audience.
My overall feeling toward this book? Meh. It was OK. I like my books to be character- and plot-driven, not a vehicle for a boring story with heavy satire. If you’re into that then this is the perfect book for you! If not, give it a pass.