When Dean Arnault’s mother decided to run for president, it wasn’t a surprise to anyone, least of all her son. But still that doesn’t mean Dean wants to be part of the public spectacle that is the race for the White House—at least not until he meets Dre.
The only problem is that Dre Rosario's on the opposition; he’s the son of the Democratic nominee. But as Dean and Dre’s meet-ups on the campaign trail become less left to chance, their friendship quickly becomes a romantic connection unlike any either of the boys have ever known.
If it wasn’t hard enough falling in love across the aisle, the political scheming of a shady third-party candidate could cause Dean and Dre’s world to explode around them.
It’s a new modern-day, star-crossed romance about what it really means to love your country—and yourself—from the acclaimed author of We Are the Ants and Brave Face, Shaun David Hutchinson.
Shaun is a major geek and all about nerdy shenanigans. He is the author of many queer books for young adults. Find out more information at shaundavidhutchinson.com. He currently lives in Seattle and watches way too much Doctor Who.
This thing is full of spoilers without tags. Enter at your own risk.
PLOT: So the book starts with 17 year olds Dre & Dean with their parents at a debate. The boys get trapped into the Green Room with no wifi while something vague is happening outside that turns out to be nothing. They end up deciding to be friends, but use an encrypted texting app to do it.
Characterization wise: So, I guess I have a whole lot of questions about Dre's background. He basically has no real cultural or ethnic identity, except being proud that his Dad will be the first Mexican-American president if he wins. There is **absolutely nothing** about how connected he is to his identity as a Mexican American. However, he is openly out. At one point he thinks that Dean's Mom will try and criminalize his identity saying, "Your Mom also thinks people like me don't deserve the same rights as everyone else" meaning that he is queer, but for some reason he doesn't at this time think about what Republicans think about Mexico, the wall, border camps, etc.
Dean on the other hand is a portrayed as preppy vegetarian. He is on the ace spectrum but doesn't really know how to define that for himself. His journey to understanding himself as demisexual and also gay (he tells Dre every person he developed sexual attraction towards were other men) is problematic, as outlined in a twitter thread by the person who did a sensitivity read, and she pointed out that the has stereotypical ace representation, portraying Dean as "robotic" and that it's overall lacking depth. But when he texts Dre his feelings about that, it's like...lol, not like texts from a kid, telling Dre "this isn't a simple case of adolescent ennui." To me (a cis het lady who has spent 20 years teaching adolescents and with a 17 year old son)...he didn't "sound" like a kid as much as like the voice of an adult author helping to explain his complex identity to readers. YMMV.
As for their parents, this is where shit is real foul. Dean reassures us many times that his mother is ABSOLUTELY SINCERE in all the things she believes. And so although earlier Dre's friend makes a laundry lists of things she supports "for profit prisons, overturning gay marriage, guns, continued criminalization of marijuana, tax breaks for big corporations", it's okay I guess because she really believes in it. Also, in a move that REALLY MADE ME BIG MAD, Dean notes how truly unfair it is that she is judged for her appearance as a woman while male politicians are not. So, she's a Republican in 2020 and actively working against women in every way, but the author paints her here as suffering for being a woman. Zero mention of how her platform will hurt all the other women in the country.
Meanwhile, Dre mostly talks about his Dad as being MIA, how much he misses him, and how much of a bummer it is that he doesn't have a chance to bond with his Dad anymore. So -- all the sympathy points go to RepublicanMom as a parent and as a person.
The bad guy is the 3rd party candidate, clearly meant to be a mashup of like Elon Musk & Jeff Bezos, and he conveniently spouts the current terrible rhetoric of the Republican party. For example, Dean thinks, "No one wanted to listen to my MOther discuss how to battle the opioid crisis when McMann was shouting about Chinese immigrants stealing American jobs and suggesting most of them were probably spies anyway." This seems like such a cheap dodge to assign the hard core entrenched racism of the Republican party to this 3rd party candidate. Expcially if you were to swap out the word Mexican for Chinese and criminals for spies--and you have the actual spoken words of our current Republican president.
Dre's Mom is the voice of "reason." When Dre asks if it's possible "for people who disagree on basically everything to be friends" she tells him, "You know your father and I don't agree on everything...but trying to understand people we disagree with is how we learn and grow."
ANYWAYS. MORE LATER.
It's kind of hurting me to read this book. So after reading the first half, I just skipped to the last 4 or 5 chapters, because I was curious how the author was going to wrap up this fucking disaster.
Basically, the bad guy/3rd party candidate owns the app and was able to see what they were doing/saying, etc, and decided to blackmail them and the kids get back at him, yada yada.
However, the last two chapters of the book are the wrap up to that cartoon villain plot, and they play out like this: the fact that the Dre and Dean are in love is revealed to the world. At the next debate, they are sitting together and the moderator asks their parents, the candidates, how they feel. And it's this warm fuzzy moment of acceptance for them. And god knows kids deserve this. Queer teens deserve books where parents give full-throated acceptance to their identities. Each parent proclaims their love for their child and Dean's Mom says, "love is the bridge that keeps us connected...Now seeing as our sons aren't running for President, why don't we talk about some real issues."
Real issues? Hi, fuck you.
But you know what, this author specifically chose to have the character saying those words be the Republican candidate for president in 2020. There is no hint in her speech that this changes HER POLITICS or the way she intends to treat other queer people. You'll notice that I have continued to *not* discuss any of this in light of Dre's cultural, racial, and ethnic identity as Mexican American---because from what I read, this is just simply not important to the author in any way. This is upsetting in ways I cannot even say, this erasure. And I would just encourage you to listen to the many voices of people of color when they express their concerns about how white authors write characters of color.
Finally, and this is one of those things where you can tell the author really thought he did something. The last chapter ends with the election in the past...but with us not knowing who won. Dre and Dean are at different colleges and still together, but the question of which parent is in the White House is unresolved. The author's message could not be more clear: see, it doesn't matter who wins as long as love conquers all. And the pure absolute fury I felt at this is, again, hard to name.
Yes, being with the people we love matters. But publishing this book in this election year and being so mealy-mouthed? No one forced the author to take this on. This is the premise that HE decided on in the year of our lord 2020, and this is what he did with it: "I guess it doesn't matter who wins the 2020 election as long as I have you" is the greatest statement of privilege there is. [edited to add: the copyright of this book is with Harper Collins publishers, not the author. This means that this is a premise that HC shopped out to this author. So, he basically got paid to write a premise that someone else created, likely looking to cash in on the RWRB phenom. I still don't feel any sympathy for this author, and this book is honestly even worse now that I know this fact. But I do feel like it's worth pointing out.]
To put this book in the hands of kids feels like it would do great harm.
PS. I made it clear how much of the book I read and I stand by this review. If you don't like it, you can, as always, choose to read it yourself.
very powerful of me to think this was fishy ever since it was announced and now it’s been confirmed that the qpoc rep is terrible 🥰🥰
(someone tell this white gay man that a romance between a POC and a white person whose parent’s political beliefs are rooted in the oppression of the POC isn’t somehow turned into something okay just because it’s gay)
Original post, May 24, 2020: Well, I wasn't going to post anything about my feelings about this book's premise on Goodreads until some queer POC bloggers reviewed it, but since the author decided to block me on Twitter over my comments on a thread he was never even tagged in...I guess I will.
I get that books have a long time between conception and when they get published in the traditional book industry. I GET THAT. But at what point did everyone in the traditional publishing world decide we needed more Democrat/Republican romances? There's a m/f one coming out in Romance called Meet You in the Middle, and then there's this book.
I loved this author's book We Are the Ants, and I have met him a few time at book festivals, so it was a surprise to me to find out that this queer YA book was going to be about a Democratic nominee's son and a Republican nominee's son.
As someone who identifies as demi and as a POC living in America during these troubled times, I had been EXCITED about a book that has a POC character as a MC and a character who identifies as demi in a queer YA book by a favorite author. BUT. Somehow instead of having a plot between rival Democratic nominees, it had to go with a Republican nominee? Why? Realistically, the Democratic and Republican nominees rarely, if ever, meet in any capacity on the campaign trail outside of the debates. And more importantly, why does the demisexual character have to be the Republican nominee's son?
Early reviews of this book do not give me confidence in that Dean, the Republican nominee's son, is some secret Democrat at heart. It seems to me like the book is striving for neutral territory with the same statements the Republican's have been having this entire administration - that people need to hear both sides of the story, or come to a compromise, or meet in the middle.
Maybe that's something that works for white people, but I don't get how these aren't just microaggressions against people of color or any minority who has been affected by the 2016 election. And THAT'S what the book is going for? The blurb even makes it sound like a third party candidate is the evil of the three parties, and really? That's the stance you're going for? Reviews have said that this book isn't overly political and I don't understand that. Our LIVES are political topics and one of the MCs in this book is Mexican American and we're supposed to pretend all the comments and actions done by the Republican party post-2016 never happened?
This book is coming out when over 100k Americans have DIED, and continue to die, from decisions the Republican party has made over the coronavirus. I totally get that you can't predict what happens when traditional publishers set a release date for books. But to have a whole book centered around teens setting aside their political differences because they're in ~love is very upsetting.
This book sounds extremely upsetting to me just from the premise alone, and early reviews have not convinced me otherwise. Apparently the cover design of the book is correct since it highlights in bold the "FU" letters the loudest, because this book just sounds like a big FU to queer POC in living in America today.
Do I want to read a book by a white man about a person of color falling in love with a white Republican?
No. No I do not.
I'm too lazy to figure out putting pictures in here, but to quote Jack Harbon's Tweet, "You don't want diversity, you want the idea of it with NONE of the sacrifice and effort that comes with it. You want the appearance without the substance. You want the praise of readers of color, otherwise they can shut up, right?"
This is by far the worst book I've read in 2020. It's also the most disappointed I've ever been in both a book and author. Shaun David Hutchinson has always been one of my favorite authors, arguably my favorite author ever, so it's so frustrating and sad to know that he wrote this. It's not only badly written, but also offensive and dangerous.
I don't have a single good thing to say about it so I'm just going to go on and list the major problems I have with The State of Us. These aren't all of the problems, because frankly I don't have the time or character limit to list them all, but these are the main ones.
1. The writing and dialogue is terrible. Yes, the book is offensive, dangerous, and racist, but it's not even well-written. I've read all of SDH's previous books and he's always been such a great writer. I don't know what happened here. The dialogue is so awkward and the writing is clunky and doesn't make a lot of sense.
2. The characters were flat. As you can imagine, bad writing and awkward dialogue makes for bad characters. Dre is the son of the democratic candidate for president and Dean is the son of the republican candidate for president. They fall in love but they are both boring and their romance makes zero sense. They bond over the shared experience of being a presidential candidate's son, but they don't have anything else. Obviously it's possible to write this well. Opposites can attract. But it's not written well in this book. The romance is just cringe-worthy and unbelievable.
3. The book ignores race-specific experiences. Dre's background isn't explored too much. We only learn that if his dad is elected, he will be the "First ever Mexican-American president." However, there is zero exploration of Dre's identity as a Mexican-American, and the only time Dre ever brings it up is in a footnote in one rant to Dean about his republican mother's harmful policies. There is obviously a HUGE problem with a Mexican-American democrat falling in love with a white, rich, republican whose mother is against women's rights, LGBTQ+ marriage, trans soldiers in the military, and gun control. However, the issues are explored no further than about 3 fights between Dre and Dean. It always goes the same way too. First, Dean mentions something about how he believes in his mom. Second, Dre makes a poor, non-specific argument, about how Dean's mother's policies are harmful. Third, Dean storms away refusing to face that his mother is evil. Fourth and finally, Dre follows him and apologizes. I was so frustrated every single time. It's bad enough that Dre, as the Mexican-American character, has to try to explain to a (supposedly very intelligent and educated) white boy why the policies are so harmful, but Dean never even even confronts his own shortcomings. He goes the whole book barely changing his beliefs about anything. Alternatively (and sadly and confusingly), Dre actually changes his stance on guns. In the beginning, he wants to ban all guns, but we later learn he changes his stance to being that "we can't take away guns, we have to improve mental healthcare for boys." It wasn't given any buildup and I was so off-put by it. I also need to emphasize that we are repeatedly told that Dre doesn't care about politics. This is bizarre coming from a Mexican-American gay kid who loves to make political statements in public and has a best friend that protests every chance she gets. It seemed like an excuse to overlook all of Dean's problematic political stances.
4. Furthermore, the book ignores all issues regarding race. The book ONLY gives any depth to LGBTQ+ issues and gun control (barely). There is no mention of immigration, discrimination, police brutality, the drug crisis, or anything that would affect members of communities who aren't white. How can Dre, as a Mexican-American, not have a conversation with his white republican boyfriend about his views on immigration???? The fact that this just isn't mentioned or brought up once made me so angry. Dre could have been white, and nothing in this story would have changed. SDH didn't do enough research to accurately represent a Mexican-American gay character and was too lazy to write any scenes that would force him to put some political depth into this book.
5. Similarly, the book ignores issues relating to class. There are some moments where class issues are hinted at, but never explored with any depth. Mel makes a comment about how "some people have to work to pay for college" to Dre, and Dre comments on how Dean "lives in a mansion," but that's about all we get. Dean never gets to confront that poor people exist and that his mother's policies severely hurt them.
6. Bad secondary characters. Dre's mom is essentially absent for most of the book. She contributes nothing other than telling Dre he could befriend people with different political views than him because "we have to understand both sides." His dad is in the book slightly more, but only to create an internal conflict in Dre. Dre is upset that he can't see his dad. That's pretty much it. It's quite annoying, especially when Dean's mom, the republican nominee for president, is given a lot more exploration (and not in a good way). She is a terrible person with terrible policies, and at one point, SDH tries to humanize her by pointing out that because she's a women, the media attack her for her looks all the time. Yes, this is probably true as a female politician, but it doesn't put her in the same category as Dre's dad who is a Mexican-American. The non-parent side characters are Mel, Mindy, and Tamal who are all bad in their own ways. Tamal is a token POC character who is used as a plot device. He's the friend whose good at tech which enables the kids to figure out their phones were hacked and to take down the antagonist at the end. Mindy is an interesting character, but goes from being good to bad really fast. She's a closeted lesbian with a sarcastic personality, but supports McMann, the terrible, racist, third-party candidate (and main antagonist in the book). I'll get more into McMann later, but basically supporting him made what could have been a good character a terrible one. Mel is Dre's best friend and was the only character I actually liked for most of the book. She acts as the voice of reason by calling Dre out for dating republican trash. I felt like she was echoing all of my thoughts. But then she ends up accepting the relationship in the end (despite everything wrong with it) which made me mad at her.
7. The asexual/demisexual rep. So our republican white boy MC, Dean, is struggling with his sexuality. I think this is handled well in the beginning of the book, with Dean being confused and struggling to explain how he feels, but it quickly spirals into offensiveness and poor handling. Dean's asexuality doesn't come up much after the beginning and when he explains it to Dre, he doesn't sounds like a teenager, he sounds like a textbook. It's an example of the poor dialogue in the book, but it's one of the parts of the book we NEEDED the dialogue to be good. There's so little demi/ace rep in young adult books and so it's sad how ignored and un-genuine it feels in this book. Also, the ace sensitivity reader apparently pointed out all of the reasons the rep was problematic (one of the big ones being Dean's stereotypical robotic personality) and SDH ignored the comments and even negatively subtweeted the asexual sensitivity reader.
8. McMann, the main villain of the book. He's basically a mix between Donald Trump, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk. He's a terrible, corrupt, billionaire who is turning Americans against each other. Essentially, he is the epitome of our current republican president and administration. If this is the case, then please tell me WHY he is an outsider "third-party candidate" and not the republican candidate??? The message this is sending is that it's not the republicans who are bad, it's the outside bad people. The ones out of the two party system. This was actually my BIGGEST problem with the book and why it makes it so dangerous. The implication that both democrats and republicans are different, but both have valid policies, and that there is a different threat, is ludicrous. This book completely fails to demonize all of the terrible policies that the republican party stands for in 2020. Corruption, greed, racism, homophobia, etc. McMann only exists to make dean's mother, the republican candidate, look good and not extreme. But... that's not true. She's actually just as bad as he is, reader!
9. Dean's mom is a terrible person and character. What would you expect from the republican nominee for president? I've outlined some of this already, but basically she is against LGBTQ+ rights, is against trans soldiers in the military, wants to arm teachers, and wants to give corporations tax cuts. She's probably has a similar stance on immigration as Donald Trump, but we don't know because that issue is not brought up in this book. On top of being a terrible politician, she is a terrible mother. She says she supports Dean no matter what, but then is appalled when he tells her he wants to be a teacher, not a politician. You can imagine how she reacts when she learns that he has been dating a boy. She manipulates her son and never fully accepts him for who he is. At the very end of the book, a reporter asks her what she thinks of her son's relationship with Dre, and she gives an awful answer where she basically implies that she is going to only tolerate it. We don't get to see any actual changes in her. The only thing we get is that now she wants to set her son up with a republican senator's son. Why? Is she racist? Probably, but we don't know because that's never explored. I wanted to feel bad for Dean for being so treated terribly by his mother, but he defended her so strongly (and never changed his beliefs) the entire book, so I couldn't bring myself to feel sympathy. I understand that many closeted LGBTQ kids go through the process of having to unlearn their parents backwards thinking, but SDH doesn't treat Dean with the proper nuance to express this. Dean just comes off as an asshole.
10. Dean and Dre are dumb af. It's so funny because they both get into Ivy League schools at the end of the book but they are both so dumb. When they first meet, Dre tells Dean they should use this special app to communicate because it's totally private. They spend the whole book using it to communicate. But plot twist, McMann is the inventor of the app! It's not even that much of a plot twist, it's revealed around half-way through the book. Dre should have known this in the first place, and when he learns, he doesn't think anything of it. There's also a really embarrassing scene where Dean and Dre go on a secret date and Dre pays with his credit card. Guess what? His parents find out where he was and Dre is shocked! I couldn't believe that was written into this book. Similarly, We are told over and over again how smart Dean is, but then his phone gets hacked super easily. He acts confused how it could have happened, even though it's pretty basic tech knowledge that a teenager should know. Yes, you should update your phone, Dean. Another weird thing that felt off to me was that Dre was constantly making fun of Dean for the way he dressed and looked. He tells Dean that he dresses boring and like an accountant and thinks Dean needs to loosen up. He even makes fun of Dean for having a boring bedroom. And yet, he always followed this with telling Dean that the boringness is something he likes about him. He thinks it's cute. So why does he keep criticizing Dean for being boring throughout the book? Make it make sense.
11. Dean and Dre's Relationship: I'm probably repeating myself on this one, but I need to emphasize how ALL of the points I've made should lead you to the conclusion that Dre and Dean's relationship is extremely problematic. Dean never uses any critical thinking to come to any conclusions about why Dre might be mad at him for supporting his mother's policies. Dean NEVER confronts his mother about her policies. Neither of them have any conversations about the place race has in politics. The main message a reader takes away from the relationship is "you CAN date someone in the opposite political party as you. Just don't talk about politics!" This is a terrible and alarming message to send to TEENS (who this book targets) in 2020 (the year of an extremely important presidential election). You can disagree about your favorite pizza toppings. You can't disagree about whether certain people should have rights. I do really think Dre and Dean's relationship COULD have worked if it was written with the right nuance and exploration. However, it wasn't. So, we are left with a problematic and uncomfortable relationship.
12. The ending. Yes, after suffering through the whole book, the ending was far worse than I could have even imagined. There is this weird last-minute plot moment where the kids learn that McMann is behind Dre and Dean's relationship being exposed to the world (surprise!) and so they use Tamal's tech skills to defeat him. It's all really contrived and stupid, especially for the last 3 chapters of the book. McMann is also such a cartoon villain. It's pathetic. However, the main issue is that the last chapter takes place after the election. Dean and Dre go off to different colleges, but they maintain their relationship. However, we don't learn who wins the presidential election. Based on the ending, we're 99.9% sure it's not McMann, but is the winner Dean's mom or Dre's dad? Who knows? How convenient. It seems the message is that it doesn't matter who wins, as long as you have someone you love. Imagine that message in a book about politics in 2020. Ha!
Whether there is a democrat or republican in the office DOES matter, and I think you SHOULD have a conversation with your significant other about their political beliefs and hold them accountable for being okay with stripping rights away from other people. The fact that this book's resolution actively goes against both of those statements is appalling.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
“I enjoy the part where adults I hardly know treat me like an anomaly because I know a few words with more than two syllables.” I grimaced. “They probably think all teenagers are brain-dead and sit around huffing dry-erase markers.”
Compared to other Shaun David Hutchinson’s YA books, The State of Us took me more time to get “into” after the opening. The starting few chapters drew my attention with the major event that happens in the first few chapter but I found that there were time (through the book) that scenes and events were dragged out (as if trying to make it realistic) but it started to make me lose my interest instead, especially when the heavier political aspects of the book came into play.
The book stayed very neutral as far as potential for picking sides. The politics sometimes came off a little heavy (concerning both sides) especially at the beginning—it seemed intentional—but depending on the reader, they might not enjoy reading dialogue of characters talking about what one person believes repeatedly. I’m one of those people that don’t care to make politics a large part of my life so this book was enjoyable, overall.
Other than that, the character building and portrayal of demisexuality was excellent and respectful. It was including the small details (e.g. ADD rep, D&D, huffing markets, etc) that really made the characters seem like they could be real people. The main characters (Dre and Dean) take us on the road of personal discovery, sprinkled with politics, as they finish out their last year in high school in an unorthodox manner. I’m happy a story was written about a very similar struggle I faced in high school (you never know who has been though it too.)
The use of sarcasm and comic relief in novel was effective and amazing. I mean, lines like, “Maybe someone had slipped LSD into my latte and it’d just taken a few hours to kick in” painted the picture that was needed while making me laugh. There were so many highlights!! I loved the plot twist within a plot twist too. I wasn’t expecting that at all. The ending could have been cliched like in RWARB but it wasn’t. This was modern, original, creative, and hopeful. I highly recommend checking it out if you’re looking for something original and funny. I’m hoping to reread this title again once it comes out to compare from my first read. So stay tuned for another review.
A lot of people are comparing this book to Red, White, and Royal Blue and while they have their similarities in the political-ish “star-crossed lovers” storyline, the two are completely different. The State of Us focuses equal time on plot and romance as where RWARB focuses primarily on romance. The State of Us comes out June 2, 2020. Thank you dedicated publicists at Harper Collins for an ARC!
#ownvoices Latinx readers alerted to this being a dumpster fire waiting to happen and we were told to wait so people could actually read it. And guess what? It was the dumpster fire people thought it would be. Queerness shouldn't be more important than other issues and maybe white people should let POC write about their experiences, since they really don't know how to write them. Read #ownvoices reviews about this, please.
Edit: The publisher hired a sensitivity reader for the ace rep and SDH subtweeted her and invalidated her remarks (and her own experience in one fell swoop... 🙃) She didn't submit herself to a reread but people in the comments said he didn't listen to her advice (what a surprise)
Jay Coles (the author of Tyler Johnson was here) said the black rep was messy and racist and SDH blocked him... I guess it's self explanatory.
update po paru miesiącach: dałam jednak jedną gwiazdkę, nie dwie.
okej. wow? mam niesamowicie mieszane uczucia. (nie ma tu żadnych ważnych spojlerów, jedynie nawiązania i komentarze odnośnie wątków.)
moją pierwszą reakcją było: "red white & royal blue, tylko w innej czcionce", i mimo że później to trochę wyblakło, to nadal jest wiele podobieństw między tymi książkami, które mnie rażą. chociażby dwójka głównych bohaterów. dosłownie copy & paste. jedyne czym się dean różni od henry'ego to kolor oczu. nie wiem czy to było przypadkowe czy nie, ale fakt, że ta książka została wydana rok po rw&rb, które było światowym hitem, jest dość.. podejrzany.
do rzeczy. początek relacji deana i dre'ego nie był ani trochę realistyczny. na początku dre nie lubił deana ani trochę i podśmiewywał się z niego w swojej głowie, a po kilkunastominutowej rozmowie z nim zechciał być jego przyjacielem i na siłę wpisał mu jego kontakt w telefon. nie wiem jak autor nawiązuje relacje irl, ale that's not it.
do tego chodzi również sprawa koloru skóry dre'ego - niby był "brązowy", a żadnego wątku z tym nie było. ojciec andre'go nie miał żadnych problemów z kolorem swojej skóry jako polityk, jego rodzina nie miała żadnych meksykańskich tradycji, a jedynym hiszpańskim słowem w książce było "mijo". użyte raz. naprawdę bardzo mi przykro że autor tak beznadziejne olał sprawę pochodzenia głównego bohatera. powiedział "no, dre jest "brązowy"" i do widzenia.
wątek z mcnannem? szczerze, słaby. szczególnie ostatnie rozdziały. rozwiązanie tego wątku było tak płytkie, że aż przykro. a był w tym potencjał.
ale, mimo tego wszystkiego, była jedna rzecz która denerwowała mnie najbardziej: wybielanie szkodliwości niektórych republikanów i morał tej książki, czyli "love wins over politics" czy "love always wins". trzymajcie mnie. w niektórych momentach aż chciałam rzucić tę książkę w pizdu i zrobić dnf, bo aż tak szkodliwe to było. fakt, że dean po tym wszystkim co robi jego matka dalej ją wspiera, jest okropny. wiadomość od autora, że to nieważne czy jesteśmy demokratami czy republikanami, jest okropna. fakt, że w książce takie rzeczy jak banowanie aborcji, obrzucanie błotem osoby trans, czy przyzwalanie nauczycielom na posiadanie broni w szkołach zostały wybielone, jest okropny. żeby nie było, rozumiem przekaz autora: "powinniśmy nawzajem szanować swoje opinie, nieważne czy jesteśmy bardziej na prawo czy na lewo", ale to po prostu nie było to. matka deana była tak nienawistną i okropną osobą, że aż wymiotować mi się chciało jak cały czas była usprawiedliwiana, to przez deana, to przez ojca dre'ego. kurwa mać. posiadała swoje konserwatywne opinie, których w ogóle nie tłumaczyła, a zamiast tego tylko krytykowała wszystkich naokoło, szczególnie demokratów i rodzine dre'ego, a nie miała na to żadnego usprawiedliwienia czy argumentu. gdy ktoś próbował z nią rozmawiać, to wywiązywała się całkowicie z rozmowy. nigdzie w książce nie było żadnej konkretnej rozmowy między republikanem a demokratą, która potwierdziłaby tezę autora o nieważności po której stronie polityki stoimy, a to w tej książce byłoby kluczowe. wątek polityczny tej książki nie ma sensu właśnie przez to: niby republikanie i demokraci są równi sobie, a nie dość że reprezentantka republikanów gówno wie i gówno mówi, to nie było żadnych dobrych, politycznych konkretów. jedynie gadała w kółko o tym, że "osoby lgbt nie są normalne, a mój syneczek dean jest normalny i będzie taki sam jak ja, a jak nie, to się zdenerwuję i mu powiem, żeby nie gadał głupot." + oczywiście dochodzi sprawa z samym deanem. mały syneczek mamuni, który postawił się jej minimalnie dopiero pod koniec książki, bo nie miał już wyboru. do tamtej pory siedział cicho, bo przecież "wy nie znacie mojej mamy!! moja mama jest dobrym człowiekiem!!" mimo że jego matka była najmniej wyrozumiałą, a najbardziej ignorancką postacią, jaką można było stworzyć. ugh. mogłabym mówić o wiele więcej na temat tego okropnego wątku politycznego, ale zostawię to już tak jak jest, bo nawet szkoda się produkować. ani to utopijne, ani to realistyczne. jedynie denerwujące i szkodliwe. do tego brak jakiegokolwiek mającego sens zwieńczenia tego wszystkiego.
mimo, iż ta książka ma wiele minusów (te, które wypisałem + parę innych, mniej ważnych) to jednak dałam jej te marne 2 gwiazdki za: - ciekawych drugoplanowych bohaterów (mel i ta druga na "m", która przyjaźniła się z deanem), - miłą i rozczulającą relację głównych bohaterów (pomijając jej beznadziejny początek), - wątek z demiseksualizmem deana.
nie było to AŻ tak złe, ale nie było to też dobre. walmartowa wersja rw&rb. jeżeli chcecie przeczytać jakąś dobrą młodzieżówkę romantyczną z tłem politycznym, to weźcie się jak już za red white & royal blue.
a jeśli rw&rb wam się nie podobało za jej utopijność i irrealizm polityczny, to po to nawet nie sięgajcie.
chciałabym to ocenić wyżej, naprawdę bym chciała. dean i dre zasługują na swój happy end. ale to, po prostu, nie było to.
Jakie to było słodkie, ja nie mogę. Weźmy do rąk RW&RB ulepszy kilka razy, zróbmy z tego młodzieżówkę i mamy „Stany Zjednoczone Miłości” 💅🏻 Naprawdę świetna, wartościowa młodzieżówka poruszająca wiele queerowych kwestii + ze świetnymi bohaterami
This book was a quick read, but I truly feel like something was missing, not only in the main characters' relationship but also in the main political narrative that was always on the background.
Let's talk about Dre and Dean first. I liked the initial concept of the two of them being the sons of the two candidates running against each other for the presidency of the USA, but other than that I wasn't interested very much. I felt like they lacked chemistry most of the time. I actually preferred it when they texted instead of seeing each other in real life, especially because for most of the time these meetings led to Dre criticizing Dean's personality. I'm not talking about his beliefs or him supporting his mother, no, I'm talking about his actual personality. On a political level, the two of them tried to come together and discuss their differences, but I believe it was all just done on a superficial level. Also, I feel like the fact that Dre is Mexican-American and that Dean is demi weren't really discussed properly, they were just thrown in there and that was that. I truly feel like these identities weren't represented properly.
This book is about politics, there's no way around it if you set a novel around the sons of the republican and democratic candidate. But for a book that is set in a political environment, this book does a very good job of shying away from important matters that should be discussed thoroughly. In my opinion it was very poorly done. Dean's mother clearly stands against things that deeply affect both main characters and the fact that this was dealt with in just some short dialogues is totally part of the problem. But in order to avoid discussing it, the author
There are better YA books out there about politics, you can totally skip this one.
Ummmmm. Okay. I'm a person with #THOUGHTS on this one.
Admittedly I read The State of Us because my podcast is doing an upcoming episode of the uptick in political romances centered around Republicans and Democrats dating, and this book has supplied...plenty of fodder for that.
First, one of the elephants in the room: In my opinion, yes, this novel feels like a YA ripoff of Red, White & Royal Blue. The main characters were similar even down to even their general personality traits, the plots are eerily similar, everything is similar—and in this case, more rushed and slightly cartoonish. Additionally, there are very thoughtful critiques surrounding the portrayal of Dre's ethnicity and Dean's asexuality on Goodreads and elsewhere on the internet, including this one and this one. (Note that both of these contain spoilers.)
This book reminded me of Devon Daniels' Meet You in the Middle in terms of its desire to play ~both sides~ when unpacking an interpolitical romance. Some discourse around having shifting views from your parents was included, but overall, the messaging was still rooted in this notion of milquetoast-y political critique ("All we need is love!") and no actual reckoning for people—institutionally powerful parents included—with harmful politics.
I'm still unraveling my thoughts on where books about mixed-partisan relationships even fit into the romance landscape, but I do know that novels like Meet You in the Middle and The State of Us, with their desire to never quite take anything actually uncomfortable head-on for fear of truly alienating a side, aren't it.
HI UM SHAWN OUT HERE LITERALLY ONE BOOK A YEAR !!!! IM SO EXCITED MAN HE NEVER DISAPPOINTS AHHH IM READY TO HAVE MY LIFE RUINES AGAIN
EDIT: SO WE HAVE A PLOT AND I KNOW IT SOUNDS SIMILAR TO RW&RB B U T I BET ITS GONNA BE NOTHING LIKE IT BC DOES ANYONE REMEMBER SHAUN’S TENDENCY TO INCLUDE SCI FI IN HIS BOOKS ??? THAT THIS WILL PROBABLY NOT BE A FUN ROMCOM AND RATHER SOMETHING THAT MAKES US QUESTION OUR REALITY ITSELF?? BC I REMEMBERED AND IM SCARED
My one line revierw would be DON'T READ IT Some random blogger said if you enjoyed Red, White and Royal Blue, You'll enjoy "The State of us". I wonder what resisted that bugger to write IT'S THE EXACT FUCKING STORY!
Y’all are going to fall in love with Dean and Dre falling in love. This is basically a YA version of Red, White & Royal Blue, and that’s exactly how it reads. It’s smart and funny and cute, and it knows its strengths. Hutchinson is still a master at crafting realistic characters and dialogue. I was sucked in by this book and absolutely adore Dean and the ace/demi representation here. Hutchinson also has one of the best and most realistic coming out scenes I’ve read in ages. That said, the resolution involving the antagonist felt a bit too easy and predictable, and I felt like the book ended too soon with too many unanswered questions. I could have done with twenty more pages of epilogue to wrap things up better. 4.5/5 stars.
5/29/20 EDIT - For some reason, some people on book Twitter are trying to "shut down" this book because it's political YA and explores the POV from a Republican teen. To those people I say: we need all POVs in literature, especially YA. Teens are smart enough to understand political topics, I promise. And if you actually read this book yourself, you couldn't help but fall in love with this Republican character you're so eager to "shut down." People are more than the political titles they're usually born into, and this book explores that; it challenges unjust POVs, as they should be. To say otherwise is crazy talk. We need diverse YA, and we need political YA-- and we need books that are both of those things at once. I can't recommend The State of Us enough, as well as Hutchinson's other novels.
5/30/20 EDIT - There’s a new round of canceling for this book. There’s another angle now about how the POC rep in this book isn’t to the standard many readers want, specifically the Mexican-American rep through one of the main characters. The queer struggles in this book are definitely much more focused on than the struggles of being Mexican-American, although those are also mentioned. If you’re looking for an in depth exploration of being Mexican-American, this book might not be for you. I suggest reading some ownvoices books from POC; this is an ownvoices book for queer rep only.
I struggle with telling people to outright skip a book, but do not read this book. I initially gave it 3 stars because I was worried I was judging it too harshly in the immediate aftermath of finishing it, but I've sat on it for about a day now and decided to lower my rating to a 2 and explain a bit why I cannot endorse reading this, particularly in the middle of a presidential election year in America. This is going to be a lot less coherent than a usual review, but I just need to get this all out.
1. How this book handles the issue of politics // There are 3 presidential candidates in this book, Janice Arnault (Dean's mom and the Republican candidate), Tomas Rosario (Dre's dad and the Democratic candidate) and Jackson McMann (the 3rd party candidate, a corrupt businessman who's never been in politics before, espouses dangerous and hate-filled rhetoric, etc....sound familiar?). It's a total cop out for the book to position these extremist views that are clearly meant to represent Trump as some fringe outsider thing as if they aren't a core tenet of the actual Republican party in America. I'd also argue that Hutchinson's choice to make the Republican candidate a woman was done in an attempt to ~subvert expectations~ and make it easier for the the audience to sympathize with her, especially when the author goes so far as to have the Democratic candidate (a Mexican-American man with an out gay son) say that Arnault (a military war hero and governor from Florida with a cookie-cutter white family) has it just as hard as he does being the candidate. Time and time again, the author seems determined to "both sides" everything and show us that love conquers all and there are good people on both sides of the party (even while telling us that Dean's mom wants to arm teachers with guns and ban trans people from the military!) and the real danger is just coming from the fringes of politics.
Oh, and do you want even more proof the author doesn't want to take a stand and pick a side? WE NEVER EVEN FIND OUT WHO WINS THE ELECTION. After some casual blackmailing and public outing of Dean and Dre's relationship by the 3rd party candidate who just so happens to own the private chatting app they use to stay in touch, he gets caught in a very Scooby-Doo plot by "those meddling teenagers" and drops out of the race. Jump to the final debate where both Dean and Dre's parents are asked how they feel about their sons being in a relationship. Governor Arnault (R) flat out says she's not thrilled about it but claims it's only because she knows this will make her son's path in life harder and YET THERE IS NO MOMENT WHERE SHE PAUSES TO CONSIDER THAT HER PARTY AND HER POLITICS ARE THE REASON WHY HIS LIFE WILL BE HARDER. But then there's a nice kumbaya moment where we're basically told none of this matters because at least we have love. Jump again to the final chapter, which takes place after the election, and Dean and Dre are together but at different colleges and we just never get told who wins, so clearly it doesn't matter and elections don't have consequences and who cares if Dean's mom is the president and giving guns to teachers, right? Because Dean and Dre are still together and in love and that's all that seems to matter in this book!
2. The personal is political and the effect of politics on our relationships // So the whole premise of this book is what happens when we fall in love across the political aisle and this book seems quite content to skirt this issue wherever possible. At first, Dre pushes Dean to analyze his mom's politics and why he's supporting her but is quick to let things go a) when Dean assures Dre that his mom is a good person and b) once they're happy and together as a couple. From page 398 (during the final debate), "It felt weird sitting there hoping my dad obliterated my boyfriend's mom in the debate, but that was the world we were living in. It wasn't personal. I might not ever like Janice Arnault, and she was probably never gonna like me, but we had to find a way to respect each other while Dean and I were together, which I hoped would be for a long, long time." ARE YOU KIDDING ME? This is not respecting someone's choice to be a vegetarian if you eat meat. This is someone trying to be America's president and actively limit the rights of who you are as a person.
3. The POC character doing all the emotional heavy lifting // I won't get into this as much because as a white person, it's not my place to do so and I am not able to speak to this aspect of the book as much as others have. But I will say, Dean comes into this book very naive and uninterested in doing any work to understand people who aren't like him. He kind of hems and haws about not supporting his mom's policies but supporting her as a person when Dre pushes him on it and all of the onus is on Dre to educate Dean about why his mom's policies are bad for the future of America. Oh, and at one point another character (a lesbian friend of Dean's that is not out to her family) tells Dean she can't come out to her family because they'd send her to a conversion camp and he expresses surprise that any parent would do something like that to their own child and seems to not have even known conversion camps are real? There's just so little effort on Dean's part to ever look outside his own small Leave it to Beaver world.
4. The basis of Dean and Dre's entire relationship and what draws them to each other is the fact that they're both the child of a presidential candidate. I get it - they understand the lack of privacy and pressures in a way no one else can. But outside of that, I don't really buy the relationship between them at all.
Everything I've detailed above is really just a fraction of what I thought was wrong with this book. It's getting a ton of comparisons to Casey McQuiston's Red, White and Royal Blue, and I get that's why so many people are hyped to read The State of Us, but just go read (or reread) Casey's book instead because it's infinitely better!
Hutchinson's first fully-contemporary read is a romance between Dre, the son of a Democratic Mexican-American presidential candidate and Dean, the son of a female Republican presidential candidate. Dre knows he's gay, while Dean is wrestling with here he may lie on the asexual/demisexual spectrum. Dre is out, while Dean cannot be for fear of how his family might react. But what unites them isn't just a budding romance -- it's ensuring that the third party candidate who is pure evil doesn't get the chance to win.
Many readers are going to dislike how this isn't black and white and good and evil. Both characters are nuanced and well-drawn, offering insight into why politics can't be so cut and dry. Both can be and are short sighted with one another, while both also have to reckon with this very thing. The complexity is what makes the story so compelling, and more, makes their romance one you can't help but root for.
Some of Shaun David Hutchinson's YA novels from the late 2010s and early '20s received more popular acclaim than others, but to his fans, every release was a chance to get amped up about what innovative story concept he would try next. I was skeptical when I heard about The State of Us; released in 2020, an election year for U.S. president, the book promised to delve deeply into politics, territory the author had previously explored (see The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza) with mixed results. For America of that era, Shaun David Hutchinson was decidedly on the political left; could he restrain his own social views to tell a story from the perspective of two teens, one of whom is ostensibly a conservative? Election year is here as the book begins, and the United States is ready to polarize as usual. The Democrats have selected Tomás Rosario as their nominee for president, and the Republicans have chosen Janice Arnault, both talented politicians with a legitimate shot at occupying the White House come January. Tomás Rosario's seventeen-year-old son Dre is openly gay and has a Youtube channel called Dreadful Dressup, which attracted droves of subscribers well before his father entered national politics. Janice Arnault's son Dean, also seventeen, is a star student who dresses and speaks conservatively, a natural asset to the campaign as he quietly wends his way toward adulthood and a likely future in politics. Dre and Dean could hardly be more different on the surface, but when they meet at a campaign event and are forced to spend a few minutes alone together due to an unforeseen security scare, they strike up an immediate friendship, leaving them both wishing they could hang out again sometime. They've grown up on opposites sides of a steep cultural divide, but Dre and Dean enjoy each other's company regardless how they're "supposed" to feel.
Neither boy is sure what their parents would think of them being friends, but at that first meeting, Dre downloads the Promethean messaging app onto Dean's cell phone and sets him up a quick account. This way they can exchange messages through a secure system without worrying that someone will catch on. As weeks pass, Dre and Dean become a lot closer. Dean isn't stiff or boring as Dre had assumed, and Dre isn't the in-your-face activist Dean thought he must be. True, Dre's best friend and Dreadful Dressup partner, Mel, is outspoken on political matters, but Dre would rather focus on creating Youtube videos. Dean opposes Tomás Rosario's left-leaning policies and Dre is equally set against Janice Arnault's conservative agenda, but on the Promethean app the boys can relax and just chat, making each other laugh even as they wish they could spend time together in person. Ah, but determined young minds tend to find a way; if Dre and Dean can persuade their parents that teaming up to do volunteer projects in the community would be good for both campaigns, the two teens will have all the time they want together. Dre senses that he's falling for Dean, but he's ready to accept that the clean-cut son of the Republican nominee for president will never feel romantically about him in return. Dean can't be gay...can he?
Politically, the Rosarios and Arnaults agree on one thing: Jackson McMann, the independent candidate for president, has to be stopped. A business tycoon who seems to be in the race purely for branding purposes, McMann's political philosophy is grounded in nothing but an apparent desire to tear the country apart. Does he care about minorities and the poor? Does he believe in American exceptionalism, and support law and order? Not that Dre or Dean can tell, and it scares them that McMann's nihilistic platform may leapfrog him over their parents to be elected president. Recent polling suggests that's a possibility, but Dre and Dean have another problem as their relationship deepens. Dean has confided in Dre that he believes himself to be asexual, but he hasn't shut the door on romance with Dre, a door that opens wider each time they reunite on the campaign trail and realize how much they missed each other. Pats on the back and lingering handshakes escalate into more, and Dre and Dean both worry what will happen if anyone finds out. How would the voting public react to the teen sons of two major candidates for president secretly getting handsy with each other? The nightmare comes to life when an anonymous online hacker sends them photographic evidence of their relationship, photos that could destroy the Rosario and Arnault campaigns. The excitement and bliss of young love turns bitter; can Dre and Dean get out of this with their reputations intact? And do they have a future together, or is ideological disparity too much to overcome in a world obsessed with politics as bloodsport?
Dre sees Republicans as backward and intolerant, eager to deny civil rights to people because of skin color and sexual orientation. He will never agree with the Arnault campaign on social issues, but does that mean he and Dean are doomed? Speaking abstractly, his mother doesn't seem to think so; in her own words, "trying to understand people we disagree with is how we learn and grow." Could she be friends with someone on the political right? The Arnaults, for example? She seems open to it. "I don't know them well enough to say, but I'd certainly give them a chance. You'll never really know who a person is until you put in the effort to get to know them." In the next chapter Dean has a similar thought: "The more I learned about others, the more I seemed to learn about myself." Earnest interaction with people whose opinions differ from yours is the only way to test if your ideas will hold up in the real world. It may feel good to block your ears when a rival speaks, or to slander them as bigoted and attempt to shut down their ability to access an audience, but you'll never progress as a thinker that way. It's uncomfortable to encounter passionate people who don't see the world as you do, but an open public discourse is key to individual and societal growth.
Life gets complicated, and it's easy to doubt yourself after stepping out on a limb that feels wobbly beneath your feet, but Dre understands that he's not going to get a do-over. "(N)othing ever goes back to the way it was. We'd all been changed by the last few months. We were different people. I was a different person. Might as well try to unbake cookies and separate the dough into its original components." Your experiences, positive and negative, mold the person you are becoming. Embrace that and you can help direct the change, accentuating the good and working to eliminate toxic attitudes as they crop up. Whatever you want from life, your best results will come if you accept what you cannot change, and assume responsibility over your character and actions. You might surprise yourself by turning into a better, more capable person than you thought you could be.
The love scenes between Dre and Dean are awkward and beautiful, putting butterflies in the reader's stomach as they feel what the characters are feeling. This is the best thing about The State of Us; it brings Dre and Dean's relationship to vivid life and then puts us through the wringer as their bond is severely tested by circumstances. Is love stronger than politics? Is it stronger than family? The book isn't as emotionally powerful as the author's We Are the Ants, but it hums with a constant, low level of electric energy that I loved. I'd rate The State of Us two and a half stars, and nearly rounded to three; why, then, don't I? Shaun David Hutchinson mostly does a reasonable job separating his own political opinions from the story, but his leftism is easy to detect in his portrayal of Dean and Janice Arnault. Right/left spectrums in any nation shift over time, often rapidly, but for the era when this book debuted, Janice Arnault's social positions and her rationale for them bore almost no resemblance to the Republican Party platform. Her first principles are vague, and when pushed, she can't explain them well; it's hard to believe she could have won the party's nomination. Dean is portrayed as a standard Republican teenager, but when Dre probes his convictions, we see that Dean sides with the left on almost every important issue. How did that happen if he grew up in a family steeped in conservative Christian values? Dre has his own disagreements with Tomás Rosario, but these always come when his father's positions aren't far enough left for him. With all the main characters moving steadily to the left, it seems the author's bias is showing. Nevertheless, The State of Us held my rapt attention, and I hope it inspires kinder, more sincere cultural dialogue among people who hold opposing opinions. This isn't Shaun David Hutchinson's finest novel, but if you like his storytelling style you'll find plenty to appreciate in these pages.
Rany, jakie to głupie 🤦🏻♀️ szybko się czytało, miałam dać dwie gwiazdki, ale odejmuję jedną za tę absurdalną końcówkę rodem z kreskówek. Poza tym zżyna z Red White & Royal Blue, tylko to było o wiele mniej dojrzałe.
I am astonished that this was written by Shaun David Hutchinson. I have absolutely adored this works in the past, but this one... where do I even begin?
I guess with the fact that I understand the message that he was trying to convey, but I think he kind of contradicts himself within the book. The heart of this story should have been that people need to look past assumptions based on others' parents, political views, race, sexuality, etc., but that became warped within these pages.
Instead, the focus was mainly on assumptions made about Dean (the son of the Republican), and none really went the other way against Dre. This kind of defeats the entire purpose of the message because it clearly leans right. The fact that it leans right is not the problem I have with this book; the problem I have with this book is that it leans one way at all. You can't write a book about the biases that political parties hold while simultaneously holding bias against one party.
Not only was this message twisted, but the book itself was dry. The writing was so incredibly stilted and formal that at no point did I believe I was reading from the perspective of a teenager or just any normal human being...
Every single character was such a huge caricature of whatever stereotype they embodied that it was impossible to focus on the idea that we shouldn't assume things about others.
The only redeemable qualities of this book are that certain random aspects about Dean and Dre really resonated with me. Dean was very high-strung and anxious, but adamant that that's okay. Dre was very practical most of the time, and I could appreciate that.
Overall, I would not recommend reading this book. Not one moment of it was immersive or felt like a story; it was all clearly just a mode of preaching a message. Not to mention, race was pretty much never even discussed in this book, despite the fact that Dre was Mexican-American. How could you have an entire book discussing politics and never factor in the role that race would play? That in itself should raise a red flag.