There are numerous benchmarks of achievement in high school, whether social, athletic, academic or personal growth. School is a busy, often overwhelming journey, and carving out one’s identity may include a mix of of the above. What is often missing, however, is one's political voice. For many, cynicism about politics starts at the dinner table, but for others so does the realization that, no matter how bad things are in Washington DC or your own community, one dismisses politics at his or her own peril. Politics affects our lives in subtle, sometimes seemingly invisible ways; if we’re not paying attention, it’s our fault. The Parkland, Florida shootings sparked an awareness that one’s protest, combined with others, can lead to a movement, and a movement can lead to significant change. But the effort requires courage, time, and an understanding of history.
My new novel, The Beginner’s Guide to Winning an Election, centers on a history teacher who asks his AP students to write their term paper on where their lives will be in ten years. Britain, a political novice, finds her entire identity challenged in a student body election. Once the gates of self-knowledge open, it feels both dangerous and overwhelming, but she doesn’t run from her new voice, she runs to it. She rewrites her essay for history class, realizing where she wants to be rather than where everyone expects her to be.
“This novel contains political and socioeconomic messages about the current state of things and the recent future as well. Its brilliance is that it wraps complex concepts into an easy-to-follow story that is surprisingly relatable to all ages. An incredibly engaging book." - Gerry Orz, an eleventh grade activist, author and filmmaker, attending Connection Academy in Capistrano, California.
A strange thing happened when I tried to do a Facebook “boost” for my new young adult novel, The Beginner’s Guide to Winning an Election. It’s a look at an Indiana high school presidential race in the year 2025, when the country’s economy has seriously deteriorated along with its polarized politics.
For two or three weeks the “boost” attracted a lot of interest, aimed at readers thirteen to thirty, until suddenly an employee or committee or watchdog at FB declared the novel “a political ruse” and suspended the boost.
We had to fight hard to get the decision overturned and the boost reinstated. I understand the company’s sensitivity to wiping clean the slate of its lazy oversight of political messages—this problem will be dogging them for some time, I imagine—but isn’t it the ethical thing now at least to contact the suspected party before unilaterally making judgment and lowering the boom? It’s something to which all authors and anyone on social media should pay attention.
I'm not adept at writing series and sequels that stick with one major character. All of my novels differ from one another. I like focusing on people, themes and situations as varied as the memories that pop into my head: artists in crisis, race relations, crime and violence, horse racing, sports, and smart people who still require luck to survive.
My new novel (my seventh young adult book) centers on American politics. The year is 2025 and Washington D.C—shaped by lobbyists and hypocritical politicians who have been creating chaos for fifty years, are the target of public rage, including from high school students tired of their leaders’ ineffective polarization. The "guide" in
The Beginner's Guide to Winning an Election is nothing less than history itself--or perhaps it's Mr. Wilson, who exposes his AP class in an Indiana high school to the intricate patterns of history. Those who run for student office, like my heroine, Brit Kitridge, may lack an outgoing personality and charisma, but their knowledge of the past leads them to understand where the future is going. Novice and “science brain” Brit takes on a popular incumbent, a boy whom everyone loves but no one really knows well. His secrets, she eventually learns, are tied to the agenda of a mysterious lawyer with his own agenda for public education. Brit knows her chances of winning rest on sorting through the shadows of her117 year old school, the hidden life of her opponent, and developing a strategy to withstand the lies of his team of supporters.
Michael R. French
Michael French is a graduate of Stanford University and Northwestern University. He is a businessman and author who divides his time between Santa Barbara, California, and Santa Fe, New Mexico.