Illustrated by Mirelle Ortega. Cover illustration by Emma Trithart.
Published by Scholastic, 2019.
Effie Kostas is a new pupil at Highworth Grange Secondary School. Her first few weeks are difficult; she finds it hard to make friends, has to eat lunch alone in the canteen and has a very public run-in with Aaron Davis, who turns out to be the most popular boy in the school. He’s also the current junior class president. Aaron flaunts the privileges of his position (most significantly his lunch pass) and he has also appropriated the majority of the school clubs’ budget for the sports clubs that he and his friends belong to. It’s this blatant abuse of power and Aaron’s general apathy that prompts Effie’s decision to stand against him in the upcoming elections for junior class president.
The book then follows Effie as she prepares to defeat Aaron. Before long, she meets some like-minded people and forms a close group of loyal friends. They become her campaign team. Campaign meetings are held, key issues are outlined, slogans are written and posters are designed and displayed around the school. In a bid for votes, the candidates host stalls at the school fair and participate in a public debate. The rivalry between Effie and Aaron is intense and I found myself deeply caring about the election result. My heart was actually racing as we neared the announcement!
I absolutely loved the strong feminist content in this book. Vote for Effie examines the everyday sexism faced by girls and women today. In her clashes with Aaron and his friends, Effie is criticised for being noisy, and dismissed as hysterical. She is expected to quieten down and stop causing trouble. Her campaign efforts are belittled and labelled ‘sweet’. Being likened to a girl is viewed as an insult. Girls are written off for the football team based on assumptions that they are weaker and slower. Through Effie and her friends, Laura Wood calls out these attempts to silence, disregard and belittle women. She draws attention to these commonly used put downs and lets readers know that they are not ok.
Another wonderful aspect of the book is how Effie’s story has been set within the history of women’s rights. Ninety-year-old Iris lives next door to Effie. She’s feisty and fierce. She has a history of campaigning for women’s rights and is a source of inspiration and motivation for Effie. I loved this link to the past and this intergenerational dimension of the book. Throughout the book there are also references to the inspirational women in politics today and the story is contextualised by the recent Women’s March in London.
A further detail that I enjoyed was Effie’s family dynamic. Her father is a stay-at-home dad and her mother is a university academic.
Even though the book has serious political and feminist messages, there’s lots of humour throughout. The minutes of the school council meetings are particularly funny. I also liked how the illustrations and different text formatting (newspaper articles, campaign posters, meeting minutes) really brought the pages alive.
Effie will be an inspiration to many young people. She’s passionate, driven and with a strong sense of justice. She isn’t afraid to speak up and to challenge the status quo. She’s determined to make her voice and other marginalised voices heard. Her debate speech is especially moving (I cried). Effie rocks.
Suitable for children aged 8+
Thank you to Scholastic for sending me this book to review.