Today is my stop on the blog tour for the newly-released YA contemporary novel Kick the Moon! Continue reading for a synopsis of the story, a Q&A with its author, Muhammad Khan, and a review of this hard-hitting book!
‘Fifteen-year-old Ilyas is under pressure from everyone: GCSEs are looming and his teachers just won’t let up, his dad wants him to join the family business and his mates don’t care about any of it. There’s no space in Ilyas’ life to just be a teenager.
Serving detention one day, Ilyas finds a kindred spirit in Kelly Matthews, who is fed up with being pigeonholed as the good girl, and their friendship blows the social strata of high school wide open. But when Kelly catches the eye of one of the local bad boys, Imran, he decides to seduce her for a bet – and Ilyas is faced with losing the only person who understands him. Standing up to Imran puts Ilyas’ family at risk, but it’s time for him to be the superhero he draws in his comic-books, and go kick the moon.’
I was grateful to be able to ask Muhammad a question about the impact that teachers can have on the lives of their students and their role in helping to support and encourage them. Read on for his response!
Both Ilyas in Kick the Moon and Muzna in I Am Thunder have encouraging teachers. As a teacher yourself, what role do you think teachers have on the development of a young adult’s character and aspirations?
We all remember a good teacher. They sit somewhere between our parents and our friends. They occupy a special place where they educate us, give us advice, and help us achieve our dreams and goals. I think teachers are in a very privileged position with regards to helping shape a young person’s character and aspirations. It’s not a responsibility I take lightly! Sometimes all you need is that one teacher to believe in you to unlock your hidden talents and allow you to flourish.
Ultimately a good teacher’s job is to make sure you achieve your full potential and sometimes that involves some tough love. I remember struggling with a class who did not like maths. I tried to make it as fun as possible by teaching through games and stories but there was a lack of appreciation. I ended up having to make a lot of phone calls home and set detentions to ensure homework was done. It was exhausting! Then at the end of the year one of the students who gave me the most grief sheepishly came up to me to thank me for their grade. But the biggest surprise was when they apologised for giving me such a hard time!
Thank you very much for answering my question, Muhammad!
Kick the Moon is an amazing read, with dialogue that makes its characters come alive, words and mode of speaking ringing true and clear. It tackles issues such as identity, peer pressure, the code of toxic masculinity that impacts young men, respect for women and the impact that social media can have when it is misused. One detail I appreciated in particular is the clear statement and reminder to young adult readers that viewing and sharing inappropriate content that has been sent to them is in itself a crime and will have serious consequences, which is something that many may still be unaware of.
There are numerous instances in the novel where Ilyas is pressured into doing something by the men around him, primarily his peers, but also his father, who believes that his interests and behaviour, such as his love of drawing and reluctance to be involved in what are perceived to be ‘alpha male’ activities, are a weakness that needs to be corrected, ultimately driving him further into dangerous territory. As the book is written from Ilyas’ point of view, it is easy to empathise and feel sympathy for a boy who is respectful of women, has clear talent and passion (but lacks the confidence to embrace what he loves for the aforementioned reasons) and does his best to be a good son, yet finds this respect and good intentions returned by very few people in his life. The exploration of what it means ‘to be a man’ and what men expect of their peers – and what they will do to those who don’t meet their expectations – is something that I feel that we don’t see a good deal of in literature and media, at least not considered in the depth that it should be, and Kick the Moon is a novel that goes above and beyond to sensitively explore the impact of this culture on growing boys. As suggested in the story: content creators and distributors are as responsible as any other for the portrayal of men and women in media and the stereotypes that arise and impact children, and we need more of the media to address portrayals that encourage women to see each other as enemies, and men to feel forced into ‘alpha’ culture.
That Ilyas finds a friend in Kelly and she does not become simply his romantic interest is another of the elements of Kick the Moon that I loved. She is valued for her friendship, her intelligence and her courage, helping to debunk the myth presented to young people that boys and girls cannot be ‘just friends’. Other women in the novel, such as Ilyas’ mother and Ms Mughal are treated with the same respect in the narrative, if not always respected by men, their contributions to not only Ilyas’ life, but the lives of those around them (contrasted by Kelly’s mother, who may be trying to do the best for her daughter, yet doesn’t quite know how, much like Ilyas’ father) among those that have the greatest positive impact.
Kick the Moon is out now from Pan Macmillan and would make a brilliant addition to any home, library or classroom!