Fifteen-year-old Ilyas is under pressure from everyone: GCSE’s 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.
Muhammad Khan is a maths teacher in a secondary school in Tooting and takes his inspiration from the children he teaches, as well as his own upbringing as a British-born Pakistani. He lives in South London and will be studying for a creative writing MA next year at Roehampton.
After being told that brown kids can’t be superheroes, Ilyas creates his own one. PakCore is made from his own blood, sweat, and tears who continue to grow beside him. Now fifteen, Ilyas is under pressure. GCSE exams looming, his dad wants him to take over the family business and his friends don’t care because their crew, DedManz, is for life. Until he’s serving detention and meets Kelly, who is just as fed up as he is, however, the protection that their detention provides won’t last forever and Ilyas must face the consequences or risk losing the only person who gets him. But standing up isn’t as easy as the comic books say.
Kick The Moon was promising, and like Khan’s debut, falls flat before the book could even kick-off. This story had so much potential and that I’m disappointed in myself for not enjoying it. The narratives explore a lot of important themes like racism, sexism, toxic masculinity, peer pressure through the life of a 15-year-old Pakistani Muslim boy. That information alone made me disregard my dislike for Khan’s debut and give this one a shot, but I honestly couldn’t get to grips with this one. The story just didn’t work for me. Despite being quite eventful, I just couldn’t engage with the text. A lot of it was underwhelming and tried too hard to fit so much into not much space. I couldn’t feel invested in the story, regardless.
Stereotyping and dialogue was the main issue for me in his debut and that really continues into Kick The Moon. The entire cast of characters was just awful and continues to play into stereotypes without a slight bit of originality. Illyas’s father is overbearing and is textbook toxic masculinity, his older sister seems way too immature for her age, and everyone else was literally plucked straight from hell. (Okay, maybe the teachers were more realistic because I’ve had horrid teachers my entire life.) Perhaps it was a writing choice, but considering the context of the book, it needed to be better. Imran is our villain for the novel, and he was the only one that made sense to be terrible the way he is. Using the idea that he’s a successful sports player, therefore do no wrong is such a common thing that happens in school. It may seem unbelievable but it’s actually quite common for boys like him to have much power in his circle and no one believes anything terrible about him. There was an opportunity to have a discussion about toxic masculinity, especially within the SEA Muslim communities, but it’s a shame it wasn’t introduced despite the groundworks that were laid.
Overall, Kick The Moon was way too exaggerated and stereotypical to be remotely enjoyable. I commend any form of representation but I hated putting myself through this book. Many for a younger reader, this would be more up their alley and could gain more from this, but I won’t be rushing to recommend this book to anyone. Moreover, after another disappointing read, I don’t think I’ll be reading anything else from Khan in the foreseeable future.
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced reading copy in exchange for an honest review!
Trigger warning for sexual assault and harassment.
For the most part, I thought the premise of this book was incredibly promising – a narrative that explores the themes of racism, sexism, gang culture, misogyny, toxic masculinity, friendships, peer pressure and bullying through the eyes of fifteen-year-old comic book enthusiast Ilyas Mian, who is also bearing the weight of a dozen different expectations on his shoulders. From Superman to PakCore and Big Bad Waf, Ilyas’ passion for creating comics and his fight to make brown superheroes the norm was an aspect I really enjoyed. Unfortunately, it was also the only aspect that I enjoyed.
The novel was a fairly easy read from start to finish yet, at the same time, the language – which is majority slang – was exhausting. I can’t think of any other way to describe it, and I don’t know what the current linguistic landscape of a South London school sounds like but I can’t imagine it sounding anything like this. I really enjoyed the way the author incorporated slang into his debut novel but it felt incredibly overdone here to the point where almost everything about the book – from the characters to their relationships and the story – felt inauthentic and unrealistic.
The majority of the characters in this novel also play to a lot of stereotypes, which I believe was an intentional choice but essentially made them appear to be flat. They were either angelically good or the spawn of Satan with no room for anyone to fall somewhere in between. Ilyas’ sister Shaista seemed far too immature to be older than Ilyas, and I found it incredibly disturbing when she chose to blackmail him with a certain video, or that she even recorded it in the first place.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Imran seemed far too mature to be the same age as Ilyas and I found it really hard to believe that a fifteen-year-old could have the entire school bow down and worship him simply because he’s attractive. Imran, as a character, was the epitome of toxic masculinity. Whilst there is no redemption arc for Imran, much like in real-life, it was uplifting to see Ilyas eventually standing his ground by confronting Imran and calling him out for his toxic behaviour, but not without dealing with all the setbacks and challenges. It takes a great deal of strength, determination and courage to come face-to-face with your bullies, and I think the book did exceptionally well in capturing that.
Imran, however, wasn’t the only awful character in the novel. The majority of the teachers at the school seemed to be horrible towards the students for no actual reason, which was also incredibly hard to believe – are you seeing the pattern here? Of course, we all had those teachers at school who never seemed to smile for anyone, but there was literally only one decent teacher – Ms Mughal – whose class also happened to contain the only nice students at the school. Even though the author notes how he draws on his own experience as a teacher to inform his writing, I would hate to think Stanley Park is an accurate representation of what state schools in Britain – particularly in South London – are like right now.
Overall, this book was stereotypical, predictable and often highly exaggerated, trying to do far too much in the short space that it has. Despite my dislike for the characters, the cultural, religious and diverse representation are commendable, subtle in a way that never feels like it’s forced. I had high expectations but was ultimately let down in more ways than one with a story that felt both hard to believe and largely unfinished.
Ehh, this book wasn’t for me. I didn’t like one character, not even the main one, Illyas or his narrative. He wasn’t bad, but I didn’t care about him too much.
Illyas was a bit of a sad sack, getting bullied by his “friends, disappointing his dad, and trying to follow his dreams. But he was soft-hearted and creative. His sister, Shaista, seemed so mean and vapid. I guess from a younger brother’s eyes that might be how he would sum her up. Kelly wasn’t that interesting, but I like how she and Illyas got along. In this type of story, usually both parents are unreasonable, but the mother was fine and understanding.
I think what I liked most was the struggling friendship between Illyas and Daevon. Daevon had changed for the worse but his remnants of kindness were always there.
This book shows how insidious toxic masculinity can be, and I think it’s relatable with the decent kid following behind the popular, troublemaker who makes his friend group feel like dirt. Kick the Moon is full of pop-culture references and slang to season the narrative.
Overall, this was not a bad read, but it was not personally enjoyable for me. Once I started it, I wanted to see where it ended though.
Cringe worthy, sensational representation that panders to the white gaze. And it’s the same in everything he writes!! Unhealthy obsession with Muslim girls and not a single character is believable. The worst, most inauthentic representation ever!!!!!!
I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
TWs: racism and racial profiling, sexism, revenge porn, physical violence, emotional abuse, and bullying.
This book follows Ilyias, a British-Pakistani teen, who loves drawing superheros and comics, but ends up getting involved with a gang at his school. I read Muhammad Khan's debut, I Am Thunder, last year and I enjoyed it but thought there were issues with stereotyping and dialogue. In this novel, his writing style and dialogue have really improved and the plot and pacing were solid throughout. The characters, however, still play to a lot of stereotypes. Ilyias's Dad is the 'alpha male' father, who insists his son must be traditionally masculine, playing football and hanging out with friends rather than drawing. There are also 'rich' high school girls who only care about appearance, and the tough, bad-boy who has everyone fawning over him.
Not all the characters were quite so archetypal (Ilyias's peers in his maths class and his teacher were all brilliant characters), and Khan does discuss and break down some of these stereotypes, but I felt it could have been done more subtly. Ilyias is at the same time easy to warm to and incredibly frustrating. I wished he would stand up for himself more and make better decisions, but peer pressure often got the better of him. Many times throughout the book, he's the victim of circumstance, but he doesn't see things as being his fault, and therefore doesn't take ownership of his mistakes. But his kindness and love of art did make me warm to him eventually. His friendship with Kelly is one of the highlight of the novel and it was great to see a platonic friendship develop between them that didn't turn into romance.
I enjoyed the use of slang in the dialogue (although I don't know how realistic or representative it is of London teens), as it's something we rarely see in UKYA. The discussions of diversity and privilege were also great to read and the naturalised diversity of the characters was realistic. Sexism and homophobia are also discussed and addressed in the novel (although more could have been done with the latter), and gang culture is touched upon. But I felt that there were a few things missing from the end of the story. The ending itself happens too quickly in my opinion, and I would have liked to have seen who won the art competition, and then another few scenes before the conclusion. We also never get resolutions for Ilyias's Amma and his brother, and we never find out what happens to Noah and Imran after their final scenes. Basically, I would have liked just a few more chapters to round up these lose ends. Other than that, I enjoyed this book a lot and sailed through it.
I'm fond of YA genre novels and it was nice to read one set in London (albeit a vague unspecified 'South London'), with a diverse mixture of street-talking teenagers slogging their way through life at an academy school while trying to dodge gang life and shaming on social media. I wasn't entirely convinced by the adult characters (the saintly cool Maths teacher as much as Kelly's evil snobby mother), and felt like the climactic scene where the protagonist gets to prove his worth in a big competition was a bit too familiar... but fretful, heroic, rabbit-loving Ilyas and kick-ass, wobbly feminist Kelly were entirely adorable and I rooted for them throughout.
I received this book from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.
It took me a little while to get into Kick the Moon, but I loved the themes once I did. Ilyas is so heartbreakingly real and lovely! And Kelly is fab too - i really wanted more of her in the book to be honest.
Ilyas is getting in with a bad crowd, and has ended up in a gang and doing things he doesn’t want because he’s scared and this comes across so well. But I also love how Kelly is the reflection of that in her own way - in with the snobby rich white girls and trying to live up to their so called standards. This really showed that anyone can feel like they don’t measure up or that they have to fit in.
I love the descriptions of the comics too, I’m dying to read them but especially the Big Bad Waf. And I had some awesome maths teachers in my time but Ms Mughal sounds AMAZING.
Similar to his first book, one of the things I don’t love is that the language is very much in slang, and it does make it hard to read. HOWEVER. This makes it relatable to so many who wouldn’t normally pick up a book, and I love it for that. Yes, it’s not for me, but it will work for so many others.
I also love that it shows a different take on a religious family and how it’s a part of who Ilyas is, and how he obviously does stand by it. Again something unusual in ya, and something we should see more of.
This was really an exceptional read. I loved the fact That Muhammad highlighted a lot of important issues within teenagers especially with what happens with teenage boys if an Asian background. It’s a new perspective that I could see being viewed in a different light. There was a lot of mainstream identity politics that works within teenagers of today and having brothers who are slightly older than the MC age but I can see that peer pressure and not wanting to conform with friends can be a big problem for boys. There were stereotypes that showed a lot about what happens within families but dealing with it and how to fight back. The MC really is a complicated character and it shows through his actions. There is sexism, racism, classism as it all happens in a high school. I definitely recommend this book it shattered a lot of thoughts of high school children and my own biases. They are intricate and they are complicated but teenagers really are awesome when they are given a chance and listened too.
Upon hearing about this book, I knew it was going to be one that I wanted to have a look at and I am so glad that I decided to give it a read. It was a very important, timely read and one that I really enjoyed reading. I loved how Muhammed Khan brought important and sensitive topics to light in this book without it becoming too heavy or offensive. I truly felt for the main protagonist, Ilyas, and absolutely loved witnessing his journey of finding out who he was. Further to all of that, at the heart of this book is also a story of friendship and I cannot begin to express how much I love books about friendship. Regardless of that, the bond between Kelly and Ilyas blew me away and truly made this book that much more exciting for me. I would highly recommend this book to absolutely everyone.
The book follows Ilyas, first with a moment in year six which changed his opinion on superheroes and then to year eleven where we see how he is now part of a gang. A gang that he doesn’t feel comfortable in but needs them to protect him. Thus begins a story of how he learns to be comfortable in his own skin. It is one of pain, fear, strength and ability. Throughout the book he grows so much and I felt so connected to the character. This book is an emotional rollercoaster that will have you gasping one moment, fearing the next and then laughing and crying after that. The perfect combination of emotions that you want in a book.
Of course, what makes this character-led book so entertaining and brilliant, are the vast cast of great characters. First up is Ilyas, who is such a brilliant character to read in a book. Second is Kelly, who is described as a large red-headed girl but her story isn’t about her weight which I loved! She is a smart, talented young girl who also goes through a lot in the book and finds her own self and strength too. My third favourite character had to be Ms Mughal the maths teacher. There was just such a nice vibe from her! Every single other character was really well written and added yet another dimension to this book.
All in all, this book is one that you really don’t want to miss. On top of all of the excellent things above, it is also a story that respects religion and cultures, that talks about racism and thug life but doesn’t shove it down your face. It is a book that we need to exist so I am glad it does and I hope it helps the young generation of today learn to accept who they are – every single part of themselves. So if you’re looking for a good book to read that is quite important too, give this book a go!
Qu’est ce que j’aime l’écriture de Muhammad Khan et son regard si juste sur notre société. Il dépeint avec maîtrise les méfaits des mauvaises représentations et de l’impact direct de ces constructions issue de la société patriarcale dans laquelle nous vivons. Au travers de la pop culture mais aussi des relations humaines, il remet en question les codes sociaux qui imposent des comportements pour être jugés comme des bonnes jeunes filles et des bons jeunes hommes, avec en fond une magnifique amitié homme-fille comme j’en lis rarement.
Ces thématiques auraient peut être méritées plus de profondeurs car il en ressort au final que les hommes et leurs masculinités toxiques ont une voix plus forte que ceux qui s’y opposent et la condamnent. Il y a peut être trop d’enjeux pour un livre aussi court mais c’est tout de même très réussi.
3,5. I thought this was a very enjoyable read, but I was definitely too old for it. I loved the comics, loved Ms Mughal, loved the feminist development. Main character Ilyas felt like a very very young fifteen considering everything he had already been through, while his peers felt a lot older (but no wiser). There were a few things that should have gotten more attention, the novel felt somewhat rushed but also at times a little too slow. However, this debut is quite promising and I'm curious to see what will be next.
Fifteen-year-old Ilyas Mian wants to be a comic artist, but his traditionally Pakistani macho dad has other plans for him. Life in South London seems tough if you are neither white, nor middle class. You need to speak street and do it for the gang, which Ilyas soon realises it isn't all it's cracked up to be. Nifty intertextual reference to the author's first book also appears in one of the chapters (Muzna Saleem anyone?).
Thank you to Pan Macmillan for sending my this eARC. It does not affect my opinions of the book.
I read I Am Thunder last year and loved it so I was really looking forward to reading Kick the Moon and was really excited when I was approved for the arc! It’s safe to say that I loved this book even more than the I Am Thunder!
I read this book in one sitting, I just could not put it down! It’s a book that deals with many social issues prevalent in today’s society and I felt it handled it really well. Like his first book, I feel that many teenagers will relate to this and is a book I feel young boys should read. The main character being Pakistani Muslim is not something that we see in books, especially YA books and I hope we get to see more because we need more representation of young Muslim boys and girls.
There are so many important issues addressed in this book, they are interwoven really well and feel like a natural part of the story and not forced. The main theme that is addressed in this book is toxic masculinity and how this can affect not only the boys life but also those around him. He also addresses sexism, racism and prejudice. And how these can all be interlinked.
Ilyas has to deal with so much, he was a really well rounded character and so relatable. He was brought up with the “boys don’t cry” mentality and you can see how much it affects him. How showing emotion and being “soft” is seen as unmanly. He doesn’t enjoy sports like the other boys, instead he loves to draw comics and loves his rabbit. All things which are perfectly fine but he’s taught it’s not from his dad and his friends and the society around him. I felt so much for Ilyas because I have seen this growing up. Watching people tell my cousins that boys don’t cry and essentially teaching that they should not show emotion. So they never learn how to manage their emotions. They learn to hide parts of themselves if it doesn’t match what they are taught about what makes them a “man”. It just makes them unhappy and stressed and can lead them down a bad path like it did for Ilyas.
I loved that the gang culture, peer pressure and cliques were also addressed in this book. I’m sure it’s something we all saw while in school and were all affected by it. When Ilyas stands up for what is right, he puts himself and his family at risk. The fear he feels felt so real and it made me really root for him because it takes strength to stand up and fight for what’s right. I also loved Kelly, who is a reflection of the rich, privileged school girls and how this privilege gives them an advantage over other students. It was nice to see that she realises her privilege.
One of my favourite parts was that Ilyas was an artist and that he drew comics. But not just any comic, one that represented him and other South Asians. I have always wanted to see a superhero who looked like me and I was so happy to see that in this book! I just want to read a whole comic based on his superhero! I really loved that Ilyas holds onto his identity of being Muslim and a Pakistani. It isn’t something we see enough of in books.
There is so much more I want to say but I don’t want to spoil anyone so I will just say this, this book deals with really heavy topics but it is also fun and uplifting and that representation is so important and I want more and I’m sure many others do as well! I highly recommend picking this book up and also reading his other book I Am Thunder if you haven’t!
Kick The Moon is the highly-awaited follow-up from the YA Book Prize shortlisted author Muhammad Khan. Ilyas is balancing the threat of a local gang and his creative future aspirations with parents who can’t decide on how to raise him and friends who don’t want the best for him. With everything going against him, it seems impossible that he’ll come out on top.
Ilyas’ story really begins when he ends up punching a fellow student for saying horrible things about his mum and of course, Ilyas is the one blamed for acting violently. All of the adults in the book fail to see Ilyas’ side of things and adequately look out for him. His father has a masculinity complex, his older brother has disappeared, his teachers don’t care enough to listen to him and his mother, who is possibly the only person who might hear him out, is too busy to get involved. I understand that as a teen it can be frustrating when you feel like no adults will listen to you or take your side but the fact that Ilyas was shouting so loudly for help and no one was listening went beyond frustration and into the territory of annoyance. This is a trope that makes the characters feel childish. Too helpless to look out for themselves, too young to be heard.
I’ve seen the debates over the writing style in Kick The Moon and while I liked the inclusion of slang and the strong character voice, I found that it was saturated with words that struck out as odd and it became jarring to read. I can’t speak for how realistic it is, but it wasn’t the smoothest reading experience. The pacing was nice and fast, however, I didn’t find myself ever fully connecting with this book or connecting with these characters. Something kept me out of Ilyas’ head, when I was completely there for Muzna. Speaking of Muzna, I thought her cameo was very random and forced which was a shame.
In other places, this became a difficult read because of the subject matter. Violence, rape threats and misogynistic language was rife. As true as it may be, it was particularly triggering and harsh. For a book that seems to be aimed at a young readership, I would want there to be a trigger warning. However, these sickeningly awful conversations do strike a chord and get an emotive response.
The thing is, Kick The Moon is far from a bad book. It definitely fills a gap the book world and it was refreshing to read about a teenager who isn’t full of flowery language. Ilyas’ story was interesting and different but I don’t think it lived up to the greatness of I Am Thunder.
Not feeling writing a proper review atm so here’s my notes:
- I appreciate the nerd references throughout - Comic art is a nice touch. Personally I’m not a fan of Birdi’s style, but I do like that it’s a British Asian artist and he seems like a lovely guy so fair play. - Sets up a serious core theme straight away with the experience of racism in formative years - Nuanced rep - British Pakistani Muslim - didn’t feel like a stereotype - PakCore doesn’t sound like a superhero name, more like an evil corporation run by a supervillain - idk why it bothered me but I found it a bit jarring every time I read it - Really pulled me in, believed it - All the gang stuff feels v serious and I’m worried about the characters - Kelly is a great character, so self aware - I simultaneously don’t like the lads with all the gang bullshit, and see them as victims and recognise how trapped Ilyas is in this whole thing. Similar to I Am Thunder, really cleverly written to portray that complex topic of child exploitation - It annoys me how adults in YA are often portrayed completely unrealistically, and knowing that Khan is a teacher himself I would’ve expected the teachers to be a bit truer to life. Whilst I’m glad the revenge porn was actually dealt with as seriously as it should’ve been, there were quite a few safeguarding red flags in this book earlier on and, if nobody else, Ms Mughal seems like the sort of professional that would have recognised and done something about them, so it’s a shame to not see that happen. Although I suppose it could be that we’re only seeing Ilyas’ perspective and behind the scenes Ms Mughal could’ve been doing referrals left right and centre for all we know. - The ending also felt unrealistic and for me it was kind of out of sync with the rest of the book and brought the age down a bit - like ‘oh crap, this is supposed to be for teens, we’ve got to make it lighter’ - BUT whilst I say that, I didn’t have much of a problem with the warm fuzzies, I did enjoy the final bit, and I was quite pleased for these kids that they got a nice happy ending.
This is a great read about a teenager, Ilyas, who dreams of becoming a comic book artist. His father wants him to work in the family business but his maths teacher encourages him to pursue his dreams. When Ilyas meets kindred spirit, Kelly, who offers to help develop the story, things start to finally go his way. But Ilyas has been hanging out with DeadManz, a gang of troublemakers lead by the charismatic Imran, and there's a price to pay for their protection. This book explores teenagers navigating the competing pressures of school, gangs, family and more and is a gripping, often funny read.
The first YA book I've read that directly tackles toxic masculinity from a boy's perspective. Ilyas isn't comfortable with the way his friends talk about girls and women, but doesn't feel strong enough to challenge them. He escapes into his art, developing his own Pakistani-British comic superhero despite his dad's scorn.
Ilyas Mian is one of the most special characters I've had the pleasure of following in all of my years of reading literature. No exaggeration.
I've read countless stories about being strong and taking control of your life, standing up for what you believe in and basically, not giving a shit what people think and I have to say it was refreshing to see a protagonist do this, whilst also struggling to speak up. He's a geek. He's emotional. Most importantly, he has a good heart but he's got the weight of dozens of expectations placed upon him by various people in his life. Because he puts other people first, he typically follows through with whatever his friends and family want him to do without ever really considering himself. He's selfless but to the point of losing his identity. It was just lovely to follow his journey and see a timid boy, grow into this strong, still-nervous but resoundingly moral character without it being too unrealistic a transformation. I actually briefly met Muhammad Khan last year for a couple of minutes at YALC and I definitely see a lot of his personality in the character which I think adds an even more heartwarming and personal touch to the novel.
The supporting characters were all exceptionally thought out. Yes, there were a lot of stereotypes floating around but in a way it reminded me a little of The Breakfast Club in the sense that the stereotypes were there for a purpose. Everyone WAS placed into a box but certain characters prevailed and showed more depth than was originally there. In reality, some people are exactly as they appear. Imran was a horrific human being. He had a lot of issues growing up, but they turned him into what he is now and that's that. For some people, there is no redemption arc and I liked that it mirrored reality in that respect.
Besides Ilyas, Kelly was a great, empowering character. I liked that their relationship was purely platonic as well as the fact that she was a rich white chubby girl with crazy hair. At times, she was also a sheep. And once again, the reality for a lot of people, including myself, is that even if we consider ourselves a feminist, sometimes peer pressure knocks us down and we have to get back up again. I saw a lot of myself in Kelly, and paired with Ilyas, they were unstoppable. Their developing friendship was fantastic to read about.
Ms Mughal was kick-ass and once again, I love how Muhammad's career as a maths teacher shines through. His school settings are always realistic and definitely where he excels. From the way he wrote Ilyas' mother and from the dedications at the back of the book, I'd imagine he took a lot of inspiration from his own maternal relationship there too which is a lovely addition.
The dialogue was very heavy on British slang which for some people might get a bit grating, but I grew up all over the place and I heard a lot of it as teen, so it didn't bother me in the slightest. In fact, I definitely think it added a lot to the grittiness. There were also a lot of cultural references weaved in, but it never felt overdone. And being a massive geek, I appreciated all of them.
I can't fault this book. You may read it and disagree. But every so often, a reader will find THAT story that connects with them in such a deep way, that all minor flaws potentially hidden beneath the surface completely evaporate until there's nothing but love for the pages beneath their fingers. For me, that's this book.
What other books might centre on as main themes, this book sidelines, making them the very fabric that the story is woven from: growing up, racism, sexism, family, friendship, gang violence, mysogyny, masculinity, homophobia, culture, religion, love, sex, and so on. In fact, the main thrust here is one of ownership.
Some might dismiss stories such as this as encouraging sentimental slush about finding yourself and then being true to self. But 'Kick The Moon' is about more than that: it allows that sometimes the self you find isn't always that great. A pre-teenage Ilyas, the story's unlikely hero (but only unlikely because we're conditioned to think that way), joins a gang as a way of being protected from bullies, only he finds himself in the hands of another bully. This version of Ilyas' self is not the self he should be true to, although he has believed it for some time. No, there is more to Ilyas, but breaking out of the grip he's in proves difficult.
In this book so many of the characters are owned: Ilyas' dad by a warped view of what it is to be a man, his sister by social media followers and society's views of beauty standards, the supporting cast by a desire to be popular, scary, noticed, loved, clever... Ilyas' mum stands out as one who understands more of what it is to be free from the judgement of others and the constant seeking of approval but even Kelly, the seemingly strong, proud feminist, temporarily betrays the values she seemed to hold so confidently. A rich tapestry of characters makes the story hugely multi-dimensional, making for a very believable read.
'Kick the Moon' is not about becoming perfect - it deals in overcoming and mastering personal flaws - but it is about taking ownership of one's life. Yet it is anti-individualism: yes, we might take ownership of our lives but that needs to include having the right people around us. And to make that happen we need realtionships; we need the right people around is. Ilyas finds his tribe, but not in a tribalistic sense - he finds those who are positive, supportive and who have the same verve for life that deep down he has always had.
Bravely tackling issues such as revenge porn and gang affiliation whilst shedding light on British-Pakistani culture and life in a South London school, Muhammad Khan uses the protagonist's love of comic books and art to weave a compelling narrative that many teenagers will identify with and hopefully learn from. Stereotypes are drawn on only to be broken down in this great follow up to debut YA novel 'I Am Thunder'.
I adored Khan's first: it pulled no punches, showed the realities of how teenagers can get sucked into dangerous worlds, and the author's second does something similar, this time with a young Asian male.
Ilyas is unhappily embroiled in a gang, a group of young men who egg each other on to acts of vandalism and petty crimes within their community, who one-up each other with exploits involving girls, and are all in thrall to their 'leader'. Ilyas is stuck - worried about the implications of trying to disentangle himself, not just for himself, but also unhappily a misfit in the group. He has never given up his passion for comics, and works on his illustrations for his own design constantly.
With family pressure forcing him to be a 'man', and push him towards his father's business, peer pressure, academic worries over exams, he is caught between worlds and ideologies, loyalties and desires.
Refreshingly, when Ilyas meets a kindred spirit in the form of Kelly one day in detention, we don't find ourselves in mismatch-romance territory. More supportive-friends storylines. And the book refuses to either conform to the expected plot or shy away from some quite hard hitting threads - consent, double standards, teenage sex, toxic masculinity, exploitation, social media bullying.
Ilyas is about as real as it gets - the adolescent caught between boyhood and manhood, who knows what the right thing is but struggles to act, awkward, talented but withdrawn, sweet, trying to cling to his childhood passions, with emerging feelings for girls.
There are scenes of violence, some slightly graphic sexual references (nothing shown 'on stage'). It feels like a real school, the language of the students could be that heard in any secondary school corridor. The social media brings this right into the moment, and emotions will be stirred by the treatment of some young women here.
We get some acts of bravery, some of cowardice and downright misogyny, family and school storylines, and a central pair that readers of either gender will warm to and want to see come through.
As a non comic-reader, I still thoroughly enjoyed Ilyas's passion for his art and his medium, and watching the evolution of his own characters as he battles to be original and relevant.
Excellent book for teenagers, will hit a nerve with many and gives adults a rather frank and worrying look at what some young people battle as their grow up.
*I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Kick The Moon was a fantastic book that dealt with a wide range of themes that affect teenagers today. Muhammad’s style will hopefully appeal to many who have struggled to feel represented in fiction before.
Kick the Moon follows fifteen-year old aspiring comic illustrator Ilyas as he approaches his GCSE exams. He is struggling internally with feeling threatened to stay part of a gang whose actions he doesn’t agree with. When he stands up to a bully for once he lands himself in detention where he meets Kelly. Although they come from completely different backgrounds they manage to bond over their mutual love of stories and realise maybe they have more in common than they think.
Although this may sound like it is a romance, one of my favourite things about the book was the completely platonic relationship between Kelly and Ilyas that develops into a very strong, loyal and supportive friendship. Kelly was probably my favourite character as she was so outspoken in her views and yet was also willing to listen to those with experiences different to hers and understand their viewpoint. Ilyas was a little harder to warm to with it easy to question some of his actions near the beginning of the book but he really grew as a character and I was fully behind him by the end.
The book did very well in covering so many important themes and topics from racism, sexism, religion, gang violence and revenge porn. The teenage characters discussed these issues in a thoughtful and intelligent manner which felt realistic of characters their age.
The book was really fast-paced after an initial slow start and I flew through it. I really liked the illustrations from Ilyas’ comics included and would love to see full issues featuring his characters!
I really enjoyed this unique, hopeful story and personally really liked the open ending. I highly recommend picking up Kick The Moon which was released yesterday.
Full disclosure: I am a middle-aged woman so definitely not the demographic this high enery novel is aimed at! However, I flipping enjoyed it and recommend that all the teens out there, put down their smartphones and read this. I loved the multi-cultural array of characters, including the nasty mean boys and mean girls and the struggle of wanting to be accepted versus being yourself.
There's an underlying message throughout the novel of self-worth, and the presence of positive characters like Ms Mughal, drives it home that this is what is needed in young people's lives. The book doesn't seek to resolve the issue of bullying but it offers a tangible alternative of self-respect and if any young person is going through a similar experience of peer pressure etc, they might take comfort in reading Kick the Moon.
I would love to see the author persue the comic aspect of PakCore / Big Bad Waf as I think she could give the Black Panther a run for his money!
The only thing I struggled with - and it is defintely my age and not the author - is the street language/slang. I was forever Googling and looking up words on the Urban Dictionary. The use of 'man' in the third person jarred a little, and I think if I heard anyone speak like that in real-time, I would have to search my brain to figure out who they were talking about. But again, I guess this is the way the kids roll!
I also wish there had been more moon-kicking!! There's a sweet acknowledgement to Muzna from I am Thunder, Khan's debut novel, which bonded both books in the present time.
I highly recommend this novel for 13-19 year olds. Read it, ask questions, debate and make a difference. Happy reading people!!
So firstly lets say that I'm probably not the target audience for this book but my oh my does it ever give an insight into the life of a school age teenager these days. Ilyas Mian is trying to be all things to everyone and has found himself inexorably drawn into a "gang", Dedmanz. It's lead by the, frankly, odious Imran. Trouble is that Imran is cool, good looking and considered a bit of a god at school. Meanwhile Ilyas just wants to draw and develop a character he has created, Pakcore. When he ends up putting Imran in hospital (kind of accidentally) he is given a week of detention and meets Kelly who has simultaneously had a bust up with her gal pals. They realise that they share lots of common ground and quickly become really good friends - Ilyas has the talents to draw but Kelly helps him hone his character and create some amazing dialogue/backstory. Then Imran sets his sights on Kelly - he wants to keep Ilyas under his thumb and targeting Kelly is his way of exerting his control. This is when the book starts to get really interesting. It turns into a tale about growing into your own skin and being true to yourself. It tackles bullying - both physical, sexual and mental - the realisation that your parents are people too and that following your dreams instead of the pack are the way to ultimate happiness. It's a brave (and frighteningly realistic) portrayal of some of the challenges faced by modern teens but it's central messages are relevant to everyone. This may be a "YA" novel with a teen boy as the main protagonist but I think this middle aged Mum has proved it has a far more universal appeal! Definitely an author to watch!
wow wow wow I have SO much love for this novel. It honestly blew me away. First of all, Ilyas is a DELIGHT. Struggling with pressure from all around, he's lost but freaking determined to make something of himself. He's eager to break away from the violent, revengeful gang he's stuck in. He's determined to pursue his creative side, to draw and create a comic book that would represent his religion and culture. He cares about his family and his best friend, Kelly. Most of all, he's got a good soul. He knows what's important, he looks out for his friends, and he CARES about things. I don't even know where to start. Mostly I thought this book was incredibly refreshing. Ilyas' friendship with Kelly was wonderful. It's pretty rare to see books nowadays where a boy and girl can just be FRIENDS, and it was a really beautiful friendship that I really rooted for! I adored reading about Ilyas' life, about his passion for comics, and his belief in heroes. I loved the very stark contrast between the rough and unmerciful gang, and the kind and hilarious group who believe in him and his stories. Ilyas' teacher was great, his classmates were great, the overall plot was just great. It was different and refreshing and I adored it, from start to finish. Excited to read more from this author! :)
Ilyas is part of the DedManz gang with his so called mates which makes his mum worry for him.
He crushes hard on Jade but after meeting Kelly in a near accident has his head turned as Jade and her girl gang are mean to her.
Despite his best efforts to protect his family and Kelly from the gang, soon enough more trouble looms ahead from them and Kelly becomes the but if their cruelty in the school while Ilyas works to make his future dream of being a graphic designer a reality by entering a competition which could change his life and make it happen and just might make his family believe in him more too.
This was an interesting bold book showing the danger and violence gangs can bring the book was very street with lots of language slang i didn't get until a Google search but added to the tone of the book perfectly making it more impactful, I hope it can reach people in gangs and educate them they don't have to feel stuck in the situation like Ilyas did.
YA contemporary. Fifteen-year-old Ilyas Mian creates comic-book heroes, but he isn’t sure if he can ever be a hero. He is kind and vulnerable. He loves his mother, he tends to an adorable rabbit called Sparkle, he is a talented artist, and his maths has improved enough for him to be moved to another class, with an inspiring teacher, Ms Mughal, where he might just find his tribe. But his dad wants him to man up, so that he won’t get bullied, and that’s partly how come Ilyas (not Elias) finds himself part of a seriously toxic gang of mates who are trying to turn him into someone else. You read this novel fearing for Ilyas and for his new friend Kelly as they are sucked into a nightmare of victimisation from which there seems no way back. Topical, disturbing, and very, very good. Ilyas is my new fictional hero.