This post contains a gifted item
The Wrong Side of Kai by Estelle Maskame is her latest standalone novel, and having been fans of Estelle’s previous books, when Ink Road books contacted me to ask if I would be willing to join the blog tour for Estelle’s latest novel, I jumped at the chance – thank you!
Estelle Maskame isn’t a new author to me, I’ve read all of her published books so far! First I read Dare to Fall, followed by the best-selling Did I Mention I Love You? series, along with the companion novel Just Don’t Mention It.
Not only will I be sharing a spoiler free review today, but Estelle also very kindly participated in a Q&A with me so make sure you read until the end for that.
Vanessa Murphy doesn’t do relationships; she’s quite happy with casual hook ups. One day, after breaking up with her latest fling, an explicit video featuring her is leaked around the school. Vowing to seek revenge, Vanessa teams up with Kai, a new student at the school with his own vendetta against Harrison. As the two plot and plan to take payback against Harrison, they grow closer and closer… but Vanessa doesn’t do relationships. Right?
My Thoughts on the Plot
The Wrong Side of Kai explored grief and how different people cope with it and carry on with their lives. Vanessa’s Dad is struggling immensely with a recent loss in the family and while he is physically around, Vanessa feels that mentally he has checked out. Because of this, Vanessa feels like she hasn’t had time to deal with her own grief, craving more structure as she rebels against her father.
As well as grief, this book also looked at sex, relationships and sexism. After a video of Vanessa and Harrison is circulated around the school, Vanessa is the student that is singled out and ‘slut shamed’ by the rest of the school. Does anyone even bat an eyelid at Harrison, even though he was clearly there? No. Double standards is something that Estelle addresses in the book and I was happy to see. At the same time it was refreshing to read a book with a positive view of sex in terms of how the main character views herself and her sex life.
My Thoughts on the Characters
One of the first things that struck me about this book was the inclusion of strong and positive female friendships. The relationship between Vanessa and Chyna was so just so wholesome! They made such a great team, with Chyna not being afraid to tell Vanessa that she doesn’t agree with her actions whilst still showing how much she loves and cares for her.
This story featured a very realistic portrayal of teenage relationships, in my opinion, with a slow burn and believable romance that felt very appropriate alongside the narrative. I really enjoyed Kai as both a character and a love interest. He was cheeky and playful, but caring and serious at the same time. Both traits were balanced perfectly and I found him to be a great partner for Vanessa, both in seeking revenge and in love!
There is no explicit smut, though obviously there are nods to sex, and it is definitely a suitable young adult novel (NA being classed as YA is a whole other discussion but isn’t the case here).
Despite this being a ‘revenge novel’, I definitely appreciated how Vanessa realised that revenge is not always the answer. She recognises their mistakes, and there are consequences to their actions which is something we don’t always see.
The Wrong Side of Kai is fast paced and I raced through the story over three days. However, this doesn’t mean that it is a light read. As I mentioned, Estelle’s latest novel deals with grief, sexism, revenge porn and bullying both online and in person with a strong thread of feminism running through it.
With a more mature writing style than her previous novels, Estelle is going from strength to strength with her works. The Wrong Side of Kai by Estelle Maskame was just the book for me in the moment I picked it up; it swept me out of my reading slump and made me excited to read again! The perfect YA contemporary read. 4/5 stars.
Huge thanks to Ink Road Books for sending me an advanced copy of the book and for inviting me to join to blog tour, and of course thank you to Estelle for taking part! I’ll leave you with the below Q&A and I hope you enjoy.
A: Having started writing at age 13 and being published at 17, have you found that your writing style and process has changed over the years? Is there anything specific that you do differently now?
E: I feel as though my writing style has definitely changed a lot, but I suppose it’s only natural that my writing would develop as I grew older. However, my writing process itself is pretty much still the same as it’s always been – I always just have fun and never overthink what I’m writing!
A: Is there anything you have learned as an author since you published your first book?
E: I’ve learned not to focus on what’s trending in the YA market and to just keep writing the books I genuinely enjoy, rather than ever writing something for anyone else’s approval.
A: I note that your books are set in America, whereas you live in Scotland. Do you have strong ties to the US or is there another reason you like to write your books based there?
E: Honestly, I just simply enjoy writing American settings. I love doing the research and I find the American culture interesting, so for me as an author, I have the most fun writing books set in the US.
A: With books featuring topics such as relationships between step siblings, alcoholism, death, grief, revenge porn and cyber bullying, which some may class as ‘controversial’, I wondered whether you prefer to write about subjects that make the reader stop and think, and consider wider societal issues?
E: I absolutely love weaving different real life issues throughout my books. They often aren’t at the very forefront of the novel, but rather always going on in the background of the character’s lives because this is what real life is. Everyone is dealing with something behind the scenes, and I think it’s so important for my books to convey this.
A: Was it important for you to write about a character who could be classed as feminist, who discusses things like the issue of double standards in society and enjoys a healthy sex life? I always love reading about role models and think that Vanessa would be great for readers to look up to!
E: Definitely. In this day and age, I think it’s ridiculous that there’s still so many double standards and I loved writing a character who wasn’t ashamed of her sex life and who embraced it.
A: While The Wrong Side of Kai is a contemporary read that has lots of cute and fluffy moments, it also deals with some hard hitting issues like grief. Was there any research that you had to conduct as to how different people deal with these issues and the sensitivity around them?
E: I didn’t do any research, to be honest. It was as simple as just imagining how I would feel in each characters’ shoes.
A: Is The Wrong Side of Kai a story that’s always been kind of floating around your mind and becoming bigger and stronger, or did it come to you all at once?
E: It came to me in pieces over the course of a few months. I got the idea for Vanessa’s character initially, and then the plot line just slowly built up around her.
A: Do you have anything in mind for your next book already?
I have a few different ideas, but I haven’t yet decided which one I’m going to run with. I’m getting back to work in a few weeks so I need to make a decision soon!
A: Lastly, a question I always like to ask in author Q&As – if you had to recommend one book, or one author, what or who would it be? I know it’s a tough one!
E: Jennifer Niven! Her books are amazing and her writing style is so addictive and hard-hitting.
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