Thursday, May 21, 2015

Book Review: The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne

Release date: March 17, 2015
Info about the author: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Dial
Age group: YA
Pages: 400
Buy the book: Amazon - Book Depository

Description (from Goodreads):

Fans of Sarah Dessen and Huntley Fitzpatrick will enjoy this smart debut young adult novel, equal parts My Life Next Door and The Princess Diaries—plus a dash of Aaron Sorkin.

Kate Quinn’s mom died last year, leaving Kate parentless and reeling. So when the unexpected shows up in her living room, Kate must confront another reality she never thought possible—or thought of at all. Kate does have a father. He’s a powerful politician. And he’s running for U.S. President. Suddenly, Kate’s moving in with a family she never knew she had, joining a campaign in support of a man she hardly knows, and falling for a rebellious boy who may not have the purest motives. This is Kate’s new life. But who is Kate? When what she truly believes flies in the face of the campaign’s talking points, she must decide. Does she turn to the family she barely knows, the boy she knows but doesn’t necessarily trust, or face a third, even scarier option?

Set against a backdrop of politics, family, and first love, this is a story of personal responsibility, complicated romance, and trying to discover who you are even as everyone tells you who you should be.

After being slightly disappointed with quite a few titles I listed on my most anticipated 2015 debuts lists (in case you are interested, you can find it from here), I am happy to say that The Wrong Side of Right delivered exactly what I expected it to deliver. Though it did not blow my mind or change my life, I found it to be an enjoyable, well-written YA debut with an interesting setting.

The Wrong Side of Right follows Kate who's living with her uncle and aunt after losing her mother in a tragic accident a year earlier. The events of the novel start to unroll when Kate learns that her father, the man she never known, is Senator Cooper, the Republican nominee for US presidency. Very quickly, Kate's ordinary high school worries switch into worries about her place within her new family. Can she represent the values her father is campaiging with? And what happens when she starts to fall for the son of someone she certainly should not be associated with.

If you have come across my random television posts, or if you follow me on tumblr (right here) you might be aware of the fact that I absolutely love The West Wing! When I read from somewhere that this has been compared to a The West Wing for young readers, I was instantly interested! And yes, it definitely does have some West Wing type of elements - the political team filled with very distinctive personalities, inner workings of the campaign, drama, etc. But rather than focusing of the campaign staff and those closest to the Senator professionally, The Wrong Side of Right is a novel that follows the campaign and its effects on family life through the eyes of a young woman new to the political scene.

Right away from the start, I liked Kate. Though she's still going through the death of her mother, she is strong and independent and seems to know her mind. When she finds out that she is the illegimate child of a man she has only read about for a government class, her whole world turns around. How could her mother be with a married man? Was she a product of love or mere passion? What happens next? 

In my opinion, one of the most important characters in Jenn Marie Thorne's debut is Meg, the wife of the senator. It would have been so easy for the author to make her the "evil" stepmother, the woman jealous of the attention Kate gets. I was glad to notice that rather than taking the easy road, Jenn Marie Thorne has created a character that is conflicted, yet warm, a character that very quickly becomes Kate's go-to person in comparison to the distant father. Meg is an incredibly strong character who makes this book stronger than it would be with a more generic, stereotypical step mother narrative. 

The relationship between Kate and her father is an interesting one. For 17 years, they have known nothing about each other, and once they connect, things are not as easy as you would expect. For Kate, the Senator is a man who's distant and principled - a good listener and politician, but not necessarily a good father. For the Senator, Kate's a young woman that reminds him of his past and the mistakes he has made in regards to his marriage with Meg. But in addition to that, she also represents a new chance for him, an opportunity to change his values and ideas. Throughout the novel, they both open their eyes for new ideas and revelations, and though the relationship might not be overly idyllic, it at least is very real.

I was surprised to notice how little romance actually made appearances in this novel. Yes, there's a guy here, but throughout the novel, he is in a minor role in comparison to Kate and those closest to her. Though I am a huge fan of cute YA contemporaries, I was content about the fact that rather than taking the romance road, Jenn Marie Thorne has focused on the development of her main character once she enters a world completely foreign to her. 

In its heart, The Wrong Side of Right is a character study about a very real, honest young woman who, once faced with a life changing situation, has to figure out her whole childhood again. Can she still idolize her mother? Will she ever feel like a part of the Senator's family? Jenn Marie Thorne excels in characterization and inserting little bits of humor into the narrative. The Wrong Side of Right is a strong debut with an interesting setting that promises good things for the future of this debut author. 

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