Welcome to my stop on the Kick the Moon blog tour! I was so excited to hear about this book, as I absolutely adore Muhammad Khan’s spectacular debut I Am Thunder. Today, I’m sharing an extract from his new contemporary YA novel. He gives such an incredible voice to modern teens, and I couldn’t recommend his books more highly.
Year 5: World Book Day
Lady Tabitha Primary School
‘Who are you supposed to be?’ asks Lee Garrison, ripping off his mask. Blond spikes stick out in a comic book explosion around his head.
I blink. For the last fifteen minutes, a steady stream of kids dressed as book characters has been arriving at my tutor room. Thankfully my costume is still the best. There’s no way Lee doesn’t know who I’m supposed to be. I’m rocking a movie quality superhero costume. The kind that cost two Eids’ worth of pocket money and an IOU on a third. Totally worth it though, because this year’s twenty-pound book token is as good as mine. I get chills every time I think of all the comics I’m going to buy with it.
I fling out my arms, and my cape whips and billows like the sail of a mighty ship. Thanks to some clever stuffing in the costume, I’m looking every bit as muscly as my comic book idol. My voice drops really low, and I do the squinting thing heroes do when they’re about to drop a great line. ‘I’m Superman.’
The other kids nod approvingly. Pitch perfect and on point. After five years of obsessive practice, you’d expect nothing less.
Lee glances round at the gathering crowd, eyes bulging, lips vibrating as spit comes whooshing out of him.
‘Ilyas, mate!’ he cries dramatically.
Hate when people make my name sound like Elias. But I’m done telling them it’s Illy-yaas, because then I just get called ‘silly arse’, which is about ten times worse.
‘Just no, seriously!’ Lee continues, cringing.
The back of my neck starts to prickle, and in about three seconds, I know I’ll be blushing, but I don’t have a clue what he’s on about. Unless I’ve peed my super-pants? Discreetly I give myself a quick feel. Houston, we do not need a diaper.
I stiffen as Lee snakes an arm across my shoulders. ‘Look – who am I?’ he asks.
‘Spider-Man,’ I say, without hesitation. ‘Just like I’m-‘ ‘Exactly!’ he says, cutting me off mid flow. ‘And who’s Ryan, then?’
My eyes lock with Ryan’s. The idiot stole my limited-edition floaty Superman pen in Year 4. Payback time.
I shrug. ‘Mary Poppins?’
‘I’m Willy Wonka, you idiot!’ retorts Ryan.
Course he is, if Willy Wonka got dressed in the dark and ended up in his mother’s wardrobe.
‘He still doesn’t get it!’ Alice chuckles. A lipsticked scar zigzags across her forehead, and huge plastic glasses sit at the end of her nose. Unfortunately four other people had the same idea, killing her chances of taking home the book token, or ten points for Gryffindor.
‘Know Blade?’ Lee asks.
I nod, perking up at the mention of the coolest vampire hunter in comic history.
‘OK. Now imagine I came as him.’
‘That would’ve been wicked!’
‘It’d be £ricking dumb,’ he says with disgust. Everyone falls silent.
‘Look, you can’t be Superman, mate,’ Lee continues. ‘Superman ain’t no brown boy. You get me?’
‘Why didn’t you come as Aladdin? Or Mowgli?’ asks Alice, tapping her chin with her wand.
‘Cos they’re not superheroes,’ I say in a small voice, palms growing sweaty. I hope I’m not stinking out my suit. Amma warned me this costume was wipe clean only.
‘That’s racist,’ says my best mate, Daevon. In a red-and-black. striped hoody, with an aluminium foil sword, he’s nailed Thresh from District 11.
‘Shut up, I’m racist!’ Lee snarls, practically foaming at the mouth.
Daevon backs up so fast he nearly sits in the bin.
‘Superman is white. Facts!’ Lee looks around for support.
‘You’re all lame,’ says Vidya snarkily, shimmying her shoulders, setting the sequins on her blood-red sari ablaze. ‘Dress up’ s for babies! I’ve come as the best person ever: ME! And before you say there’s no book about me, there is. It’s called a diary, people. Look it up.’
Vidya’s gang of fashionistas have completely ignored the rules for dressing up on World Book Day. These girls are channelling Bollywood big time. They sashay into the corner to give each other makeovers with a jumbo box of make-up.
‘Oh my days!’ Lee shout-laughs, making everyone jump. ‘Only way he’s Superman, yeah, is if he flew head first into a big pile of pool’
‘Or flew up a cow’s bum!’ Ryan adds. He starts making mooing and farting sound effects while flapping the back of his mum’s purple coat.
Laughter and squeals of disgust ring out. Even Daevon can’t clamp a hand over his mouth fast enough.
‘It’s Pooperman!’ shrieks Alice, pointing her wand at me like a spear.
Humiliation spreads over me like a rash. My lower lip trembles, and I bite down hard. Boys don’t cry- that’s what Dad says. That’s what everybody says. Can’t let them win. ‘I am Superman, though. Got myself a tan, innit.’
‘Superman can’t tan, you fool!’ Lee shouts. ‘His super-strength comes from the sun, and a tan would block it.’
‘Dickhead!’ A wand punctures my suit faster than I can react. The strained squeal of ripping fabric fills my ears as it’s tugged back and forth. My impressive right pee sags, a cloud of stuffing tumbling to the ground taking my heart with it.
‘Ew! It’s Pooperman’s booby!’ cries a Gangsta Granny, booting the fluff away. Throwing her lilac cardigan over her head, she runs around like she’s scored a goal at Wembley.
The laughs are coming thick and fast now. Any last hopes of manning up are drowned by a sea of tears. Ms Lipscombe enters the classroom – cheeks flushed, apologizing because her train got cancelled. She finally senses something’ s up, but it’s too late.
The good kids tell her what Lee said; tell her that it was Ryan who damaged my suit with Alice’s wand. She banishes the lot of them to the Learning Centre, but the damage has been done. Not even Amma’s needle and thread can fix this.
Everyone listens in subdued silence as Ms Lipscombe, having placed a box of tissues on my desk at the back of the room, goes off on a major rant.
‘I am thoroughly disappointed in you, SML!’ she tells us, shaking off her suede coat. Blonde corkscrew curls bounce angrily on red-and-white-striped shoulders. ‘I expected so much more from this form. We’re a team. The A-Team! You must look out for each other.’
Twenty-two pairs of solemn eyes follow her every gesture, occasionally swivelling round to gawp at me sobbing. Realizing that Dad will be angry with me for blubbing, I cry even harder.
‘Who are we to tell someone they can’t be Harry Potter or Katniss Everdeen just because they’re a different skin colour or gender?’ she demands.
‘Miss, what’s agenda?’ asks Vidya, her eyelids caked in gold and green.
I tune them out. The part of me that has loved Superman from as early as I can remember just died. And unlike issue number seventy-five – The Death of Superman – there’s no coming back from this. When I get home tonight, this costume is going in a large box along with the rest of my Superman merch. Come Saturday, I’ll be dropping it off at Cancer Research.
If I can’t be Superman, I’m going to be someone better. I’m making my own superhero, and he’s going to be AMAZING. He’ll have light brown skin, love lamb biryani, and pray at the mosque every Friday. He’s going to be British and Pakistani. His name will be … PakCore.
But for now, I’m just going to sit at the back of the classroom in my torn Superman suit and cry.
About the Book
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.
From Muhammad Khan, author of the critically acclaimed I Am Thunder, comes Kick the Moon, an explosive second novel about making friends, and breaking them too.
I hope you enjoyed this taste of Kick the Moon! This book is now available to pick up in your local bookstore and online. Don’t forget to check out the other stops on this tour too!