Wednesday, June 8, 2016
Review: The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne
Title: The Wrong Side of Right
Author: Jenn Marie Thorne
Rating: 4.5 Stars
What did The Wrong Side of Right manage to get right that so many other YA Contemporary novels have gotten wrong? Nearly everything.
Thorne's debut is a story of family, friendship, and finding your voice even in changing situations. Kate was brought up by her single-mother, a woman who worked for NGOs and kept out of politics, in LA, as far away from Washington D.C. as you can get. When her mother passes away in a car accident, Kate is sent to live with her uncle and aunt in South Carolina--only to find out, one day, that her father is running for President. The Senator immediately whisks Kate away to D.C. where she meets Meg, his wife, and his twin children, Gracie and Gabe, all while reeling from the shock that her mother had an affair with a married man while working on his campaign sixteen years ago. As Kate struggles to ingratiate herself into her father's family, though, she must work the campaign trail, fend off the current President's persistent (and very handsome) son, and find her voice in a home where every word is scripted, debriefed, and debated over.
From the first page itself, I found myself drawn to Kate. Her voice is simple, but relate-able, and Kate is the type of heroine I'd pick as my best friend. Not only is she hardworking and intelligent, she is polite and kind and willing to make the best of any situation she is thrown into. Although she is shocked to find out that her father is a famous politician, she instantly tries to spin her existence in a positive light for the campaign, reading up on his policies and accompanying him on his travels. Her younger siblings, Gracie and Gabe, are absolutely adorable and her growing relationship with them was an instant favorite. Surprisingly, I loved Meg, the senator's wife and Kate's stepmother, even more than I thought I would. Meg is brilliant, compassionate, and welcomes Kate into their family. Instead of throwing her weight as the scorned woman, Meg supports her husband and her relationship with Kate is one that I found myself rooting for and tearing up at.
The persistent problem at the center of this story is Kate's relationship to her father. The Senator is busy--constantly living and breathing the campaign, traveling non-stop, and determined to win the Presidency. That leaves him very little time to get to know his daughter and it was hard for me--and for Kate!--to feel as if the senator even cared. Not only that, but the head of his campaign, Eli, is rude, disrespectful, and disdainful of Kate's presence in the senator's life. For Kate, who simply wants her father to like her and yearns to be a part of his life, this all leads to her keeping her mouth shut and following orders; doing her best to keep out of trouble and be a good girl. I understood Kate implicitly and as her situation on the campaign becomes worse, I was glad to see her finally find her voice and stand up for herself. Kate's growth is so well-timed and she never feels like a character who lacks a backbone--she simply feels very real.
Yet, one of the best aspects of this novel are the friendships Kate sustains. Her best friend from LA, Penny, calls and keeps in touch with her constantly but winds up playing a vital role to the plot of the story, which I greatly appreciated. Penny's parents are undocumented residents who escaped the drug wars of Mexico to give a better life to their children--three US citizens growing up in LA. Kate's father is staunchly opposed to giving undocumented residents any type of leeway in their lack of citizenship but Penny is Kate's best friend and the fact that her father supports deporting her parents is difficult for her to swallow. I truly loved that Thorne not only touches upon the subject of undocumented residents in America, but gives them a voice in this novel. It's an important, vital issue that affects so many people in our country, not to mention our economy, and regardless of your stance on this issue, Thorne's approach to it is bipartisan and merely thoughtful which I truly salute.
Another impeccably written portion of the story is the romance. Andy, the son of the current President who is running for re-election, is disillusioned with the campaign trail. Kate is one of the few people who understands what his life is like and when we reaches out to her, the two form a fast friendship--meeting whenever they get the chance, talking late into the phone, and exchanging campaign stories. Though their friendship is hidden from the press--enemies, and all that--the development of their romance is truly perfect, a slow-burn that I found myself grinning over like a fool. I really enjoyed Andy and Kate's interactions and though the romance is by no means a large aspect to the story, it's certainly the icing on the cake.
Kate Quinn carries this novel forward. She is a formidable heroine that I couldn't stop rooting for and her steady acceptance into the senator's life--becoming an older sister, a stepdaughter, a daughter, a friend, a girlfriend, etc. The Wrong Side of Right is thoughtful, thought-provoking and forces readers to think about more than just their stance on politics. I love that it was about a normal, teenage girl who simply wanted to fit in and find a family; about a girl who wanted to be heard but also didn't want to be a bother. I feel as if girls today are constantly torn between societal boxes and their own desires and Kate is a perfect example of someone, not who rises above societal expectations or norms but one who struggles with it and does her best to be true to herself, too. And, frankly, that's the best we can all do. So, for those of you who haven't read or heard of this novel, read it--at least for yourself and for Kate and to feel a little less alone if not for anything else.