The world of YA needs more girls' boxing and fierce girls with an unbreakable attitude. I arrived at this opinion after reading Chessboxer, the brand new novel by British YA author Stephen Davies.
Chessboxer is about Leah Baxter, a young chess champion who is just a few games away from becoming a grand master. The only problem is that Leah is crumbling under an insurmountable burden of grief and she needs some timeout. Following a humiliating loss at the Pune Open Tournament in India, Leah decides to give up chess tournaments altogether, much to the dismay of her mother and coach.
Without professional chess in her life, life back in Manhattan is very different and ultimately chaotic. Leah finds notoriety and trouble before eventually tumbling into the world of chessboxing, a violent, hybrid sport that combines chess and boxing.
Chessboxer is fast-paced and energetic, combining the therapeutic violence of boxing with one girl's struggle to cope with the twin pressures of grief and being a child prodigy. At times it is not an easy book to read; Leah is angry and processing a complex web of emotions and it doesn't exactly make her the most likeable protagonist I've encountered in a YA novel. It does make her realistic, having experienced complex grief myself, I can attest to how unpleasant it can make you.
I liked the setting of the novel best of all - New York City. From chess in Washington Square Park, to donut shops, tattoo parlours and boxing gyms, I loved spending time in one of my favourite cities on earth.
I give Chessboxer four out of five stars and recommend to all readers seeking a fierce female protagonist.
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Chessboxer is published by Andersen Press and will be released on 3 October 2019 (affiliate link, I will make a very small commission if you purchase using this link).
I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher. I will always give an honest review in my search for superior young adult fiction.