Andersen. Mar. 2021. 320p. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781783448401.
Gr 9 Up–Leah Baxter, a white 17-year-old from Manhattan, is 21 points away from being a chess grandmaster, but lately she’s lost her passion for the game. Her father passed away while she was out of town at a tournament two years ago, and now her mom and coach are constantly yelling at her to do better. She quits chess and pours her feelings into a blog. Someone suggests that she become a chess hustler in Central Park, but a viral video of her trouncing a current grandmaster leads to a police sting, where she is arrested. An off-handed comment at the arraignment introduces the term chessboxing. Leah becomes obsessed and undertakes the journey to become a chessboxer. The sport is brutal: a round of chess and a round of boxing, repeated until a KO or checkmate. Could this possibly be the outlet for Leah’s grief-fueled rage, or will it be just another way that she fails not just herself but everyone around her? Leah is hard to sympathize with and her narration is overly detailed with chess terms. The plot drags—chessboxing isn’t introduced until halfway through the book—though the boxing scenes are exciting.
VERDICT An additional purchase for collections where patrons have an interest in chess.

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