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New Yorker Leah is a tenacious, snarky queen of quips. She’s also an exceptional chess player but decides to give up the game after losing a match that, had she won, would have seen her move up the rankings to grandmaster status. Feeling the pressure of her mom and coach, feeling that she’s let down her beloved dad, she decides to get a tattoo, “proving to myself and the world that there is life after chess and that I’m not just a pawn for other people to push around.” Leah’s certainly not a girl given to being pushed around but, with the skills of a master weaver, the author sensitively shows how grief’s deep wounds underpin her anger and tendency to drive people away. When her tattoo plan is foiled by one of her blog readers, Kit, who makes big bucks from illegal chess hustling, Leah winds up making a thousand dollars in a couple of hours. It’s through the police busting one of the illegal games that she finds out about chessboxing, “the ultimate contest of brains and brawn”.
The thrill Leah feels for this hybrid sport’s speed and tension is palpable, and she’s a natural at it too, with her boxing coach praising her exceptional resilience: “You never know what’s inside a fighter until they’re flat out on the canvas”, a perceptive comment that encapsulates Leah’s story journey. She’s grappling with grief, but making emotional breakthroughs and learning new skills, to the point that she’s ready to fight Death (a formidable champion chessboxer) in Vegas.
With a truly pulse-quickening climax, this exceptional novel rages with raw emotion. It’s a bona fide page-turner seared with life-affirming insights into grief, friendship and finding new paths.
Leah Baxter is a genius. She's a few wins away from becoming a junior chess grandmaster, and her life is on course to achieve everything her mom and coach want for her. But Leah is at stalemate - grieving for her father, and feeling suffocated. She decides to make the ultimate sacrifice and quit chess. But chess doesn't want to quit her. Soon Leah discovers her new gambit: chessboxing, a dangerous hybrid sport which will test her body and mind to their limits. Can the pawn become the queen?
A note from the author, Stephen Davies: “I went to watch a world-class chessboxing event in London a few years ago and was gripped by the excitement and eccentricity of the sport – the world’s number one thinking game combined with the world’s number one fighting game. An interesting subject for a novel? I wondered. Then during the women’s bout, a character came to mind: a snarky, troubled, fiercely intelligent girl called Leah...”
A gripping and surprising novel about the destruction, but also the motivating power, of grief. I gulped it down -- Sarah Crossan
Publication date: 03/10/2019
Publisher: Andersen Press Ltd
|Publication date:||3rd October 2019|
|Publisher:||Andersen Press Ltd|
|Genres:||NewGen - YA Fiction, Family Drama,|
|Categories:||Sporting stories (Children's / Teenage), Family & home stories (Children's / Teenage), Personal & social issues: death & bereavement (Children's / Teenage), Personal & social issues: self-awareness & self-esteem (Children's / Teenage),|
Stephen Davies spent several years living amongst Fulani herders in Burkina Faso as a missionary. He has written for the Guardian Weekly (Letters from Burkina Faso) and the Sunday Times and is the author of several books for young readers. www.voiceinthedesert.org.ukMore About Stephen Davies