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A rising, rousing bout fueled by brains, brawn, and belligerency.

A grieving chess prodigy ups her game.

“Intelligence and irritability are a bad combination,” writes 17-year-old Leah—and she should know. Massive quantities of both drive her to not only quit tournament chess just as she’s about to score a grandmaster rating, but also, in the two years since her father’s death, to mercilessly savage anyone who tries to get close to her. The game won’t let her go, though, and after some lucrative but painful experiences as a chess hustler in Washington Square Park, she finds a perfect outlet for her passion and rage in chessboxing—an actual sport alternating timed rounds of boxing and chess. Readers who regard chess as a genteel, cerebral pursuit are in for a shock as the game action (described with technical precision) is presented in language as compellingly tense and brutal as that of the rings. Readers will also admire the new friends and adult supporters (including a grief therapist) who are willing to look past Leah’s caustic shell. Eventually she’s taking on Zelda “The Reaper” Haas, a scary opponent tattooed up to and including the eyeballs, for the women’s world championship. Told through blog posts, Leah’s narrative seethes with raw feelings and combines taut suspense with dizzying lows and highs, even occasional hilarity, as it tracks her progress toward learning to live with herself and with devastating loss. The main cast presents White.

A rising, rousing bout fueled by brains, brawn, and belligerency. (afterword) (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: March 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-78344-840-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Andersen/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away.

A Mexican American boy takes on heavy responsibilities when his family is torn apart.

Mateo’s life is turned upside down the day U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents show up unsuccessfully seeking his Pa at his New York City bodega. The Garcias live in fear until the day both parents are picked up; his Pa is taken to jail and his Ma to a detention center. The adults around Mateo offer support to him and his 7-year-old sister, Sophie, however, he knows he is now responsible for caring for her and the bodega as well as trying to survive junior year—that is, if he wants to fulfill his dream to enter the drama program at the Tisch School of the Arts and become an actor. Mateo’s relationships with his friends Kimmie and Adam (a potential love interest) also suffer repercussions as he keeps his situation a secret. Kimmie is half Korean (her other half is unspecified) and Adam is Italian American; Mateo feels disconnected from them, less American, and with worries they can’t understand. He talks himself out of choosing a safer course of action, a decision that deepens the story. Mateo’s self-awareness and inner monologue at times make him seem older than 16, and, with significant turmoil in the main plot, some side elements feel underdeveloped. Aleman’s narrative joins the ranks of heart-wrenching stories of migrant families who have been separated.

An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5605-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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Summery fun and games with feeling.

A summer trip helps break 18-year-old Meredith Fox out of a haze of mourning.

Her cousin’s wedding means a return to Martha’s Vineyard, a well-loved destination but one filled with bittersweet memories. It’s been a year and a half since the sudden loss of Meredith’s sister, Claire, and the grief remains strong. Meredith, though, resolves to take this time to celebrate family and bridge the rifts resulting from ghosting friends. She didn’t plan on a meet-cute/embarrassing encounter with the groom’s stepbrother, Wit. Nor did she expect a wedding-week game of Assassin, a water-gun–fueled family tradition. What starts off as a pact of sharing strategic information with Wit grows into something more as the flirting and feelings develop. Only one person can win, though, and any alliance has an expiration date. To win and honor Claire, who was a master of the game, Meredith must keep her eye on the prize. Taking place over the course of a week, the narrative is tight with well-paced reveals that disrupt predictability and keep the plot moving. Early details are picked back up, and many elements come satisfyingly full circle. The short time frame also heightens the tension of this summer romance: What will happen when they leave the bubble of the Vineyard? The mix of budding romance, competitive hijinks, a close-knit circle, as well as dealing with loss make for a satisfying read. The main cast is White.

Summery fun and games with feeling. (family tree) (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-72821-029-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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