KNOCKOUT by K.A.  Holt


Age Range: 9 - 13
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A kid who grew up with precarious health hungers to bust out of the protected zone that his mother and brother keep him in.

To 12-year-old Levi, born weighing 2 pounds, “the hole in my neck, / the trach tube I needed to breathe, / the medical equipment in the house, / the almost dying, / the surgeries” are stories—not memories. He plans never to be “blue” (breathless) again. Readers new to Levi’s story will share his casualness; House Arrest (2015) readers, however, will remember Levi’s near deaths vividly through the eyes of his brother, Timothy, now 24 but a child back when Levi’s life lay in his hands. First-person free verse effectively conveys Levi’s impatience as he lunges away from “TIMOTHY’S RULES / FOR EVERYDAY / BLAH-BLAHS” by climbing a tree, lying, pranking (he interrupts school events from inside a stolen chicken-mascot costume), and learning to box. Custodial parent Mom doesn’t know he’s boxing, but tough-guy Dad gives permission, applying machismo pressure. Levi himself uses knockouts as a metaphor for strength and success (and happily claims the title of a “man’s man / ladies’ man”). Boxing channels his energy, acuity, and anger and even holds, “like, / beauty.” Tender moments come when Levi, Timothy, and Mom use a journal to write back and forth. Aside from a remark that Dad is “pasty white” and Levi “not,” race and color go unmentioned.

Fast and victorious. (Verse fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: March 6th, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-4521-6358-1
Page count: 348pp
Publisher: Chronicle
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2018


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