The Knockout

Flux. Aug. 2020. 360p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781635830590.
Gr 8 Up–A female athlete in a small Texas town will prove to her conservative Indian community that strong, beautiful women come in all shapes and sizes. Seventeen-year-old Kareena Thakkar feels disconnected from her Indian heritage after years of being shamed for playing a sport deemed not ladylike: Muay Thai. With her mom working two jobs and her dad having serious health issues, Kareena’s family struggles to support itself. Going to the U.S. Open for Muay Thai will prove nearly impossible with the Thakkars’ financial woes. Kareena must balance her training, grades, bullies, broken friendships, and now tutoring mysterious Indian poster child Amit Patel while trying to excel at everything. If she works hard enough, can she win the Open and use the cash prize to help her family? This novel moves along well and has an interesting main character: a girl who despite being ostracized by her community is determined to chase after her dreams. She is surrounded by other strong female characters, some kinder than others. Kareena feels conflicted between wanting to be a good athlete and the pressure to look feminine, and readers will empathize with her worries. Her love interest Amit shows remarkable and refreshing maturity for a teenage boy, but the best part of this book is the support and encouragement Kareena finds in other women.
VERDICT A good purchase for libraries where female-led sports books circulate well.

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