Thursday, February 26, 2015

Knockout Games by G. Neri

Erica’s dad leaves her and her mom with the parting gift of an HD video camera.  The two move to a rough part of St. Louis, Missouri, as a result of her parents’ split.  Erica struggles to make new friends, entering her new, racially mixed school in the middle of the year.  Shortly thereafter, her only friend, Destiny, sees Erica using her camera and drags her off to capture what Destiny thinks is just about the most interesting thing going on: middle school boys selecting a weak-looking adult to approach and surprise with a single knockout punch.

Where Neri takes this scenario is dutifully complex.   Booktalking this book today revealed that the knockout game is not unfamiliar to Passages’ students, suggesting that this novel is both timely and needed as Neri mentions in his author’s note.  Longer and more challenging than Caged Warrior, Knockout Games could make a great book club or classroom read as it is realistic and rich with the moral quandaries facing Erica, and broader themes of racial injustice and complexity in our times. More experienced middle school readers and high schoolers may want to read it independently.  Pairs interestingly with How it Went Down and A Separate Peace.  --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Neri, G.  Knockout Games.  Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Lab, 2014  

Click here to download a sample chapter and for a discussion guide on the author’s website.

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