Title: The Knockout
Author: Sajni Patel
Audience: Young Adult
Length: 360 pages
Publisher: Flux Books
Release Date: January 26, 2021
Recommended for fans of:
Content Warnings: bullying, body image issues
A rising star in Muay Thai figures out what (and who) is worth fighting for in this #ownvoices YA debut full of heart.
If seventeen-year-old Kareena Thakkar is going to alienate herself from the entire Indian community, she might as well do it gloriously. She’s landed the chance of a lifetime, an invitation to the US Muay Thai Open, which could lead to a spot on the first-ever Olympic team. If only her sport wasn’t seen as something too rough for girls, something she’s afraid to share with anyone outside of her family. Despite pleasing her parents, exceling at school, and making plans to get her family out of debt, Kareena’s never felt quite Indian enough, and her training is only making it worse.
Which is inconvenient, since she’s starting to fall for Amit Patel, who just might be the world’s most perfect Indian. Admitting her feelings for Amit will cost Kareena more than just her pride–she’ll have to face his parents’ disapproval, battle her own insecurities, and remain focused for the big fight. Kareena’s bid for the Olympics could very well make history–if she has the courage to go for it.
In this YA sports contemporary novel, Kareena Thakkar deals with familiar teen problems: Calculus, mean girls, a new crush, insecurities. But she also has to deal with elite-level Muay Thai training, fundraising for an upcoming competition, her father’s ailing health, her family’s financial woes, and a judgmental Indian community that doesn’t accept her as a female fighter.
Kareena struggles to belong in multiple areas of her life, always feeling like she needs to hide some part of herself to fit in. Kareena’s confidence grows throughout the book, and I loved the message about owning who you really are and tuning out the haters.
The story was a bit slow to develop for me. The romance was a bigger focus than I expected. Some of the dialogue, slang, and flirting were awkwardly phrased, which pulled me out of the story a bit. As an adult I found it frustrating to read about Kareena’s teen insecurities, but I think younger readers will find it relatable. I loved the fight scenes, but I wanted to see more of Kareena strong and in her element!
I also learned so much about Indian culture, from family dynamics, community, religion, holidays, food, and fashion. This story is very personal for the author and drew a lot of influence from her own experiences growing up.