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Written by Stephen Davies

Books of the Month Family / Home Stories Featured Books for Young Adults Sporting Stories Star Books Personal Social Health Economic (PSHE) Personal Social Health Economic (PSHE)

LoveReading View on Chessboxer

Passion, grief and the personal growth of an unforgettable chess-boxing heroine, this is a knockout novel in every way.

October 2019 Book of the Month

New Yorker Leah is a tenacious, snarky queen of quips. She’s also an exceptional chess player but decides to give up the game after losing a match that, had she won, would have seen her move up the rankings to grandmaster status. Feeling the pressure of her mom and coach, feeling that she’s let down her beloved dad, she decides to get a tattoo, “proving to myself and the world that there is life after chess and that I’m not just a pawn for other people to push around.” Leah’s certainly not a girl given to being pushed around but, with the skills of a master weaver, the author sensitively shows how grief’s deep wounds underpin her anger and tendency to drive people away. When her tattoo plan is foiled by one of her blog readers, Kit, who makes big bucks from illegal chess hustling, Leah winds up making a thousand dollars in a couple of hours. It’s through the police busting one of the illegal games that she finds out about chessboxing, “the ultimate contest of brains and brawn”.

The thrill Leah feels for this hybrid sport’s speed and tension is palpable, and she’s a natural at it too, with her boxing coach praising her exceptional resilience: “You never know what’s inside a fighter until they’re flat out on the canvas”, a perceptive comment that encapsulates Leah’s story journey. She’s grappling with grief, but making emotional breakthroughs and learning new skills, to the point that she’s ready to fight Death (a formidable champion chessboxer) in Vegas.

With a truly pulse-quickening climax, this exceptional novel rages with raw emotion. It’s a bona fide page-turner seared with life-affirming insights into grief, friendship and finding new paths.

Joanne Owen

Other Info

A note from the author, Stephen Davies:  “I went to watch a world-class chessboxing event in London a few years ago and was gripped by the excitement and eccentricity of the sport – the world’s number one thinking game combined with the world’s number one fighting game. An interesting subject for a novel? I wondered. Then during the women’s bout, a character came to mind: a snarky, troubled, fiercely intelligent girl called Leah...”

Chessboxer Synopsis

Leah Baxter is a genius. She's a few wins away from becoming a junior chess grandmaster, and her life is on course to achieve everything her mom and coach want for her. But Leah is at stalemate - grieving for her father, and feeling suffocated. She decides to make the ultimate sacrifice and quit chess. But chess doesn't want to quit her. Soon Leah discovers her new gambit: chessboxing, a dangerous hybrid sport which will test her body and mind to their limits. Can the pawn become the queen?

Chessboxer Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title. You can click here to read the full reviews.

It’s a fast read, with a lot of heart. Full review

Evie Mapperley (Age 11)

A fast-paced, unusual story with a gutsy central female character who is struggling to cope with grief and her genius ability to play chess. Then she discovers chessboxing. Full review

Ella O’Gorman (Age 15)

This book is very gripping and intense. Full review

Thomas Bryant (Age 12)

A great book about ambition and overcoming the odds. Full review

Charlotte Walker

Chessboxer Press Reviews

A gripping and surprising novel about the destruction, but also the motivating power, of grief. I gulped it down  -- Sarah Crossan

Praise for Blood & Ink;

“Excellent. Gripping, full of excitement, romance and heart-stopping moments. This is an important book.”  Books 4 Keeps

Praise for Outlaw;

“Pure good-hearted fun for fans of Anthony Horowitz.”  The Times

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9781783448401
Publication date: 03/10/2019
Publisher: Andersen Press Ltd
Format: Paperback

Book Information

ISBN: 9781783448401
Publication date: 3rd October 2019
Author: Stephen Davies
Publisher: Andersen Press Ltd
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 320 pages
Suitable for: YA readers
Genres: Family / Home Stories, Sporting Stories, Personal Social Health Economic , Personal Social Health Economic
Recommendations: Books of the Month, Reluctant Readers, Reviewed by Children, Star Books
Collections: 60 books to explain death to children and help them grieve,

About Stephen Davies

Stephen Davies writes picture books, chapter books, young adult novels, TV tie-ins and educational books. Many of his books are set in West Africa on the edge of the Sahara Desert, where he lived and worked for thirteen years. His first book Sophie and the Albino Camel won the Glen Dimplex Prize for best debut children's book. Since then he has written more than twenty books, including a series of six Hilda novels to accompany the popular Netflix animation. Stephen lives in London with his wife and two daughters. He enjoys visiting schools in the UK and overseas, helping students ...

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