Knockout Games

by G. Neri

When Erica moves with her mom to St. Louis after her parents split, she ends up one... read more

When Erica moves with her mom to St. Louis after her parents split, she ends up one of the few white students at Truman High School. Her growing interest in filmmaking leads to her first friend, who introduces her to members of the TKO Club. The group of middle schoolers “mentored” by older teen Kalvin are encouraged to play the knockout game: choose a random person and try to knock them out with a single punch. Kalvin asks Erica to start filming their attacks. When members of the neighborhood rally against the attacks, accusing them of being Black-on-white hate crimes, Kalvin calls the protestors racist. Erica isn’t sure what to think but does know she’s attracted to Kalvin and can hardly believe it when he reciprocates. He is sweet and tender and patient with her, and reassuring when she expresses discomfort at him filming them having sex. Then a knockout goes horribly wrong and everything unravels.
G. Neri fearlessly traverses uncomfortable territory in a book featuring characters and situations full of complexities and contradictions. It’s part of what Erica struggles with: How do you know what’s right and true? But at a certain point, she understands, you have to own your behavior, and make up your own mind. Neri hones in on the effects of violence and abuse on an individual (Kalvin) and a community in this unsettling, gripping work of fiction inspired in part by real events. (Age 14 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2015

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