I feel slightly disadvantaged reviewing Sajni Patel’s, The Knockout – I’m not Indian American, I know nothing about Muay Thai, and I haven’t been a teenager in a long, long time. That said, I enjoyed The Knockout. I’ve had it sitting in my NetGalley queue for months because it was suppose to come out last year, but the pandemic pushed it back. I received this as an advance reader copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Once I started reading I realized that last year I read Sajni Patel’s debut, the decidedly not YA, The Trouble With Hating You. A lot of what I liked about Hating You is also present in The Knockout, but Knockout is more focused and kinder. Kareena Thakkar is a 17 yr old high school student in Texas. She feels separate from most of her peers because her focuses are Muay Thai, school, and her family. Her father has chronic kidney disease which takes a lot of the Thakkar family’s energy and resources. Her parents are not close with the local Indian community, but they are very supportive of Kareena. When Kareena has a chance to compete for a slot on the Muay Thai National team, which might lead to the Olympics, her parents never waver in their support. Kareena wavers though, because competing at the national level is expensive. She definitely doesn’t have time for boys, but her computer science teacher asks her to tutor Amit, and they begin to develop a romance with hefty dollops of flirtatious bickering and the secrets they keep from each other.
Kareena is very guarded and as the book progresses she learns the benefits of letting people in and asking for support. I was occasionally frustrated with Kareena’s me against the world mindset, but I also appreciated that she has been on her own a lot. I loved her parents and the ways they supported and protected her, even when it frustrated her. I loved the way she focused on her sport and her future. I’m not a sports participating or watching person, but I do love reading about characters who are passionate about what they do. Kareena approaches her life with drive and passion and my enjoyment of that outweighed my frustrations.