The Knockout

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, excelling 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.

“Thanks in part to her dedicated study of Muay Thai, 17-year-old Kareena and her family feel ostracized by their local Indian community, leading her to question her own identity and cultural validity. As Kareena pursues “passion over practicality,” she keeps her Muay Thai commitment secret; when her ill father’s relapse coincides with an important competition, she must make a difficult choice—complicated by her growing feelings for “model” Indian Amit—with $50,000, international recognition, and a chance at the Olympics on the line. This compelling #OwnVoices young-adult debut challenges gender roles and racial stereotypes through a hardworking-athlete protagonist crafted with such nuance that readers will wholeheartedly cheer for her, through trivial stressors like AP Comp-Sci II to deeper conflicts like teenage heartbreak. As Patel explores what it means to pursue your dreams against the judgment, criticism, and bullying of those intimidated by your success, the Pan-Asian representation make this work relatable to readers of immigrant parents or any marginalized community, addressing what it means to be part of different communities—cultural, religious, athletic—and to struggle with reconciling one’s identities. The beauty and power of being a high-school girl, an Indian woman, and a female athlete are all showcased in this triumphant novel.”—Booklist, starred review

“Gr 8 Up–A female athlete in a small Texas town will prove to her conservative Indian community that strong, beautiful women come in all shapes and sizes. Seventeen-year-old Kareena Thakkar feels disconnected from her Indian heritage after years of being shamed for playing a sport deemed not ladylike: Muay Thai. With her mom working two jobs and her dad having serious health issues, Kareena’s family struggles to support itself. Going to the U.S. Open for Muay Thai will prove nearly impossible with the Thakkars’ financial woes. Kareena must balance her training, grades, bullies, broken friendships, and now tutoring mysterious Indian poster child Amit Patel while trying to excel at everything. If she works hard enough, can she win the Open and use the cash prize to help her family? This novel moves along well and has an interesting main character: a girl who despite being ostracized by her community is determined to chase after her dreams. She is surrounded by other strong female characters, some kinder than others. Kareena feels conflicted between wanting to be a good athlete and the pressure to look feminine, and readers will empathize with her worries. Her love interest Amit shows remarkable and refreshing maturity for a teenage boy, but the best part of this book is the support and encouragement Kareena finds in other women. VERDICT A good purchase for libraries where female-led sports books circulate well.”–School Library Journal

“Patel paints a badass female athlete who is stubborn and proud but yearns to be accepted by a community she isn’t sure she identifies with.”—Kirkus Reviews

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“Kareena’s story is both an inspiring glimpse into the world of Muay Thai, and also a bold manifesto for today’s teens about embracing friendships and community while finding the courage to be unapologetically yourself. A true knockout of a book!” – Marissa Meyer, #1 NYT bestselling author of The Lunar Chronicles, Heartless, and The Renegades Trilogy

“Kareena is the kind of badass heroine I would’ve loved as an Indian-American teenager!” – Shaila Patel, award-winning author of The Soulmated Series

“Patel’s THE KNOCKOUT is exactly that–a knockout of a smart, heartfelt rom-com with a driven, practical heroine. The love story is sweet, the family relationships are tender, and the martial arts competition is fierce. Plus, just the right amount of high school drama keeps the pages turning!” – Kendare Blake, #1 NYT Bestselling author of the Three Dark Crowns series

“Sajni Patel has created a knockout in Kareena Thakkar, a lovable Muay Thai champion who fights for her family, her friends, and fierce girls everywhere.” – Sarah Deming, author of Gravity