The Knockout by Sajni Patel/ S. A. Patel is a young adult standalone following Kareena Thakkar, a high school student and Muay Thai fighter. When Kareena gets a chance to enter the competition of her life, she’s more than excited. But reality is quick to check in with a really unwell father and even more severe financial debt. Kareena struggles with the challenges of being a female athlete in a time and cultural society that judges and ostracizes her for it. Through it, her saving grace comes in the form of Amit: a genius who strangely needs tutoring from her.
Female athletes are a power move and this book really showed that. I loved entering the world of Muay Thai, learning about it and reading about Kareena’s fight scenes. They were absolutely badass. Sajni Patel’s writing was vivid and easy to imagine. My heart raced through it all. One of my favourite aspects of this book was watching Kareena’s confidence with her body grow.
Kareena is easy to love and relate to. At times, she’s frustrating but even then it’s consistent with her background and history. I loved seeing Kareena grow and become the best version of herself despite her struggles.
Kareena’s relationship with her family is goals! Their dynamic was sweet and refreshing to read. Young adult books tend to skip over familial aspects but Sajni Patel dove right in. Amit, the love interest, has to be one of my favourite love interests from a contemporary novel. He was so supportive, sweet and perfect for Kareena. Amit had his own life and problems, making him feel quite real. I wish Kareena’s best friend, Lily had been developed a little more like Amit was.
Kareena’s story resonated with me more than I had expected. The Indian rep and culture was executed so well, I couldn’t have asked for more.
When we join Kareena, she has a very complicated relationship with Indian culture and society. She has a more ‘Western’ approach to things and I expect other readers who are more religious or involved in society may feel attacked by some of Kareena’s early thoughts and approaches. Personally, this made it more satisfying to see her grow into accepting her culture. I do wish that we got to see her become more accepting of the people around her as well.
The only thing that would take this book up a notch for me were that some of the high school drama felt a bit juvenile to me. But in saying that, I probably would’ve enjoyed it if I were younger.
This book frustrated me, made me cry, laugh and smile in all the best ways. I felt so much reading it. I highly recommend this for anyone looking for more South-Asian and/or female athlete representation in books. If you’re a sucker for underdogs, this one’s for you!