cover image Check & Mate

Check & Mate

Ali Hazelwood. Putnam, $14 paper (368p) ISBN 978-0-593-61991-9

Bisexual 18-year-old Mallory Greenleaf was once a talented chess player, but ever since her Grandmaster father abandoned the family four years ago then died, she’s given up the sport and instead prioritized caring for her arthritic mother and two younger sisters. Rather than attending college, Mallory gets hired as an auto mechanic; things take an unexpected turn, however, when she reluctantly agrees to play in a charity chess tournament and beats 19-year-old Nolan Sawyer, the current world champion. When she loses her job—and realizes that she can earn decent money by competing in tournaments—Mallory accepts a paid fellowship for potential pros at a local New Jersey chess club. And as Mallory navigates sudden acclaim alongside grief and guilt over her return to chess, she grows closer to Nolan, who turns out to be her biggest supporter. Hazelwood (Love, Theoretically, for adults) makes a seamless transition into YA romance with this well-researched read. Via Mallory and Nolan’s complementary personalities and complex histories, Hazelwood crafts a feminist rendering that sheds light on sexist views within the world of competitive chess, all while spinning a swoon-worthy romance. Protagonists read as white. Ages 14–up. (Nov.)