**This review is based on an ARC from Netgalley. The title is scheduled to release on 8/1.
I was interested in this book from the get-go after reading the summary because I remember hearing about this when it was happening regularly. Having lived in the south part of St. Louis City and taught in the Old North area of St. Louis City, I was even more intrigued when I found out it was set in St. Louis. I grew up and now live again in a town about an hour and a half straight down the Mississippi River so I’ve always been familiar with and visited STL regularly so it was easy to envision where all of these things are taking place. Though this book is fiction, it is very closely based on real events involving the “Knockout Game”. If you don’t much about the “game”, look it up on Google (I did this again after reading just to find out more); but, basically, a group of teens find random victims and run up to them with the goal of knocking them out with one hit. This game eventually resulted in the death of at least one person and severe injuries for many other victims. It is insane to me to think that there are young people out there participating in this kind of thing.
Erica is a white high school student that moves to St. Louis at the beginning of the book after her parents separate. She lives in and attends school in a predominantly black community and is sucked into a group of kids, yes kids, that are participating in knockout games… all because she has a good camera. When her involvement becomes more than just filming, the story gets deeper. Kalvin, the Knockout King, pulls Erica in and convinces her to do things she would have never thought. When the group goes after one of Erica’s teachers and her husband, she knows she has to get out. Throughout the story, the group is trying to avoid getting caught and when it comes to arrests being made after a particularly gruesome event, Erica has to figure out if she going to do the right thing or not. This is a deeply troubling story about what some middle and high school students are dangerously involved in so it was tough to get through, but extremely important and will suck students right in to the story. I would have recommended and bought many copies of this title while working at my job in St. Louis because I could get so many of them to read it. Since I am still close to the area, and many of my students will probably remember hearing about this, not to mention that it is just an interesting story, I will still be buying a few copies and recommending this to my students as much as possible. It is also a quick read due to the content and interest factor. I am so glad I was approved for this ARC!
My rating: 4.5/5
Who would I recommend this to? Considering where I’m from and how many people I know in St. Louis, I will be recommending this to students and adults alike as a good read. I will particularly recommend this to my students who like realistic, troublesome stories or who are reluctant readers especially.
Drugs/Alcohol: There is little talk, if any, of drug or alcohol use.
Sex: There are some sexual scenes, but nothing overly graphic or upsetting.
Language: Being that this story centers around teens and middle school ages, there is of course some language, but it does not stand out from the story itself at all.
Violence: This story, unfortunately, centers around violence, but it is an important read.