Genius and child prodigy Leah Baker is one victory from chess Grandmaster, as the pieces of her family life align for catastrophic loss. Leah finds that she has everything but no one to play for. Chess has been her whole life – what could she choose if she no longer chose chess?
Initially written as a blog with comments enabled, Leah’s dangerous over-sharing is usefully modeled. The comments range from inane through unpleasant to worrying, and it transpires that she has been found in real life by an online follower. However, this person wants to help her. In fact, almost everyone Leah meets from the strange men in Central Park to the hardened criminals in Central Holding are cartoonishly supportive.
The reader is brought on a journey through friendship, felony, mentorship and therapy, as Leah reconfigures her life from a game of perfect knowledge to one of risk and chance. She moves from one questionable decision to the next, as if gliding through a dream sequence.
That is not to say the themes are light, including detailed references to drug abuse, violence and the traumatic grief central to the story. The simplistic writing style makes this more jarring. It is written from the perspective of a particularly unworldly teen narrator. I presume this was the author’s intent as it is consistent throughout.
Chessboxer walks the line of choice and chance, as Leah fights to become Grandmaster of her sport and life.