NOT AN EASY WIN, by Chrystal D. Giles, Random House Books for Young Readers, Feb. 28, 2023, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 10-12)
A boy learns life lessons while learning to play chess in Not an Easy Win, a middle-grade novel by Chrystal D. Giles.
Nothing’s gone right for Lawrence since he had to move from Charlotte to Larenville, North Carolina, to live with his granny. When Lawrence ends up in one too many fights at his new school, he gets expelled. The fight wasn’t his fault, but since his pop’s been gone, it feels like no one listens to what Lawrence has to say.
Instead of going to school, Lawrence starts spending his days at the rec center, helping out a neighbor who runs a chess program. Some of the kids in the program will be picked to compete in the Charlotte Classic chess tournament. Could this be Lawrence’s chance to go home?
Lawrence doesn’t know anything about chess, but something about the center—and the kids there—feels right. Lawrence thought the game was over . . . but does he have more moves left than he thought? —Synopsis provided by Random House Books for Young Readers
Not an Easy Win is a quiet book. Other than a few tense moments — which are impactful — the change comes in soft waves, in small moments and simple acts.
Told from Lawrence’s point of view, Not an Easy Win reads as much like a character study as it is a story. Lawrence is a smart kid who — more often than not — is the only person looking out for him, or so he thinks. Over time, Lawrence realizes he’s got a community of supporters, he just has to open himself to the possibilities.
Not an Easy Win is contemporary fiction that is rooted in authenticity. Kids from all walks of life — but especially those who can see themselves mirrored in Lawrence’s experiences — will be drawn to this thoughtful narrative.
*Not an Easy Win is a Cybils-nominated book. This review is my opinion and not the opinion of the middle-grade fiction panel as a whole.
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