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Another Kirkus Star

The Chess Club series is two for two — that is, both volumes have been awarded the prestigious Kirkus star.

Below I'm reproducing the review for Queenside, Book Two of the series. You'll find the original here.

A riveting story of a fight for justice.

Novak’s second novel in his YA series tells a tale of New York City’s Travers Park—“the lungs, heart and soul of northern Queens.”

The story of 15-year-old Moses “Mose” Middleton and public schoolQ722’s chess club ensemble continues with newcomers adding interest and tension. Mose learns that his girlfriend Esther is overcommitted to extracurriculars and wants a break from their relationship. She’s also taking a break from chess club, which leaves Mose feeling bereft. The following day, Mose and his friend P.D. Morales head to Travers Park to play chess; there, they find an “official-looking notice” stating that playing chess there is prohibited and that tables will soon be removed by the parks department. Wealthy parents had created a Facebook page to complain about a “criminal element” creating “‘unsafe conditions” in the park; it’s clear that the teens’ beloved neighborhood is being co-opted by rich newcomers. The kids ignore the warning and climb over the barrier to play their game, but someone films them on their iPhone while “giving [them] the evil eye.” The boys run off, but police track them down and take them into custody—an event that galvanizes members of the community to fight for the park. Novak uses the chess club as the foundation for a strong community, bonded by common causes: a struggle for their neighborhood, for their honor in an upcoming chess tournament in Philadelphia, and, at the most basic level, for their chess tables in Travers Park. The author effectively weaves in what Mose calls “choice nuggets of commie wisdom” through Viktor Fleischmann, the chess master; the words of Jane Austen through fans Esther and Mose; and generational wisdom throughout. Along the way, Novak authentically weaves discussions of Nuyorican culture, police brutality, gentrification, and diversity. Strong characters fight for what they believe in, learning life lessons along the way. Gen-Z slang is interspersed throughout and is integral to the story.

A riveting story of a fight for justice.

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