YA Spotlight: Check & Mate
Hot off the presses and just in time for Valentine's Day, it's the latest book by Ali Hazelwood (Love on the Brain).
The book centers on Mallory, a young woman working a mindless job just trying to support her family. She's also pretty good at chess, but the game became a problem when it brought chaos to her family. A surprise chess tournament gives Mallory a chance to get back into the game, meet a cute boy, and maybe earn some prize money for her financially troubled family.
The centerpiece, as one might expect from the cover, is a budding romance between Mallory and the young man she defeats at the charity tournament, Nolan. And of course, the whole audience is surprised when this 'completely unknown' girl seemingly randomly beats a chess prodigy. How random can it be, though? Wasn't she invited to participate in the tournament based on her previous years of playing chess? And people just forgot she existed? It kind of feels like the author couldn't quite make her mind up, but it's not a deal-breaker or anything.
Which brings us to the romance, of course. Chess becomes a big metaphor, and there are plenty of puns. The moves on the chessboard are references to the moves they take around one another. Which, at a glance, seems fun, but it's also contradictory. Isn't the goal for the couple to get together? Why must they dodge each other's moves and take out valuable pieces and back them into a corner? Because that is really what goes on in chess. But of course, it's less about the moves and more about what happens between players, facing off in one of the most intimate sports around. On this note, the thematic resonance makes sense; it's less about the game itself, and more about the game bringing them together, when they otherwise might never have met. Chess didn't destroy their family; it made it closer, and bigger.
If you're a fan of romance, meetcutes, and enjoy a certain game on a checkerboard tile, then give Check & Mate a chance.
And since we are on the topic, feel free to check out Checkmate, the South Slidell Branch Chess Club. Staff runners Seth and Brandon are accepting all challengers for fun and instructional games.
The club meets every Wednesday from 2:15-4:30. All ages are welcome, and multiple sets are available.
The chess sets are also available for in-house use daily (along with other board games).
Looking for something else? As always, the St. Tammany Parish Library is happy to offer free use of our online catalog, opens a new window for more information on this and other topics.
Also feel free to check out the STPL Bloggers, opens a new window. We are always writing new articles on all kinds of topics!