Orca Book Publishers

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Fiction Ages 12+
Pages: 256
Themes: friendship, boxing, romance, acceptance, tolerance
Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
Pub Date: 01/Mar/2014
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Tessa McPhail has a bad habit—tagging—that lands her at New Directions, an alternative school in Montreal’s toughest neighborhood. The school is far from Tessa’s home and full of troubled kids. To make matters worse, half of every school day is devoted to boxing. The other students think boxing is cool. Not Tessa, who cannot handle violence of any kind. But when a neighbor starts a petition to have New Directions closed down, Tessa discovers something worth fighting for, both in and out of the ring.

Kirkus Reviews
"Polak keeps her prose simple and straightforward, providing her readers with a suspenseful, insightful story that ticks off some hot buttons. The high-interest graffiti/boxing combo is supported by real affection for throwaway teens, resulting in a story that should have broad appeal. Though simple, the story provides both insight and entertainment."
Bethesda Teen Reads
"A unique story...It was well written and I loved how Tessa grew as a person throughout her rough experiences."
"Polak excels at portraying her characters...[She] also provides a behind-the-scenes look at boxing and some of the dynamics involved when two people must be trained to fight each other. Issues of teen pregnancy and homosexuality are handled with care...Fans of Playing with the Boys...will enjoy this book, as will anyone looking for strong relationships without romance."
Southwestern Ohio Young Adult Materials Review Group
"Tessa’s backstory is fully fleshed out and explains her aversion to violence following an out-of-control hockey brawl that left her scarred. Tessa’s character represents how many feel about violent sports and as she grows to the sport and embraces it, readers will too."


Junior Library Guild selection  | 2014 | Commended
YALSA Quick Picks selection  | 2015 | Commended
CCBC Best Books  | 2014 | Commended
Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Books of the Year  | 2015 | Commended
Stellar Book Award nominee  | 2015 | Short-listed
Quebec Writer's Federation nominee  | 2014 | Short-listed