With over 50+ young adult novels being published each month, it can be understandably difficult to stay up-to-date on all the latest releases. This is why one of the elements of blogging that has brought me the most joy over the last seven years is having the opportunity to shine a spotlight on books that might otherwise be overlooked. So, when Penguin Teen Canada brought Fight Like A Girl by Sheena Kamal to my attention for the first time, I immediately knew I wanted to feature it on Pop! Goes The Reader!
Fight Like A Girl is Sheena Kamal’s young adult debut, though it is not her first novel, as she is also the author of the beloved Nora Watts adult thriller series, which is comprised of The Lost Ones, It All Falls Down and No Going Back. In Fight Like A Girl, Kamal follows the story of Trisha, a Trinidadian-Canadian high school senior with a passion for Muay Thai kickboxing who is forced to question everything she thought she once knew when her abusive and neglectful father dies in a sudden accident.
I’m reading Fight Like A Girl as we speak and I was immediately struck by the protagonist’s voice. Trisha is strong, fierce and forceful and I predict the informal nature of her narration will speak to young readers. Trisha’s passion for kickboxing is admirable, and the author’s exploration of this sport as an outlet for Trisha to escape the domestic violence she witnesses at home is particularly fascinating. That said, one of the elements I’ve appreciated most about this book thus far is the author’s exploration of Trisha’s Trinidadian heritage. Trisha struggles with her often complicated feelings about her identity as the novel delves deeply into questions about who she is, where she belongs, and why she is drawn to a sport that can bring her pleasure and pain in equal measure.
Please read on to learn more about this fascinating Canadian novel, including an exclusive note from the book’s author, Sheena Kamal!
Title Fight Like A Girl
Author Sheena Kamal
Pages 272 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Publication Date March 10th 2020 by Penguin Teen
Find It On Goodreads ● Amazon.com ● Chapters ● The Book Depository ● IndieBound
The Beauty of the Moment meets Exit, Pursued By A Bear. Award-winning thriller writer Sheena Kamal delivers a kick-ass debut YA novel that will have fans crying out for more.
Love and violence. In some families they’re bound up together, dysfunctional and poisonous, passed from generation to generation like eye color or a quirk of smile. Trisha’s trying to break the chain, channeling her violent impulses into Muay Thai kickboxing, an unlikely sport for a slightly built girl of Trinidadian descent. Her father comes and goes as he pleases, his presence adding a layer of tension to the Toronto east-end townhouse that Trisha and her mom call home, every punch he lands on her mother carving itself indelibly into Trisha’s mind. Until the night he wanders out drunk in front of the car Trisha is driving, practicing on her learner’s permit, her mother in the passenger seat. Her father is killed, and her mother seems strangely at peace. Lighter, somehow. Trisha doesn’t know exactly what happened that night, but she’s afraid it’s going to happen again. Her mom has a new man in her life and the patterns, they are repeating.
Over ten years ago, my best friend from high school opened up a Muay Thai gym in Toronto called Southside Muay Thai. I started training there to support him, and quickly found that there was so much about the sport that I loved. My first YA novel Fight Like A Girl is inspired by my years of training at Southside. The book is about a teenaged Muay Thai fighter of Trinidadian heritage who starts training in order to deal with domestic violence that happens in her home. When her father dies, her home life collapses and she uses the sport as fuel as an escape. A lot of this is an exploration of my own cultural heritage, but it looks at why this one girl turns to a high-impact contact sport, and what it brings to her life. What it brings to my life is something very different, but I’m always curious about what draws people to the sport, and why they want to fight. Fight Like A Girl is one such story.
About Sheena Kamal
Sheena Kamal holds an HBA in Political Science from the University of Toronto, and was awarded a TD Canada Trust scholarship for community leadership and activism around the issue of homelessness.
Her bestselling debut The Lost Ones won her a Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, a Strand Critics Award, and Macavity Award for Best First Novel. The sequel It All Falls Down has been called “a stunning, emotionally resonant thriller” in its Kirkus-starred review. No Going Back and her first YA novel Fight Like A Girl will be released in 2020.
Additionally, her writing has been featured in The Guardian (U.K.), Bustle, The Irish Times (Ireland), Writers Digest, and Entertainment Weekly.