Thursday, September 4, 2014

Knock Out Games

by G. Neri
September 2014

"Kalvin's crew always takes videos of their KOs, but Kalvin wants more—something better. He thinks if someone could really see the game for what it was, could appreciate it, could capture the essence of it—that would be a video for all time. The world would have to notice.

That's where Erica comes in. She's new in town. Awkward. Shy. White. But she's got a good camera and a filmmaker's eye. She could learn. Kalvin could open her eyes to the power he sees in the knockout game; he could make her see things his way. But first she'll have to close her eyes to everything else.

For a while, Kalvin's knockouts are strangers. For a while, Erica can ignore their suffering in the rush of creativity and Kalvin's attention. Then comes the KO that forces her eyes open, that makes her see what's really happening.

No one wins the knockout game."

                                                                                                                                                   -- from

I suppose I picked this up because I was interesting in trying to figure out what could motivate someone to knock out a total stranger just for kicks.   I don't know if this book answered those questions for me or not.

The day I read this I was also watching several episodes of a show called Killer Kids about children and teenagers who murder.  The common denominator for many of the killer kids was a terrible home life with overbearing or cruel parents.  This is what seeemed to motivate Kalvin - "The Knock-Out King."  What motives his friends is the need to fit in and be cool.

The most interesting aspect of this book, for me, is that the author is a black male and his protagonist is a white female.  While race isn't the real motive for any of the characters, the race card is played.
Mr Lee, a resident of the neighborhood, points out that all of the attacks are upon white people, therefore the knock-outs are hate crimes.  He wants to rally the neighbors to "take back our neighborhood."  He doesn't say that he wants to take it back from the blacks, but that's the overt message.

Kalvin tries to deflect attention from himself and his guilt by pointing out that Mr. Lee and the police are profiling him and his friends. Trouble in the neighborhood? It must be the black kids!

So, with all of this in mind, it made me wonder why the main character - the one who questions the game and expresses remorse for the game - is white.

This would be great for a book discussion group.

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