Daniel is a freshman, and he's new to chess. When the elite players on his school chess team invite him to participate in a father/son tournament in New York, it's an opportunity to raise his social standing, but it's also a surprise - why him? It turns out that his father has a chess ranking of grandmaster, and Daniel didn't even know he could play. Whether they win turns out to be less important than what Daniel discovers about his dad - and himself.
This is an excellent book; another in which this author captures well-written father/son relationships. Daniel and his father have a complex connection, of course, but the wealthy popular seniors and their fathers also have interesting dynamics. Although the book is written for teens, Daniel's father's story and struggle is nuanced and invites readers to grapple with his conflict. Rather than just being a puppet to support Daniel's character arc, his complex personality contributes to their realistic relationship, making the story much richer than a "nerd seeks popular kids' approval" quest. The drive to win is relatable to all kinds of readers - even those who are not chess experts. The honesty in Daniel's occasional ineptitude, his ethical quandaries, and his choice about how to define himself is compelling. Through a fairly dark - and somewhat autobiographical - subject matter, the author weaves clever humor. It's a great story.
"What possible personal reason could there be for giving up what you're best at?"
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