11:00 am EST, February 19, 2020

‘The Knockout’ cover reveal and exclusive excerpt tease a story that packs quite a punch

S.A. Patel’s upcoming #ownvoices YA debut The Knockout won’t hit bookshelves until later this summer, but we’ve got your exclusive first look at its colorful cover and an exclusive excerpt.

Kareena may seem like an average teenager upon first glance. She has a best friend, can’t keep a certain boy out of her head, and sometimes finds herself falling asleep in class. Oh and she’s constantly feeling the pressure to live up to her parents’ standards.

But there’s something that sets her apart from everyone else: She’s trying to be history-making Olympian in Muay Thai. And so she doesn’t have time for distractions.

From the looks of the vibrant cover and the tone of the excerpt we have for you below, The Knockout promises to be a funny and heartfelt addition to the contemporary YA genre.

Get K.O.-ed by the cover for S.A. Patel’s ‘The Knockout’

The Knockout by S.A. Patel

A rising star in Muay Thai figures out what (and who) is worth fighting for in this #ownvoices YA debut full of heart.

If seventeen-year-old Kareena Thakkar is going to alienate herself from the entire Indian community, she might as well do it gloriously. She’s landed the chance of a lifetime, an invitation to the US Muay Thai Open, which could lead to a spot on the first-ever Olympic team. If only her sport wasn’t seen as something too rough for girls, something she’s afraid to share with anyone outside of her family. Despite pleasing her parents, exceling at school, and making plans to get her family out of debt, Kareena’s never felt quite Indian enough, and her training is only making it worse.

Which is inconvenient, since she’s starting to fall for Amit Patel, who just might be the world’s most perfect Indian. Admitting her feelings for Amit will cost Kareena more than just her pride–she’ll have to face his parents’ disapproval, battle her own insecurities, and remain focused for the big fight. Kareena’s bid for the Olympics could very well make history–if she has the courage to go for it.

Life (and boys) has Kareena on the ropes in this exclusive excerpt from ‘The Knockout’

I slid into a chair in the back of AP Comp-Sci II class and blinked a good fifty times to ward off sleepiness. That didn’t really help. Slowly, the weight of my body pulled me down and forward until I slumped in an oh so unladylike way, although that alleviated the pain in my side. My left elbow, the nonbruised one, was propped on the desk, chin in hand.

Computer science was a good class, it really was, just not when I was the walking dead struggling to keep my eyes open. At my section of one of four long tables, the screen blinked at me mockingly, but I was too exhausted to fight with it.

“You win,” I muttered. Knockout, round one. I sucked.

Lily, my best friend since freshman year, sat beside me and unloaded her books in the small space between our keyboards. We exchanged grins as she flipped her ponytail over her shoulder. Her hair was harder to control than mine, but she actually made an effort, so her ponytail was totally rocking. Lily was Filipina but her hair was thick, coarse, and dry, and no one knew where she’d inherited such tresses. Her parents had sleek, smooth hair, and her older brother used to joke that she was adopted. She once divulged that she spent an hour every other morning with conditioners, creams, hair straighteners, and blow-drying techniques that would probably break my wrists.

“You should go natural,” I had said when I first saw her hair after a shower, air-dried and undone.

“Afro, curls, or waves are gorgeous natural. My hair is a horror show of spiderwebs making awful love to twigs,” Lily had replied.

About accurate, actually.

“Freaking cute boots,” I muttered, desperately willing my bleary eyes to focus on the ankle high, black shoes over Lily’s leggings.

“Thanks! They’re the ones I bought last weekend.” She side-kicked my sneakers. “Where are yours?”

“Enjoying the view of my bed from the closet. I wish I was there now.” Plus, my boots were so old, they were starting to literally fall apart.

“Ooh, what were you doing so late last night?” she asked in a sing-song voice.

I rolled my eyes. “Fight club.”

“Whatever. Fine. Don’t tell me.”

“You never believe me when I say fight club.”

“You can’t be doing Muay Thai stuff every night. What happened to student council and Spanish club and choir? And boys?”

“What boys?”

“Travis was totally asking about you.”

I gently tapped the keyboard, my slump taking me ever closer to the smooth surface of the table, to the sweet call of sleep. There was no time to think about something as trivial as boys, especially Travis. The guy was the senior class flirt. We’d known each other for years, so if he was asking about me, he was just making his rounds.

Lily swallowed. “Really?”

“Hmm?”

“You really have been fighting every day?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s not good.”

“I need something to distract myself, and unfortunately, all the clubs in the world don’t help. Plus, I’m still pissed at . . . well, you know.”

“Yeah.”

“So I can release anger too. Win, win. People’s faces feel better than punching bags anyway.”

“I’m sorry.”

Lily meant that, she really did, but words were just words. They could cut a person deep, but somehow they didn’t always have the same impact when trying to console. Before we tumbled down a road filled with sympathy and questions, I said, “Wake me if Mrs. Callihan comes over.”

“She’s on crutches. She ain’t coming over here. Get your sleep on.”

I winked and almost slid into the perfect position to doze off when the last student walked toward the back of class. His dark hair floated over the top of the computers. I recognized that carefully combed hair anywhere. I’d seen it only twenty minutes ago at lunch.

Amit Patel didn’t have an MO. He was enigmatic. Not bad boy, brooding enigmatic, but simply puzzling. His perfect hair and nice clothes were straight up out of GQ, but his selection of classes was nerd city (as if I could talk because we shared classes). He never sat in the same place, and sometimes slept more than I did behind a book. Sometimes he chatted up a storm with others and other times he hid in the library. He was both popular and unpopular, charismatic and shy, extroverted and introverted. Enigmatic.

Most times, Amit made eye-contact once a day, preferably in passing so he didn’t walk into me. Today, we caught each other’s eye as I straightened up and he happened to glance my way. He held my gaze this time, and not in an awkward oops-we-saw-one-another-and-it-would-be-rude-to-look-away-but-why-were-we-still-staring kind of awkwardness (usually our thing), but a steady stare. The way football players looked at girls as they rolled down the hall after a big win.

Most times, I didn’t notice Amit. But then there were incomprehensible moments like this where my heart beat faster. Fight club kind of faster.

“Tension,” Lily whispered, her head downturned at her notebook.

“Shut up,” I mumbled and broke eye-contact.

The Knockout by S.A. Patel will be available on August 18, 2020. You can preorder your copy now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository, or your local independent bookstore. Also, don’t forget to add it to your Goodreads “to read” shelf!

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