Not an Easy Win

Not An Easy Win cover
Not an Easy Win by Chrystal D. Giles

By Chrystal D. Giles
Random House, 2023
245 pages

Ages 9-12

Lawrence is quick to defend himself when he’s taunted, which has gotten him into trouble since he and his younger sister, Nik, moved with their mom to Larenville, NC, to live with their grandmother. After he’s expelled from predominantly white Andrew Jackson Middle School for fighting, he begins spending time with Mr. Dennis, a neighbor who runs an after-school program. It’s a relief to be away from his grandmother’s disapproval; Lawrence does his online schoolwork, helps prep for the other kids’ arrival after school, and learns to play chess. Like Lawrence, the kids who attend the program are Black; after a boy named Deuce baits Lawrence into a fight, a girl named Twyla points out that Lawrence can choose not to respond. Twyla also knows Lawrence and Deuce have a lot in common: Deuce has an absent mom, Lawrence an absent dad, painful situations for them both, and Deuce in particular is currently struggling. When Lawrence decides to try to connect with Deuce over a shared love of music, it changes their dynamic, setting the stage for friendship. Meanwhile, an upcoming chess tournament in Charlotte, Lawrence’s home town, has him determined to represent the after-school program along with Twyla and Deuce, a trip that underscores the fact that Larenville is home now … and that’s ok.  There’s much to appreciate in this engaging story, from the cast of genuine characters to the satisfying and authentic evolution of Lawrence’s relationships with Deuce, Twyla, and his grandmother in particular.  ©2023 Cooperative Children’s Book Center