By Dima Novak
After a scholastic chess tournament goes sideways for Moses Middleton and his disjointed team, his aspirations for greatness are nearly dashed. Fearing their impending split, he employs a Russian grandmaster to coach their comeback revenge tour with Soviet chess strategy against a preppy school of rich kids. The change is swift and successful, like one of Moses’ clever moves in the heat of a difficult match. But real-life drama threatens the existence of their newly tight-knit Furious Five—can their friendships and teamwork see them through to the endgame when the stakes are so high?
PUSHING PAWNS is an absolute powerhouse of a YA novel from start to finish. Smart, witty banter with a socially-aware Gen Z voice, the novel is fun, vivid at every turn. In the most diverse neighborhood in New York City, chess intersects with classism, as Moses and his team of vibrant friends square off across their boards against a privileged school of rich kids. With guidance from a wizened Russian grandmaster and his old school Soviet tactics, Moses and friends recognize the value in strong friendships—how loyalty blossoms, how it can solidify them as a united, butt-kicking team. The characters are as vibrant as the history of chess itself—including Moses’ poignant, and often laugh-out-loud narrative style. Even those who have no particular interest in the game will fall in love with the characters and Moses’ unique point of view. From P.D., the habitual truant with serious charm, to Esther, a violinist and fencer with a love for speaking in Jane Austen quotes, to Moses’ rotating housemates who become family, this book has so much to recommend it.
PUSHING PAWNS tackles real-life issues of gentrification, classism, racism, and sexual abuse in a thoughtful, nuanced way. All of this entwines with the game of chess, which itself is wrapped in politics, philosophy, and brilliant strategy. Throughout, the tone is refreshingly hopeful and honest. Competitive chess scenes fly off the page, choreographed with the high-stakes action and breathless pace of a fight. Moses describes them like battle scenes, captivating from each opening straight through to the endgame. A refreshingly hopeful contemporary about the importance of having a support system, complete with a satisfying dose of revenge.
Triumphant and clever, Dima Novak’s PUSHING PAWNS is an absolute powerhouse of a YA novel. Smart, witty banter with a socially-aware Gen Z voice, it’s refreshingly hopeful fun from start to finish.
~Jessica Thomas for IndieReader
By Dima Novak
A stunningly fresh take on the Queen’s Gambit ‘savant-in-training’ premise, Dima Novak’s PUSHING PAWNS pairs an unforgettable protagonist with an animated cast of zoomers and a smart, contemporary plot for a YA masterpiece that belongs on every teen’s smartphone—an instant classic.