The Knockout Queen wrapped its fist around my heart and then squeezed. I mean this literally—the sensation was physical. Rufi Thorpe writes with breathtaking grace and creates a slow build that explodes: the loveability, failings, and deficiencies of everyone, the drift and splintering that time deals to even our closest relationships. The Knockout Queen also has pockets of profundity, both in the adolescent narrator’s wise, shattering musings, and in the grim realities this story contains. Thorpe’s skill makes the experience a pleasure: the effortless dialogue, the wry and funny scenes, and the complex, unforgettable characters that are so human (though it may hurt to admit that humanness can contain a person like the Knockout Queen’s father Ray, who is cut from the same cloth as con man-in-chief Donald Trump, utterly self-serving, with a casual brutality that is beyond redemption. Thorpe reflects our world back to us. I was completely captivated by The Knockout Queen—rushing to consume it but wanting at the same time to savor the rare experience of a book this close to perfect. I wanted it to last and last.