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The Knockout Queen
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The Knockout Queen

A novel

By Rufi Thorpe
Narrated by Michael Crouch / 10 hours 3 minutes

A dazzling and darkly comic novel of love, violence, and friendship in the California suburbs.

Bookseller Recommendation

The Knockout Queen

“To say I admire The Knockout Queen feels inadequate, though I do admire a great deal of it: its voice, depth, structure — you name it. But it’s more honest just to say I love The Knockout Queen; I loved reading it, I felt involved in it, and, finally, I was so moved by its ending. This is an epic tale of friendship, one where the magnitude sneaks up on you quietly — but when it strikes home, it rings so brilliantly true.”

Books Are Magic image Will Walton, Books Are Magic

Bunny Lampert is the princess of North Shore⁠—beautiful, tall, blond, with a rich real-estate-developer father and a swimming pool in her backyard. Michael⁠⁠—with a ponytail down his back and a septum piercing⁠—lives with his aunt in the cramped stucco cottage next door. When Bunny catches Michael smoking in her yard, he discovers that her life is not as perfect as it seems. At six foot three, Bunny towers over their classmates. Even as she dreams of standing out and competing in the Olympics, she is desperate to fit in, to seem normal, and to get a boyfriend, all while hiding her father's escalating alcoholism. Michael has secrets of his own. At home and at school Michael pretends to be straight, but at night he tries to understand himself by meeting men online for anonymous encounters that both thrill and scare him. When Michael falls in love for the first time, a vicious strain of gossip circulates and a terrible, brutal act becomes the defining feature of both his and Bunny's futures⁠⁠—and of their friendship. With storytelling as intoxicating as it is intelligent, Rufi Thorpe has created a tragic and unflinching portrait of identity, a fascinating examination of our struggles to exist in our bodies, and an excruciatingly beautiful story of two humans aching for connection.

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“Rufi Thorpe writes with a savage, clear-eyed calm that is frighteningly good. The Knockout Queen unsettled me in the most delicious way with its complex and satisfying relationships and meditation on violence, beauty, and privilege. Read it!!”

Jade Chang, author of The Wangs vs the World

“Fearless, tender, and savagely alive, The Knockout Queen is unlike anything you’ll read this year. Rufi Thorpe’s third novel is about unruly thoughts and unruly bodies, about violence and love, about doing the wrong thing for the right reasons and the drag of human being. You won’t be able to look away. You might even recognize yourself.”

Chloe Benjamin, author of The Immortalists

“I loved The Knockout Queen. A blistering, brilliant look at friendship and violence, suburbia and class, all told by one of the most observant, engaging narrators I’ve read in a very long time. This book is going to stay with me.”

Grant Ginder, author of Honestly, We Mean’t Well

About the Author

Rufi Thorpe received her MFA from the University of Virginia in 2009. Her first novel, The Girls from Corona del Mar, was long-listed for the 2014 International Dylan Thomas Prize and for the 2014 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize. A California native, she currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and sons.


Reviews

“Thorpe comes back swinging with her best novel yet… From the very start, the story is infused with an unsettling sense of menace, which Thorpe skillfully wields to pierce through the veneer of her shiny California setting to honestly examine weighty topics such as friendship, sexuality, identity and belonging… With charismatic characters and a surprising and devastating storyline, The Knockout Queen is a moody and mordantly funny contemplation of the rigors of growing up that will leave readers reeling.”

BookPage , starred

“Thorpe’s fierce third novel observes the development of and challenges to an intense friendship between two outcasts at a Southern California high school… Deeply realized and complex. The result cannily dissects the power and limits of adolescent friendship.”

Publishers Weekly

“Thorpe takes a familiar plotline—a pair of teen misfits form an unlikely but life-altering friendship—and turns it into an arrestingly original, darkly comic meditation on moral ambiguity…. There are no victims here and no heroes, either. In Thorpe’s Technicolor world, everyone is an innocent and everyone is culpable and no one is absolved, and the result is a novel both nauseatingly brutal and radically kind. Brilliantly off-kilter and vibrating with life.”

Kirkus, starred

Related Reading

Rufi Thrope's Website


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