Through Michael’s clear-eyed gaze, Rufi Thorpe unfurls a coming-of-age tale that feels both fresh and familiar: a shrewd exploration of all the ways people find to pass on the hurt and anger they’ve been given and a tender, furious ode to the connections that somehow still endure, despite everything.
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. Michael tends to see things in black and white, but the canvas of Thorpe’s novel is textured with shades of gray, its world morally ambiguous ... 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.
... full of verve and sketched in colors as vibrant as a Tilt-A-Whirl David Hockney landscape ... Thorpe inverts the more common tale of an impoverished sufferer who is momentarily saved or mourned by a richer, more stable friend. The result is revelatory ... Can a 30-something white female author really nail the intricacies of a 16-year-old queer teen?...This 30-something white female critic can’t decide, though I know charismatic, empathetic writing when I see it. What undoubtedly works here is Thorpe’s portrait of teenage ostracism ... Thorpe writes convincingly about the intricacies of teenage hierarchy and the endless varieties of torture that the young can inflict on one other. She illustrates the performativity of status cleverly.
Thorpe’s story immediately enfolds the reader, moving them swiftly forward, swept up in the current ... Thorpe explores the humanity of each and every character on the page. She challenges complex concepts of what is deemed 'good' versus 'bad,' 'right' versus 'wrong.' She questions what love means, what that looks like, and how it may vary between family and friends ... Thorpe also explores other common literary themes with fresh eyes. She houses this story in a framework of friendship and identity ... Thorpe traces this friendship through many of the ups and downs one might expect between a pair of teenagers, and then some. And it shouldn’t be ignored that she has a sly way of infusing humour throughout to keep the story from growing too bleak altogether.
Thorpe...writes with savage poignancy as she explores identity, adolescent friendship, and the insatiable longing for intimacy. Her novel is devastatingly honest, her characters vulnerable, and her readers will be spellbound.
Thorpe’s...coming-of-age tale set against a backdrop filled with hate and violence will captivate readers with its brutal honesty and unbreakable bonds of friendship. Recommended for fans of Emma Straub and Jami Attenberg.
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.
...[a] fierce third novel ... While the novel’s plot is thin and rests perhaps too heavily on the dire consequences of [a]moment of violence, the two central characters are deeply realized and complex. The result cannily dissects the power and limits of adolescent friendship.