Summary: Not an Easy Win
In Not an Easy Win, young Lawrence has had the odds stacked against him for so long. He and his mom and little sister went from living in Charlotte, NC to finally moving in with his grandma while his father is incarcerated. To make matters worse, Lawrence keeps getting picked on at school and getting into fights which results in his getting expelled. While he’s home, he starts going to the town’s rec center where he learns to play chess. But a boy there keeps trying to get Lawrence to fight. Can he find a way to secure a win for once?
This was a very immersive story that just shone with authenticity. Lawrence is so relatable, and I felt for him with all the trouble he kept getting into at school and the flashbacks about his dad, whom he misses. Giles does a great job of showcasing the fact that everyone has multiple sides, even people who’ve made mistakes in life.
Lawrence’s time at the rec center is literally life-changing. Instead of having to spend time with mostly white kids (as it is in his school), he’s surrounded by kids who look like him, which does his mental wellbeing a lot of good. He also develops a crush on one of the girls Twyla, who’s coolheaded and plays chess. Unfortunately, he does find another nemesis, Deuce. But as time progresses, both boys realize that they have more in common than they know.
I loved Lawrence’s home situation. Even though cash was tight and his mom worked crazy hours, there was a lot of love and support and family. I liked seeing his grandma come to view him as more than just a troublemaker and how proud they all became of him as he got into chess.
Overall: Not an Easy Win
Not an Easy Win is a heartwarming, realistic, and satisfying book about poverty, having an incarcerated parent, and finding belonging in chess. Readers will root for Lawrence as he figures out his strengths and learns to manage his weaknesses. I also learned way more about chess from this book than I have from other people who’ve tried to teach me in the past. An excellent follow-up to Giles’s debut, Take Back the Block.