Book Review: Chess Rumble

Though G. Neri's graphic novella Chess Rumble resembles a children's book, there is nothing childish about it. Middle school student Marcus is in trouble. Not just for the fights he's getting in, but because his dad has basically abandoned the family, his little sister just died, and his mother is overwhelmed with taking care of her remaining three children. Luckily, Markus has a teacher who cares about him and who wants to see him stay out of trouble. She hooks him up with "CM", a one-time criminal who's turned his life around and who's teaching boys to play chess in hopes that they'll stay out of trouble.

G. Neri's writing poetry packs a powerful punch. With lines like "In my hood/ battles is fought every day", Neri makes the link between street life and the game of chess obvious. CM tells Markus that the game of chess is not played thinking about the move that you're making now, but the ones that you'll want to make in the future. Otherwise, in life and in chess, shortsighted thinking and motivations will cause you to be vulnerable. With this metaphor in place, the message to teen boys is clear: you need to think ahead before you move.