Yes, this is something completely different, I’m going to be reading Middle Grade in 2020! I’m so excited to see what this new genre opens up for me.
I’m going to be titling my reviews differently, with review at the start of the title instead of at the end. And I’m also going to be listing my trigger warnings at the top of the review instead of at the bottom like I used to.
I thought I would kick off my middle grade reviews with a book that was kindly sent to me for Christmas from one of my lovely, most supportive friends Steph (@bookslovereaders). I have linked Steph’s Instagram account so be sure to check her out – her feed is stunning!
Title: Check Mates
Author: Stewart Foster
Publication date: June 2019
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s UK
Genre: Middle Grade
My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Some people think that I’m a problem child, that I’m lazy and never pay attention in lessons. But the thing is, I’m not a problem child at all. I’m just a child with a problem.
Felix is struggling at school. His ADHD makes it hard for him to concentrate and his grades are slipping. Everyone keeps telling him to try harder, but no one seems to understand just how hard he finds it. When Mum suggests Felix spends time with his grandfather, Felix can’t think of anything worse. Granddad hasn’t been the same since Grandma died. Plus he’s always trying to teach Felix boring chess. But sometimes the best lessons come in the most unexpected of places, and Granddad soon shows Felix that there’s everything to play for.
Thank you so much to Steph (@bookslovereaders) for sending me this book off of my amazon wishlist for Christmas.
Trigger warnings: Depression, grief, dealing with loss of a grandparent and brief bullying.
I have to first start by saying I’m not even sure what made me add this book to my amazon wishlist, I’m trying to convince myself it was the gorgeous cover, but deep down I really think it was more because the premise sounded so amazing and like a heartwarming read.
The second thing I have to say is this: don’t let the fact that this book focuses on chess put you off. I don’t play chess, I don’t want to play chess and I certainly don’t understand chess. But that did not stop me from completely adoring this book. Yes there is chess talk, but it was explained in a way that was understandable as our main character, Felix, is also new to the game.
Felix is a character that I absolutely adored. I completely felt for him and it was hard to see him struggling so much at the start of the book because he has ADHD and as a result he is often disruptive in the classroom and gets sent home early a lot. I really liked how Steward was able to portray what was going on inside Felix’s head in a way that relatable. I don’t have ADHD, but when we were little my brother was diagnosed as having it and seeing how he was compared to how Felix was pretty much the same.
As the story progresses we see more of Felix than just his ADHD. We see how kind and caring he is to those he loves and we eventually see him learn the confidence he needs to accomplish everything his grandfather has taught him throughout the entirety of the book.
Another thing I really loved about this book was the relationship between Felix and his grandfather and how it grew into this beautiful thing. At the start of the book I wasn’t sure of how this was going to happen but I soon became invested in their story. It was so heartwarming to read and it reminded me a lot of my grandfather, who is no longer here, we used to go out everytime a new Harry Potter book was released and buy it and read it. It’s such a precious relationship between grandparents and grandchildren and I’m pretty sure that was what had sold me on this book.
I wasn’t too sure on Jake as a character from the very start and I actually still am not sure about him after having closed the book. I know he is Felix’s best friend but at times it felt like he was bullying Felix into doing what he wanted to do and wouldn’t let Felix do what he wanted. He also pressured Felix into a couple of things, I won’t say what, but one of them really broke my heart because it fractured Felix and his grandfathers relationship for a while. I’m glad Felix had a friend like Rebecca who really supported him from the very beginning, not like Jake who only supported Felix when he became ‘famous’.
Overall this was a truly heartwarming story about trust, spending time with those that are important to you and having the confidence to learn something new.