“Rule number one of being a woman from Trinidad: be hella fierce,” (Kamal 5).
Trisha hates her father who comes and goes as he pleases living his life between his family in Trinidad and his one with Trisha and her mom in Toronto’s east-end. Trisha wishes he would stay in Trinidad though because when her father comes back so do the bruises on her mother’s body. Violence is a normal part in Trisha’s life and she tries to break the cycle by doing Muay Thai kickboxing, an unlikely sport for a slight girl of Trinidadian descent, but it works for her and helps her work through her home life. That is until one night when her father wanders out drunk in front of the car Trisha is driving, her mother in the passenger seat. Now that her father is dead the violence is gone, her mother strangely at peace things should be better but Trisha isn’t sure. She doesn’t know what exactly happened that night and she’s afraid for what comes next, because her mother has a new boyfriend and it looks like things are about to repeat themselves.
Let’s list some good things first: I like that this book was set in Toronto and is diverse, I’m always looking for more diverse Canadian literature and I’m glad that Fight Like a Girl exists and that more #OwnVoices books are being published. I really enjoyed Kamal’s writing style, it was different but I really felt like I got into Trisha’s head and really enjoyed her as a character.
While there were things I did enjoy about this book, there was more that I didn’t. Mostly I just felt like Fight Like A Girl was trying to do too much. The summary promises a book about generational violence and Trisha trying to stop that impulse, and in many ways it still is that story. But Kamal very early on mentions the women in her life being some sort of witches (this term is only used at the beginning and quickly abandoned) and then the idea of a soucoyant feeding off Trisha. It isn’t completely supernatural aside from some strange dreams that Trisha has but I just felt like there may have been a better way of bringing up this idea. Too often it felt like ideas and characters were brought in for some bigger purpose and then abandoned, which made it difficult to understand as a whole.
And strangely enough Kamal decides to switch to second person narration for one chapter near the end and from a style perspective I understand what she was trying to do but it just didn’t work and felt weird with the novel.
Sadly Fight Like A Girl wasn’t for me. I loved the ideas that Kamal was bringing up and for the most part enjoyed the writing but it just wasn’t a book that made me feel anything.
Publication: March 10th 2020
Publisher: Penguin Teen
Pages: 272 pages (Hardcover)
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Canadian, Young Adult
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤
“Love and violence. In some families they’re bound up together, dysfunctional and poisonous, passed from generation to generation like eye color or a quirk of smile. Trisha’s trying to break the chain, channeling her violent impulses into Muay Thai kickboxing, an unlikely sport for a slightly built girl of Trinidadian descent. Her father comes and goes as he pleases, his presence adding a layer of tension to Toronto’s east-end townhouse Trisha and her mom call home, every punch he lands on her mother carving itself indelibly into Trisha’s mind. Until the night he wanders out drunk in front of the car Trisha is driving, practicing on her learner’s permit, her mother in the passenger seat. Her father is killed, and her mother seems strangely at peace. Lighter, somehow. Trisha doesn’t know exactly what happened that night, but she’s afraid it’s going to happen again. Her mom has a new man in her life and the patterns, they are repeating.”