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The Knockout Queen


Finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, Book of the Month Selection, People Magazine Book of the Week, an InStyle Best Book of 2020, a Kirkus Fiction Writer to Discover in 2020 an Entertainment Weekly, Parade, and LitHub Most Anticipated Book of 2020


"[An] electric portrait of adolescence."




"The Knockout Queen [is] 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."

—Hillary Kelly, Los Angeles Times

"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. A-"

—Entertainment Weekly

"One of the most piercing, accurate portrayals of what it means to be a teenager, and figuring out who you are in the world that I've ever come across... Thorpe's ability to capture the ways in which we manifest psychic pain in physical ways is uncanny, and the end result is a coming-of-age novel that is unsettling and resonant in all the most important ways."

—Kristen Iversen, Refinery 29

"This is my favorite book of the year so far.”

—Book of the Month Club, Siobhan Jones

"Thorpe’s story immediately enfolds the reader, moving them swiftly forward, swept up in the current. Nothing in this story is as black and white as we may be led to believe life is, or should be. Thorpe explores the humanity of each and every character on the page. 9/10"

—Nerd Daily

"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... 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."

—BookPage, starred

"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 fierce third novel observes the development of and challenges to an intense friendship between two outcasts at a Southern California high school… Deeply realized and complex. The result cannily dissects the power and limits of adolescent friendship.”

—Publishers Weekly

"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."

—Kirkus, starred

"A knockout of a novel... beautiful, sad, hopeful, and fully engaging."

—El Segundo Scene

“I loved The Knockout Queen. A blistering, brilliant look at friendship and violence, suburbia and class, all told by one of the most observant, engaging narrators I’ve read in a very long time. This book is going to stay with me.”

—Grant Ginder, author of Honestly, We Meant Well and The People We Hate at the Wedding 

“Rufi Thorpe writes with a savage, clear-eyed calm that is frighteningly good. The Knockout Queen unsettled me in the most delicious way with its complex and satisfying relationships and meditation on violence, beauty, and privilege. Read it!!”
—Jade Chang, author of The Wangs vs. the World

“Is it cheesy to say The Knockout Queen knocked me off my feet? I couldn’t put it down, and when I had to, I did so only reluctantly, shakily. With unrelenting humor and terrifying intelligence, Rufi Thorpe tells the story of an unlikely high school friendship—the kind of friendship from which you never recover—with intensity and attentiveness. This captivating, generous book is a moving examination on human motivation, darkness, and love—calling attention to the ways we can be deeply different, and yet so much the same.”
—Rachel Khong, author of Goodbye, Vitamin

"Fearless, tender, and savagely alive, The Knockout Queen is unlike anything you'll read this year. Rufi Thorpe's third novel is about unruly thoughts and unruly bodies, about violence and love, about doing the wrong thing for the right reasons and the drag of human being. You won't be able to look away. You might even recognize yourself.”
—Chloe Benjamin, best-selling author of The Immortalists

“The Knockout Queen is an intense, unflinching examination of friendship, the threads that connect us in such strange ways. Rufi Thorpe navigates this difficult terrain thanks to a masterful use of detail and a wonderfully dark sense of humor that lands at just the right moment. Michael and Bunny are two of the most unique characters I've ever met, drawn with such precision that it's impossible to leave them behind. This is a hypnotic, beautiful novel, and Rufi Thorpe is an unbelievably unique talent.”
—Kevin Wilson, best-selling author of Nothing to See Here

“The Knockout Queen is the best book I've read in months! Its one-of-a-kind narrator is funny, vulnerable, brilliant, and brimming with longing, and the story he tells distills the pain and beauty of a life-changing friendship like nothing else I've read before. This book's got guts and heart, and wisdom for days, and I could not put it down. Rufi Thorpe is one of the most exciting novelists working today. This novel is truly exceptional. I loved it.”
—Edan Lepucki, best-selling author of California and Woman No. 17
"Brilliantly constructed and beautifully told, threaded with heartbreak, honesty and hope, The Knockout Queen is a sublime coming of age story and Rufi Thorpe is a national treasure."
—Cynthia Sweeney, best-selling author of The Nest

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