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Check & Mate by Ali Hazelwood
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Check & Mate (edition 2023)

by Ali Hazelwood (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2418107,103 (4.07)4
Romance. Humor (Fiction.) Young Adult Fiction. Young Adult Literature. HTML:In this clever and swoonworthy YA debut from the New York Times bestselling author of The Love Hypothesis, lifes moving pieces bring rival chess players together in a match for the heart.
Mallory Greenleaf is done with chess. Every move counts nowadays; after the sport led to the destruction of her family four years earlier, Mallorys focus is on her mom, her sisters, and the dead-end job that keeps the lights on. That is, until she begrudgingly agrees to play in one last charity tournament and inadvertently wipes the board with notorious Kingkiller Nolan Sawyer: current world champion and reigning Bad Boy of chess.
Nolans loss to an unknown rook-ie shocks everyone. Whats even more confusing? His desire to cross pawns again. What kind of gambit is Nolan playing? The smart move would be to walk away. Resign. Game over. But Mallorys victory opens the door to sorely needed cash-prizes and despite everything, she cant help feeling drawn to the enigmatic strategist....
As she rockets up the ranks, Mallory struggles to keep her family safely separated from the game that wrecked it in the first place. And as her love for the sport she so desperately wanted to hate begins to rekindle, Mallory quickly realizes that the games arent only on the board, the spotlight is brighter than she imagined, and the competition can be fierce (-ly attractive. And intelligentand infuriating.)
… (more)
Member:sdbookhound
Title:Check & Mate
Authors:Ali Hazelwood (Author)
Info:G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers (2023), 362 pages
Collections:Read in 2023, Your library
Rating:****
Tags:softcover

Work Information

Check & Mate by Ali Hazelwood

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Check & Mate

I Picked Up This Book Because: I’ve enjoyed the author's previous works.

Media Type: Audiobook
Source: R Public Library
Dates Read: 11/15/23 - 11/17/23
Stars: 4
Narrator(s): Karissa Vacker

The Characters:

Mallory Greenleaf
Nolan Sawyer


The Story:

I loved this so much more than I thought I would. I am skittish about YA audiobooks. The narrators often sound too young for me to be comfortable with. Ms. Hazelwood and Ms. Vackar blew me away with this one. I loved exploring the world of chess which I know very little about with Mallory and Nolan. I also felt a strong love/hate for Mallory’s sisters. I know they are clueless adolescents but my goodness I wanted to kick them.

The Random Thoughts: ( )
  bookjunkie57 | Nov 21, 2023 |
Check & Mate by Ali Hazelwood is advertised as a young adult book, but in my opinion, it reads more as New Adult due to the age of the characters and some mature themes.

I enjoyed this book a lot. I know nothing about chess, but the book was so well written that I was truly invested in the competitions and rivalries. Mallory is a complex character with a lot of internal turmoil that she needs to work through. She loved chess but felt like she couldn't let herself love it just for her due to her father's faults. She grows so much by the end of the book, and I felt like her journey was written authentically and with care. I loved Nolan's character. He was so sweet to Mallory and her sisters even before he knew her well. I loved that he was not afraid to build her up even if it made him look less strong. Ali Hazelwood is known for women in STEM romances that show the inequalities women face in a male dominated fields. This was also a theme in this book with the competitive chess world being dominated more by men.

I recommend this book to the new adult romance reader and look forward to what Hazelwood comes up with next. ( )
  sdbookhound | Nov 20, 2023 |
I loved this! Who knew that the world of chess could be so exciting?! It definitely did not seem exciting when I sat at tournaments all day when my daughter was on the chess team. Sorry, kiddo. I actually found myself drawn to the part of the book that talked directly about the world of chess and the stress of the game. Ali Hazelwood has done a fantastic job with her YA Debut!

I liked Mallory and Nolan a lot and thought that they were great together but I really felt like this was Mallory’s story more than anything. She has incredible talent but gave up chess and feels like it is her responsibility to take care of her family. When she gets pulled back into the chess world, she promises herself to look at it as only a job. Nolan and Mallory had a whole lot in common and I loved watching them grow closer over the course of the story.

I listened to the audiobook and thought that Karissa Vacker did an amazing job with the story. I loved how much emotion was was able to add to her voice which really pulled me into the story. This narrator is quickly becoming a favorite of mine and this book is a perfect example of her work. I am certain that her performance only added to my enjoyment of this book.

I would recommend this book to others. I thought that this was a wonderful romance featuring characters that were easy to like. Mallory and Nolan had both been though a lot and I had a great time watching them find happiness with each other.

I received a review copy of this book from G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers and Penguin Random House Audio. ( )
  Carolesrandomlife | Nov 13, 2023 |
2.7 stars

I received this book for free, this does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review

“I don't think you understand.” He holds my eyes. I think his throat moves. “I want to play chess with you, Mallory.”

Told all from Mallory's point-of-view, Check & Mate is the story of a girl who's father took advantage of her amazing chess skills, left her and her family wrecked, then a chance comes back up for Mallory to fulfill her dreams, and little bit of falling in love along the way. After getting a glimpse of Mallory following along to who Nolan “Kingkiller” Sawyer is, a young “bad boy” dominating the chess world, the story jumps two years to Mallory being eighteen and Nolan twenty. When her bestfriend Easton begs her to join her team in a charity chess tournament, Mallory ends up winning it all when she beats the number one player in the world, Nolan. Nolan seems fascinated with her but she runs out before anyone can talk to her. Mallory doesn't want to give chess another chance to ruin her life again but when a woman who runs a chess training club offers to give her a paid fellowship for a year, Mallory can't turn down the money.

There is a beautiful, indecipherable half smile on his lips. “You think I don't want you to know me?”

This story was a lot of Mallory trying to reconcile, deal with, and heal from her family drama. She's always loved chess and with a father who was a grand master, he always encouraged and pushed but her mother didn't want her in ranked tournaments until she was sixteen. Readers get that Mallory blames herself for something that broke her family up, before her dad died he had left the family, but the reason doesn't get revealed until the later second half. It's a lot of Mallory putting the world on her shoulders, her mother suffers from chronic rheumatoid arthritis so she skips going to college to work and pay for the mortgage and help take care of her younger teen sisters. There are times in the middle where it's a bit martyr syndrome but that does get addressed towards the end.

“Touch-take rule,” he murmurs. He stands, too. Every step back I take is one forward for him.
“I---What?”
“You touched me. Can't stop now. Touch-take rule.”


While Mallory is stressing about her family, money, and trying to not fall back into loving chess as much as she did before, the chess champ of the world Nolan is hanging around on the sides. It takes a while for these two to really share page time and even though we don't get any of his pov, it's pretty obvious to readers that Nolan likes, has feelings for Mallory. I personally find it somewhat off-putting when the female main character actually, literally fears the main male character, a little a' la The Hating Game. Nolan grew-up in the chess world and when he younger, adolescent to teens, he threw tantrums and sometimes got a bit physical when he lost or got angry, it's stressed he hasn't acted out like that in years but he still has the “bad boy” of chess moniker because of it. Since we don't get his pov, we don't truly know what he is thinking and all we have are Mallory's thoughts and she worries that he is or could get really angry with her (she does fear physically) and while you could say it's in a romantic comedy tone of “I could kill them!” thought, it didn't read it that way, to me. I “know” as the reader this isn't the type of genre to have Nolan be truly “bad” but Mallory doesn't and I therefore can't feel the tingly anticipation of romance feelings I'm supposed to, with her literally fearing him. As always though, The Hating Game was extremely popular, your mileage may vary with this kind of beginning tone.

“I hope,” I say, serious, “that you're going to like this as much as chess.”
“I think,” he tells me with a small smile, “that I already do.”


There was a good amount of chess talk in this, which definitely added to the setting and as even someone who watched Netflix's The Queen's Gambit, there was some new and cool things to read about. There's some drama with Mallory and the players she goes against, delivering some suspense and the thriller aspect of delivering on an ultimate goal ending of her and Nolan meeting up to play in the World Championships (Mallory won't play him for fun). The author devotes a good amount of time to addressing sexism in the chess world, Mallory's experience, some side characters that give their own high and low stories, and then the importance of seeing yourself in spaces that do their best to keep you out.

My eyes begin to tear up, but I'm not sad. For the first time in a long, long while, I'm a million things, and sad is not any of them.

The ending has a third act breakup with Mallory feeling some betrayal and then working through her issues with herself, friends and family, and Nolan but then ends abruptly when it gets the game we all were waiting for. The epilogue then comes in with a news article that answers any and all questions. This was more about Mallory's journey to me but did have romance (with a fade to black door slam scene). If you're a chess player who also likes New Adult fiction with some romance and want to read a story about a girl who realizes that she doesn't have to carry the world on her shoulders, this is one definitely in your lane. ( )
  WhiskeyintheJar | Oct 29, 2023 |
Rom com perfection

This is the first book I've read by this author and it will not be the last! I loved everything about this YA novel and couldn't wait to get back to it every evening.

The voice was authentic young adult--Mallory's point of view immediately connected me and pulled me in, making me love her more with each page. Her family is composed of strong, intelligent, independent women and I cheered for them as they faced much drama.

I enjoyed Mallory and Nolan as enemies to lovers characters; their chemistry is amazing and very swoon-worthy. Their banter and sarcasm is some of the best I've ever encountered.

I laughed out loud so often while reading, but I also felt more emotions--anger, frustration, disappointment, and despair--as I journeyed with these three dimensional characters as they tried to figure out their own emotions and desires for their lives.

I will be recommending this book to everyone who reads young adult, rom coms, friendship stories, and readers who seek deeper themed stories with lots of humor. ( )
  DanielleHammelef | Sep 17, 2023 |
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Romance. Humor (Fiction.) Young Adult Fiction. Young Adult Literature. HTML:In this clever and swoonworthy YA debut from the New York Times bestselling author of The Love Hypothesis, lifes moving pieces bring rival chess players together in a match for the heart.
Mallory Greenleaf is done with chess. Every move counts nowadays; after the sport led to the destruction of her family four years earlier, Mallorys focus is on her mom, her sisters, and the dead-end job that keeps the lights on. That is, until she begrudgingly agrees to play in one last charity tournament and inadvertently wipes the board with notorious Kingkiller Nolan Sawyer: current world champion and reigning Bad Boy of chess.
Nolans loss to an unknown rook-ie shocks everyone. Whats even more confusing? His desire to cross pawns again. What kind of gambit is Nolan playing? The smart move would be to walk away. Resign. Game over. But Mallorys victory opens the door to sorely needed cash-prizes and despite everything, she cant help feeling drawn to the enigmatic strategist....
As she rockets up the ranks, Mallory struggles to keep her family safely separated from the game that wrecked it in the first place. And as her love for the sport she so desperately wanted to hate begins to rekindle, Mallory quickly realizes that the games arent only on the board, the spotlight is brighter than she imagined, and the competition can be fierce (-ly attractive. And intelligentand infuriating.)

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