The Ring by Bobbie Pyron 2009
IQ "Argue for your limitations and sure enough they're yours." Poster in boxing ring, pg. 193
Mardie is starting to develop a record, she's been at a party with drinking involved that was crashed by the police and she shoplifts. Her father and step mom don't trust her, and all they seem to care about is Mardie's perfect older brother, Michael. But Michael is hiding a big secret. Also, Mardie wants to know more about her mother, but all her dad will tell her is that they are both screw-ups. What is he hiding? Her "boyfriend" Ben, is only interested in one thing, but he keeps Mardie popular and entertained. Then Mardie discovers boxing. She can let all her anger out and oddly enough these girls seem to accept her. Now all she needs to learn is control, how to use a strategy and think before she fights.
I really liked how The Ring emphasizes that boxing is not all about brawn, it's brains over brawn. Sure you have to work hard physically, but you also need to be quick witted. It also really hones in on the point that fighting should be a last resort. Readers will get a glimpse into the world of amateur female boxing, it's not scrutinized but you learn the gist of the rules and what it takes to be a boxer. I admire all female boxers because it takes a lot of work and they don't just beat each other down, they are awarded points based on finesse.
Mardie's story takes place in a small town world in Colorado. The people are often closed minded and everyone's business spreads around fast. Mardie herself is prejudiced without even realizing it, she's scared of the Latino students at her school. I liked that since all people have prejudices whether they know it or not and it makes Mardie a more realistic character. She's also angry and hurt and she needs to learn to open up and let it all out and let it go. All the characters were realistic, although some could be a bit one dimensional. We don't learn much about Kitty, Mardie's trainer, but the few things we do learn are interesting (middle class girl joins the Air Force then becomes a boxer) and I think her story could be a great prequel. Mardie's boyfriend, Ben is a jerk. He's very popular but he only wants Mardie to sleep with him and of course things don't go well when she doesn't want to put out right away. She still pines after him though because she misses going to parties with him and he was cute and lots of fun to be around. In the end we think he may be improving, but it's left open. Mardie's best friend, Alexis doesn't seem like that great of a friend and I think Mardie is a bit too forgiving of her actions. I really liked Mardie's new friends that she met at the boxing ring, Destiny and Shireen. They each taught her lessons in their own way, lessons that Mardie may not have been open to at first, but she needs them later on. I do think part of Michael's secret was obvious, but that's just me.
I applaud the author for highlighting the often ignored world of female boxing. The plot isn't that fast moving, but it's not totally predictable either. The romance is predictable, but some of Mardie's other choices, both good and bad are not so predictable and keep the reader interested.
High school and up.
Disclosure: Received from the author. Thanks Bobbie!