The Boxer

The Boxer by Nikesh Shukla

Told over the course of the ten rounds of his first fight, this is the story of amateur boxer Sunny.

A seventeen year old feeling isolated and disconnected in the city he’s just moved to, Sunny joins a boxing club to learn to protect himself after a racist attack. He finds the community he’s been desperately seeking at the club, and a mentor in trainer Shobu, who helps him find his place in the world.

But racial tensions are rising in the city, and when a Far Right march through Bristol turns violent, Sunny is faced with losing his new best friend Keir to radicalisation.


34 Comments

Roma, year 9

22nd January 2021 at 12:00 pm

I have never before read a book where the main character experiences so much development and change. The Boxer kept you tied in throughout and I loved how it kept flicking back and forth between the boxing ring and Sunny’s everyday life. The link to the boxing ring also made the moral of the story, that resilience and standing up to prejudice, tie in neatly as the fight became a metaphor for Sunny’s life.
What is so crucial about this book is that everything we read is real and is happening and has been happening in our world for a long time, we just haven’t opened our eyes enough to see it. My favourite part of the book is when Sunny dropped Keir as a friend which was by far the right decision and massively contributed to his character growth as Sunny learnt to overcome his challenges and that other people’s opinions shouldn’t affect how he lives his life.

My only complaint was that this book was slow at points where pages were trying to be filled up and so the plot was slow to continue, but was worth it for the end outcome.
Overall, I would very much recommend this book to everyone around my age and even adults as it has very significant messages and brings to light the current situation.

Minnie, year 8

11th January 2021 at 3:33 pm

The Boxer was a very eye-opening book to read, it gives you an insight on what some people go through. I would definitely recommend it as it is also a very good story as well as an eye-opener. The only problem with this book is that you can’t stop reading it!

Anna, year 8

11th January 2021 at 3:32 pm

Before I read The Boxer, I wasn’t convinced I would enjoy it as I don’t like boxing and it dealt with a variety of issues including racism, but once I started reading it, I really enjoyed it. Sunny is a south-Asian boy who is forced to leave his friends and family in London and move to Bristol so his Dad can go into a hospice. All is going fine until one evening, waiting for a train, racists beat him up. A couple of weeks after the attack he takes a taxi to school and the driver tells him he should take up boxing. In the end Sunny does decide to go along to the gym. From then on, he discovers a passion for the sport and makes a new friend, Keir. Racial tensions start to rise between them, and their friendship is doomed. I would recommend this book for somebody who wants an exciting but challenging read as it concerns modern day reality for a young person and their family trying to make a new life in the UK.

Bertie, year 9

11th January 2021 at 3:32 pm

‘The Boxer’ is a compelling and heart wrenching story about a boy called Sunil who experiences a violent racial attack which leaves him with terrible self guilt, he then learns to defend himself. He struggles through finding out his friend has white-supremacist parents and what his place is in society.

Oliver, year 8

11th January 2021 at 3:31 pm

I enjoyed this book as I found the topics that Shukla tackled were very interesting and they also helped me understand what people have to go through. I also enjoyed watching Sunny change throughout the book and not give up no matter what challenge he faced. I would recommend this book to anyone above the age of twelve, as I think the topics that are talked about might be too mature for younger children, but I think that it would be a good read as it was very intriguing and it always left me wanting more. On the other hand I felt that at times the plot didn’t move on as quickly as I would’ve liked, and that is why I would rate this book an 8/10.

Matthew, Year 9

7th January 2021 at 3:07 pm

I recommend this book to people who are 14 or older because it gives a perspective into reality and it is an enjoyable book. I do not recommend this book to people under the age of 14 because they may not understand it enough to get what the writer is writing about.

Emily, year 8

7th January 2021 at 3:07 pm

I really liked The Boxer, I thought it was a really good book. I liked the racial aspect of this book compared to all the other ones I have read. It was eye dropping right from the start till the end and I loved to see how Sunny changes through the book as he becomes more comfortable with himself. I would recommend this book to anyone 12 and up because of how intriguing it is from page to page. I also learned that you should keep fighting if you really want something. I felt as a reader that not only the reader felt that they learnt something but the character did as well. I enjoyed the story of friendship and reading what people have to go through. Overall, I think this book really inspired me to think actually in reality what is going on about racism in this world.

Isaac, year 9

7th January 2021 at 2:59 pm

The boxer is a book about an 18-year-old South Asian boy who turns to boxing to learn how to defend himself and take up space rather than hide in the corners and not be noticed.

This book is very good at showing people what it is like to live in a racist society, and how easy it also is to be part of the hate. This is a book that should be read by all – just so that more people understand what it is like, so they can think about what is going on and to take action. Do not be the guy who thinks it is wrong but does nothing about it.

Sunny is easily likeable and very determined, allowing the reader be on his side and connect with him so we can understand him even better. In doing this Nikesh Shukla is opening the eyes of people like me who knew about racism but didn’t really know what it is like for people who have to suffer the consequences on a day-to-day basis.

The structure is very unique as at the start of a section, it talks about Sunny’s fight with Kier in the future and it shows how he uses what he has learnt in the previous section in the fight. I like this a lot.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who liked the film Rocky and anyone who like me was oblivious to what it is like to live when people are racist to you.

Hope, year 8

7th January 2021 at 2:58 pm

If I saw this book in a shop, I probably would not think of reading it just from its title. It sounds like quite a violent book which usually I would not mind but this is not just about violence. This boy wants to feel strong again after he gets attacked, he wants to find himself again and he goes to a boxing gym. Over time he eventually becomes more confident and makes more friends. All he wanted to do was blend in before but now he makes a stand and no longer gets angry when people call him racist words as he has learned that it is not worth it. I ended liking this book because it shows to people that if Sunny can come back from all that has happened to him than anyone can. My favourite character is Shobu as she encourages Sunny to be his best self and helps him to find confidence. In the end, Sunny proves to everyone that he will not stand everything that people say to him and walks away from the fight with Keir. And ends up breaking a friendship with him but continuing one with someone else. He is a brave character and that is one of the reasons I like this book.

Evie, Yr 8

7th January 2021 at 2:58 pm

The Boxer is a powerful book which opened my eyes more to the racism going on in the world right now. Sunny never felt as if his space was his own, so following a racist attack he decides to take up boxing. He soon falls in love with the sport and makes friends along the way, but not all friendships last. I felt like this book was a great example of how the environment you grow up in and the people around you could influence your choices a lot, as Kier slowly starts to become more like his racist dad and brother. But personally, I didn’t think this book really gripped me in. Some parts of it were boring and I felt like they dragged on for too long, but some parts made me want to finish the book in one sitting as I couldn’t wait to see what happened next! A lot of characters changed throughout the book, and their character development was exciting to see. The powerful meaning behind this book is what everyone needs to hear.

Chong Man, year 8

7th January 2021 at 2:57 pm

I had been looking forward to reading this book right after I finished my previous book. I had heard my friends talking about it, which interested me and is the reason why I chose The Boxer to read next. The Boxer like many other books has an obvious change on a character like Sunny but what makes Sunny stand out is that not only has his personality changed but his way of thinking, his confidence, his self-esteem, his bravery and most importantly his attitude to himself and everyone else, for example his attitude to his dad changed from hating him for not being there when he needed him and not wanting to see him to almost forgiving him and starting to include him in his life; like letting him come watch his match with Keir. My favourite character is Shobu because she was the one who influenced Sunny the most. My favourite part is when Sunny punched Keir and apologised but Shobu insisted that there was nothing wrong in punching him and he should not have said sorry for that reason or ever to it again in the future. My other favourite part is when the referee did not do his job correctly so Sunny just walked away and finally gathered the courage to do what he has been telling himself multiple times in the past few months.. Overall, I really liked The Boxer and would recommend it.

Darcey, Yr 8

7th January 2021 at 2:57 pm

I really liked the story of The Boxer. I think that Sunny was an amazing character and that the author did him justice. Even though I have not experienced racism personally, I felt that the way the book handled it and represented it was accurate and respectful. The book represents real problems of how a person can be influenced by others and changed and how some people in life have it harder than you. The way the character of Sunny developed was well shown and it made the book more interactive. The reference to the Black Lives Matter movements brings the whole book into context and it helps show how these problems, no matter how inhumane it makes some people look, still happen in real life. I loved the end part of the book where Sunny learns to just walk away and be happy with himself, as it shows that people can recover from traumatic experiences and how it shows that people can learn to love themselves and learn to control themselves. I really enjoyed seeing how different characters’ relationships developed and how Sunny learned that sometimes you just have to let some people go and how he learned to prioritise the people who have always been there for him. The only criticism I have is that I found the way that the final fight happened throughout the book, slightly confusing at first and then as I realised what was happening I felt it was intruding on some parts of the book. However I still really enjoyed reading The Boxer. The book handled all its subjects with respect and caution, yet it didn’t leave details out. It showed you what some people go through and shows you a good way of dealing with problems if you ever experience them.

I think this book would be a 12+ because of the sensitive subjects that it involves. Whilst they were handled well, I think that they might still be too graphic for younger people. Overall, I would definitely recommend this book as I really enjoyed reading it.

Isabella year 8

9th December 2020 at 7:11 pm

The Boxer was a book with a strong message that needs to be heard by many people, but personally so far it was my least favourite. It seemed to go for a long time in some parts without something exciting happening. I didn’t feel like I was caught in it. The story was about a young black teenager who got beaten up in the subway because he didn’t give a gang of white people a bite of his samosa. His name was Sunny and he decided to take on boxing. Boxing seemed to Sunny as just a sport for hitting people to defend himself, but sooner or later he realises that it’s about taking up space and learning to fight and not backing down. “Boxing teaches you to fight whether it’s in the ring, in life or in yourself”.

Sunny changed throughout the story. He changed from curling up into a ball to taking on a challenge and learning to take up space.

This is a very important story that should be shared. But it wasn’t the style of writing I like to read.

Shimmy, year 8

9th December 2020 at 7:10 pm

The Boxer was a very touching book that gave me and I’m sure many others a reality check about the world we live in today. It’s sad but it’s true. However despite all of this, this book also showed how far you can get and the things you can accomplish if you believe in yourself and you take the negative actions that were done against you as a drive to be something. This book really hit home.

Sunny was a very fitting character for this type of book. His family was falling apart, things weren’t going too well but when Sunny decided to do something about it he began to thrive. When he joined the boxing club, he began to notice little changes in the way he was in public, one of those things was his confidence. As we know confidence is a very key thing in life. Especially for the position Sunny was in as a British-Indian if he is seen as a person who is vulnerable then he is most likely to have something happen to him like what happened in the book when he got attacked on his way home.

Overall I feel this book did its job. It opened up people’s eyes to the real world… the bigger picture.

Georgia, yr 8

9th December 2020 at 7:10 pm

The Boxer was a really powerful book. It highlighted the real problem of racism that occurs all around us, and especially some of the more powerful language used. It puts you in the shoes of a normal boy, just trying to live his life in a brand new city, and how he struggles every day against prejudice and discrimination. It makes you empathise with the hate different cultures feel, the horrors they experience, and how they are put down by society. I would recommend this for anyone who wants to understand how others feel, as long as you feel comfortable with some strong language. It’s incredible!

Amelia, year 8

9th December 2020 at 7:06 pm

My thoughts on The Boxer is that it is a really great book and one of my favourite books I have ever read because it was full of truth and what is actually real. I also thought that it put across a great point about how people shouldn’t be judged for the colour of their skin or their religion. I found that the book made you want to pick sides on who you think is right and wrong Keir or Sunny. In the end of the book even though Keir and Sunny were not friends it seemed like the right decision and Keir said that he wasn’t like his family but he was still mean to Sunny even though Sunny let him stay at his house even after he called him racist names. I would say that I think that The Boxer should be aimed at 12 to 14 years old as I thought there were quite a few rude parts in the book and I don’t think younger people would really understand it. I liked the structure of the book that some chapters were in the future about when he competes in a sparring match against Keir. Overall, I think that my favourite bit was when Sunny started boxing and the more he did it how much better he got the more he practised and how confident he got.

Neriah, year 8

9th December 2020 at 7:05 pm

The Boxer was a book which helped me realise the severity of racism and how bad it still is. I didn’t really understand the discriminatory problems our generation is facing. It is so much better than is used to be but still not good enough. The Boxer was a touching story about what is happening in everyday life to people who want nothing more than to mind their own business and live their life; not worrying that they could be picked on, beaten up or called confidence damaging names because of their race, ethnicity or beliefs. This book was an educating eye-opener which really helped me (and will hopefully help others) to know what to do if you are a victim or even a witness of racism and that it is not right. I will be reading more of Nikesh Shukla’s books.

Oscar, year 8

9th December 2020 at 7:04 pm

Being a keen sportsperson myself, I loved that Sunny was very enthusiastic about doing boxing and trying to become a better overall sportsperson. I also liked the fact that I learnt a bit about boxing and how it works. Shukla showed how boxing helped Sunny with his problems with racism and loneliness.

However I thought that Sunny’s relationship with Keir was quite underdeveloped because it did not give a good picture of what Keir’s personality was like and why Sunny wanted to help him. I think that it would probably make the book a lot better if this was included because it would improve the story line and create more interest in the book.

The book had a structure of a narrative device told through the course of the ten rounds of a fight between Sunny and Keir. I think this fits in efficiently with the story because it syncs well throughout the whole of the book. Also, it shows the build-up of Shobu’s relationship with Sunny and how Keir’s relationship ended up with Sunny. I liked the end of the book because it shows that instead of fighting for your defence you should walk away from the situation.

Overall, I think that it was a great book to read because it shows that courage and determination, along with knowing when to fight and when you need to walk away from the situation, are important life lessons for young adults. I would rate this book a 4.5 stars out of 5 and would recommend it to people from 12-18.

Poppy, year 8

3rd December 2020 at 12:42 pm

I loved this book! It is a great book that teaches people about what some people may be going through in society experiencing racism.

At the start of the book, Sunny gets attacked by some drunken white people. He is unable to defend himself, which leads him to take up boxing. Throughout the book he uses boxing to help him get stronger and fight back. He has a great coach called Shobu who has gone through similar experiences. Sunny found it hard to settle in at college with the stress of his dad being in hospital. He feels like he doesn’t belong in Bristol. To improve this book, I believe maybe a more interesting subplot could have occurred to make it even more tense.

Overall, I give this book 3.5 stars and would recommend this to readers who are looking to find out more on experiences about racism or who just love thrilling uplifting books!

Connie, year 9

3rd December 2020 at 12:41 pm

In the book The Boxer, Sunny is from a British Indian family and is living with his mum because his dad is in hospital. One day on his way home he is attacked by a group of men because he refused to give up a samosa. The men violently beat him up and throw him to the floor and injure him so badly that he has to go to hospital and has been knocked out. This book has the potential to make everyone who reads it more aware of one) racism and two) what people go through and how some things can help. I really enjoyed The Boxer and I think the author has put the reader into Sunny’s shoes. I thought this book was great and made me want to keep reading!

Oscar, year 9

3rd December 2020 at 12:41 pm

This book is about an amateur boxer who’s a 17 year old boy that has joined a boxing club in the city, to fight against racist attacks. At this club he feels like he’s in a community that feels like a family, his coach/mentor Shobu really makes him feel comfortable there. But racist tensions are rising when a march in Bristol turns violent, he loses his friend, Keir. This is a clear example of racial injustice that should never happen. This book is gripping and really puts yourself into someone else’s situation (if you haven’t felt much racial injustice) where you’re treated differently and attacked, purely because of the colour of your skin.

This is a truly inspiring book to people who might feel that you can’t overcome hard challenges in life. I really feel this book will open people’s eyes on racism, and make people address this as a big issue in our society. This is an extremely influential book that can inspire many people. So I’ll probably give it a strong 9/10

Ella, year 9

3rd December 2020 at 12:40 pm

It started with an eye-catching amount of action. That was what drew me in. The concept of the story was very inspiring, and it shed a light on world issues, that’s what I liked. Also the book wasn’t solely about racism as it told a story about development in the main character, Sunny, and how he deals with the racism he encountered and how he made sure that no one would insult or invade his space that he owned, now with pride. He also takes in the philosophy of boxing, like when he finally realizes there is a time for fighting and a time for not. I think he is an amazing role model as he faces all his obstacles and overcomes them very well and maturely and makes the right decision in the end. Like for example, when he decides to drop Keir as a friend because of his ideals, to be blunt I’m also glad he did it because Kier was a horrible person. He has his own self responsibility and should know better than his family, especially when his brother hits him. I think the reason he went into boxing was for anger, and although Sunny may have been angry at the time as well when he started, he realized that was not the reason he wanted to box. I think Keir is just blind with anger and still is all the way through the book. The only thing I will say about the book is that it could be a bit slow in the filler chapters, so sometimes it felt tedious, but it was worth it for the story.

Olivia, year 8

26th November 2020 at 7:14 pm

I thought The Boxer was an exciting book though I did have mixed emotions for it. At the start of the book, Sunny gets attacked and becomes shy around people and things but as the book goes on he gets stronger and stronger. Shobu his boxer trainer pushes him hard as his abilities grow. This was an amazing adventure book it drastically changed from Sunny being the shy person to the end where he grew strong and fierce through his boxing. When I read about Sunny’s dad in hospital it made me read on more as Sunny kept talking about how he wasn’t a good father to him. Overall, I would rate The Boxer 4 and a half stars due to all the interesting events that kept me reading.

Georgia, year 9

26th November 2020 at 7:13 pm

The story of ‘The Boxer’ is told over ten rounds of a boxing match between main protagonist ‘brown’ Sunny and his ‘white’ training partner. After being beaten up in an unprovoked racist attack Sunny is using boxing to find the confidence to own his own space and to defend himself. As something of a loner he has led a restricted life with a terminally ill father he thinks has let him down, and a loving but distant mother who always seems to be working to support the family. I enjoyed The Boxer, however I think that it was a little dragged on. I read this book fairly quickly, and I would recommend it to children around our age. Overall a fairly good read.

Josh, Year 9

26th November 2020 at 6:34 pm

The Boxer is an uplifting and inspiring book that combats real life issues that many kids in England unfortunately have to face every day. This book had a massive impact on my view of what current school kids have to face every day even in a country like the UK. Although this book is fiction it is a very real reality for a lot of people in the UK and this book sheds light on this issue that is overlooked, especially in a liberal area like West Sussex. I really enjoy this genre of books and it is very good to know people who write like this.

Jacob, year 9

26th November 2020 at 6:34 pm

The Boxer for me was a great book which used the element of a problem which the world is currently facing, racism. The book combines the element of sport, done for pleasure with the element of racism, a huge problem in the world. Nikesh Shukla combines the two in a great way which makes the reader have pleasure whilst reading. He combines the 2 elements really well with the element of fighting to protect yourself, then learns to box.

Ralph year 9

26th November 2020 at 6:26 pm

In this book, Sunny is from a British Indian family and is living with his mum because his dad is in hospital. One day he is sitting by the train station and someone asks for his samosa and he refuses, they violently beat him up, throw him to the floor and injure him severely leaving him bed-bound for days. When he recovers and is taking a taxi, him and his taxi driver become good friends and it is clear to him that Sunny is injured so he recommends boxing. Sunny takes up boxing and loves it, he meets Keir who is also a boxer and they become great friends. Keir’s family are quite racist and disrespectful which slowly drives Sunny and Keir apart. Racial tension is rising in Bristol and when a far right march gets violent Sunny is faced with losing his best friend through radicalization.

Leila

19th November 2020 at 4:46 pm

This book the boxer was a very motivational and positive book. The book consisted of people getting back on their feet after being knocked down, as well as addressing important matters such as Racism. The book has really had an effect on me as a reader because the author was able to write the book with a fun story to it but also make sure the reader understands the messages he’s trying to get across. He has done this by making the main character feel or show all these emotions or problems that a lot of people have but won’t acknowledge. My favourite quote in the book is ” I’m no longer afraid.”

This quote really stuck out to me at the end of the book because it really shows that if you want something and you don’t give up, in the end it will happen. Whatever happens to you in life that makes you want to give up or set you back you have to keep on going. That is why I found this book quite good.

Alex, year 9

18th November 2020 at 9:50 am

The Boxer:

Review by Alex in Y9:

I enjoyed the book The Boxer by Nikesh Shukla as I like reading books set in the present that are believable or are a big issue today (Black lives matter), so this was a suitable book for me. I also enjoyed how it told the story of the boxing match along with the story of Sunny’s life. I would recommend this book to teens who enjoy realistic books.

Florence, Ardingly

13th November 2020 at 3:28 pm

The Boxer is a very relevant book as it shows the tragic story of what sadly some people must live with every day, racism. It is a story of a friendship between two people who find their love for boxing, but it does not end as happy as it starts. Sunny meets lots of people who help him in his journey through recovery because of what happened at the station. I very much recommend this book to people who like to know how some people have to live on a daily basis.

Finlay, Ardingly

13th November 2020 at 3:27 pm

Told over the course of the first ten rounds of his first fight, the book follows the story of seventeen-year-old Sunny. In the book he is forced to move to Bristol, a soon to be dangerous area, as his dad needs to be in a hospice there. When he is coming back from school one day he gets beaten up by racists. He therefore joins a boxing club/ gym to help his self- defence. Feeling isolated after the attack he finds a friend at the gym called Keir. Over time their friendship grows, but then it turns. As racial tensions flare in the city Sunny realises Keir’s family is involved. He must stand strong and keep boxing to keep himself from losing everything. I really liked this book because it is a much-needed voice in these BLM times. I also liked it because it had you hooked on every page, the story was tense and hard–hitting at times but that is what made it so exciting. My favourite character was Sunny because he had to stand strong and beat lots of doubts to find his true friends. I would recommend this book to people aged 11 and above as it can get a bit hard – hitting and tense

Barney, Ardingly

13th November 2020 at 8:52 am

I thought that The Boxer was amazing, I haven’t always been a huge fan of reading but when I read The Boxer it changed my whole opinion on reading. The book itself is so addictive, there are always surprises left right and centre. An example of this would be when Sunny (main character) is sparring
against Kier and someone in the crowd shouts something very racist and it changed the whole mood. I really liked how the story was in two different perspectives, one is him recovering after being beaten up and becoming more confident, the other side of the book was him boxing against Kier (his best friend). Another thing that I liked is that Sunny is always reflecting and blaming himself over the course of the book. I also liked that Sunny grows stronger and learns how to stand out for himself, at the start of the book he says after his attack `I couldn’t take the train, I knew that. The thought made my lungs feel like they were filled with hot air` this shows that he was scared and timid.

Emma G, Ardingly

6th November 2020 at 10:35 am

The Boxer was a very exciting, thrilling book that made me realise how severe and how far racism can go. It was a very empowering book of a boy who stood up to racism. I found it really interesting when at the beginning of every chapter there was a little cut scene from the end fight and it made me want to read to the end and found out who wins and what happens. The book also made me feel sorry for Sunny as his dad is in a hospice and he has to leave everything he ever knew in London. I would recommend this book to people who like books that have a bit of tension and someone overcoming a fear.

Megan, Mayfield School

24th October 2020 at 5:20 pm

The Boxer

This book has a very strong message throughout the whole story. There are lots of controversial characters who clash together. If I could sum this book up in three words, I would say: powerful, relevant and bold

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