It’s interesting that I had two books at the top of my reading stack about women and footy. One was Anna Krein’s Night Games and the other, The Whole of My World by Nicole Hayes. I picked up Hayes first, partly because I committed to reading some of the ARCs that I had been kindly given access to but also because I suspected the Krein would be confronting reading (and I wasn’t in the mood for that at the time).
It’s worth noting that although this book is aimed at the young-adult market, the issues that it covers are anything but light. Instead, expect characters dealing with grief; the difficulties of finding your place in a group (regardless of age); the lure of celebrity fame; and that tightrope between being a kid and an adult.
The Whole of My World is the story of Shelley, a teenage girl obsessed with Australian Rules football. Despite being robbed of the opportunity to play, Shelley lives and breathes footy, analysing every part of Glenthorn’s game, watching the replay with her dad, clipping newspaper articles about Glenthorn and going along to local games to watch her childhood friend, Josh, play.
At the beginning of the book, Shelley is starting at a new school, St. Mary’s Catholic Ladies College. It’s a ‘fresh start’ – from what, you don’t know. As the story unfolds, Shelley’s ‘secret’ is revealed along with her developing friendship with Tara, another ‘footy tragic’. A handful of sub-plots play out – her changing relationship with Josh, the nature of her friendship with one of Glenthorn’s star players and the importance of ‘finding your tribe’ for teenagers. The way that these sub-plots and themes are gently handled is the strength of this book and for young adult readers, there’s a lot of thought-provoking stuff that will stick with them long after they’ve finished reading.
Perhaps it’s because Night Games is jostling alongside this book on the ‘New Releases’ shelf at the bookshop, that I found Hayes’s exploration of the relationship between a young girl and a league football player the most interesting element of the story. You would have had to have been living under a rock in Melbourne over the past few years to have missed this very issue in the media and Hayes perfectly captures both the innocence and the intent of the characters, leaving the reader feeling very uneasy indeed as to what will happen.
I only had one quibble with The Whole of My World. It may be the footy-loving Melburnian in me, but I do wonder why Hayes decided to go with fictional place names and football teams rather than the real deal. It was made all the more perplexing when, in the acknowledgements, she mentions her love for the Hawks and remembers fondly hanging around Glenferrie Oval (below) in her youth. I can only assume that because of some of the plot lines, she didn’t want to associate anything fictional with a club but Hayes clearly knows her footy and I would have loved some detail that gave me a better sense of place and time.
3.5 /5 This book is the perfect springboard for so many discussions about issues that are real and current for teenagers.
I received my copy of The Whole of My World from the publisher, Random House Australia via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. I read The Whole of My World as part of the Clean Sweep ARC reading challenge.
Grab a Capricciosa to go with this book – pizza is not always just for birthdays and celebrations, as it was for Shelley.