Book Review: The Whole of My World by Nicole Hayes

“Perseverance – It’s not a long battle. It’s many short battles, one after another, after another, after another… until they succumb.”

– Alistair Clarkson, Hawthorn Football Club

There is something indescribable about the MCG; there is a special kind of magic about it and every footy fan who arrives at the ground, breathes it in. The 2015 footy season started last Thursday night and rocking up to the MCG for the first game of the season was equally exciting and nerve-wracking. Richmond and Carlton have an age-old rivalry and their games have been a constant source of stress, anger, frustration, heartache and the occasional excitement and joy. For many people, footy is the heart and soul of every year. There are so many ups and downs but with the camaraderie between supporters and healthy competitive banter both on and off the field, there is nothing better! I absolutely love my footy and so I felt that this weekend was the perfect time to dive into The Whole of My World by Nicole Hayes and boy, was it great!

How beautiful is this cover?!

How beautiful is this cover?!

Shelley Brown is a 15-year-old girl completely in love with the Glenthorne Falcons. It is 1984 and Shelley is convinced it is the Falcons’ year to win the premiership flag. Between starting at a new school, tiptoeing around a grieving father and trying to leave her old life behind, Shelley has a huge year ahead of her. On her first day of school, she meets Tara Lester in the back row of class. Tara is running from her own demons and together they fall into the high-flying and intoxicating world of AFL football and club life. Shelley loves all aspects of the game and makes her presence known around the club. She finds her place within the cheer squad and even strikes up an unusual friendship with one of the players. As the season progresses, tension increases on and off the field and Shelley finds herself having to deal with the issues she had tried so hard to leave behind.

My favourite thing about this book is the fact it is about a GIRL who loves FOOTBALL! Every book about footy I have ever read has been from the perspective of males. Despite giving Shelley some excellent tools to deal with her overwhelming life, Hayes makes it very clear that she is still limited by her gender; a keen player as well, Shelley is no longer able to play with the boys because of her ‘soft’ and ‘womanly’ body. She is ashamed by her budding body and does her best to cover it up. She see’s her gender as a weakness because it holds her back from doing what she really wants to do and is the cause of her pain and grief. Hayes does a wonderful job of exploring the power of grief, the weight of secrets and lies and the importance of identity and friendship. Hayes acknowledges the power of escapism and how important a passion can be when dealing with adversity. For so many people, football (or any sport for that matter) is a way of leaving behind the stresses of life and focussing on a brighter light! On every page, Hayes’ passion shines through; I can almost imagine her 15-year-old self. The excitement and enthusiasm radiates from every word she writes! Game on!

The Whole of My World by Nicole Hayes is published by Random House Australia

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