Head of the River by Pip Harry
Head of the River is not simply a novel about sport. It is about so much more. It is ultimately about friendship, growing up, relationships, identity, insecurities and anxieties when you are becoming an adult and family bonds. Sport is the mechanism but it is not an “issues” book.
It is an interesting read, looking at the pressures placed on young people the world of elite school sport. Money and prestige play a big part in this rather insular world where winning seems all-consuming.
This novel tells the story of Cristian and Leni Posescu who are twins on rowing scholarships. There are high expectations that they will perform well, partly because their parents are both medal winning Olympians and partly because they must maintain high performances to stay at the school. The pressure to do well and win the Head of the River eights, in both boys and girls sections, place almost unbearable pressures on both them and others in their circle.
The narrative unfolds with the voices of Cristian and Leni in alternating chapters as they explain their struggles. Each is trying create a balance in their lives whilst finding a place for study, working out their relationships as well as keeping up with the rigorous training regime in preparation for the final race. Each finds out that not everything can be achieved the way they want it to.
At the end of the novel, the love they have within their family, and the support they give to each other, leaves the reader with a positive impression of life beyond school.
An interview with the author about this books can be found at http://www.kids-bookreview.com/2014/1…
There is a review here and here.
Teachers notes can be found here for encouraging further discussion.
This book raises some real-world issues that younger athletes may experience when they seek to excel in a sport. The boys are exposed to the use of anabolic steroids and performance enhancing drugs. The consequences of this use comes to light in a way that introduces some topical questions about sporting culture and the detection of drug cheats as well as the pressure placed on young athletes to perform at elite levels
Book trailer for the novel below.
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