Published: April 20th, 2017
Synopsis: A funny, feminist teen story about knowing when to train . . . and when to fight.
Fleur Waters never takes anything seriously – until she turns up at her local boxing club one day, just to prove a point. She’s the only girl there, and the warm-up alone is exhausting . . . but the workout gives her an escape from home and school, and when she lands her first uppercut on a punching bag she feels a rare glow of satisfaction.
So she goes back the next week, determined to improve. Fleur’s overprotective mum can’t abide the idea of her entering a boxing ring, why won’t she join her pilates class instead? Her friends don’t get it either and even her boyfriend, ‘Prince’ George, seems concerned by her growing muscles and appetite – but it’s Fleur’s body, Fleur’s life, so she digs her heels in and carries on with her training.
Diversity: the boxing club has diverse people as background cast – race wise and economic background – and Tarik is confirmed to be Syrian in dialogue.
Warnings: Infant death, mentioned briefly and in a little detail.
I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Girls Can’t Hit is a funny, thoroughly entertaining children’s book blending boxing and feminism and the idea of what every girl is capable of.
I read this book in one day. I literally couldn’t put it down. Tom Easton has a great author’s voice that embodies that of his characters is incredible. At times, it was easy to forget that this was written by an adult male and not a girl in her first year of A Levels. He manages to keep everything light and breezy, even when speaking about some serious and emotional subjects that arise across the piece. He never loses the fun side in his story.
Fleur Waters as the main character is someone you most likely will relate to. In a way, she is all of us. Young and plays it safe but wants to do more; still trying to find herself; dealing with the stresses of school and home life; boyfriends and growing up. She joins the boxing club because she’s stubborn and doesn’t like being told that she shouldn’t do something. She stays because she finds acceptance and strength and genuine enjoyment.
And it’s hard for her. One thing I really did enjoy was that Easton put a lot of emphasis on the effort that Fleur has to put in to get as good as she becomes. She has to exercise every day and change how she eats. She doesn’t just click her fingers and succeed, and this progress of growth – struggling to start with and how practise makes perfect – is a brilliant message for everyone who reads this book, especially for young girls who might find themselves giving up if things start to get too difficult. I know I would – boxing is a tough sport to get into, requires so much commitment and change to your life, but Fleur almost makes you want to emulate her as much as possible. You want to experience her journey for yourself.
I know I would – boxing is a tough sport to get into, requires so much commitment and change to your life, but Fleur almost makes you want to emulate her as much as possible. You want to experience her journey for yourself.
There is also a discussion of what it means to be feminist. You have Blossom, Fleur’s best friend, is overt and confrontational in her want to make a chance. Although she’s never used as the butt of a joke, her contradictions when it comes to boxing is commented on and in this, she represents all claimed feminists with hypocritical beliefs – “Women can do whatever they want – except for boxing because it’s a sport that encourages male aggression and violent tendencies”.
You have Fleur herself, who worries that she’s not a good enough feminist because she doesn’t want to go to rallies and she laughs at jokes that some might call sexist. In this, there is a comfort that everyone must be a feminist in their own right and their own way. That no way is wrong or right, which is once again, another good message for young girls to pick up.
You have Bonita, Fleur’s archnemesis, who embodies female aggression in sports. She’s good at everything, strong and battle ready. It’s not something she’s mocked for either – which very easily could have been the case, but instead, Bonita brings the discussion of women constantly being in competition with each other, constantly not being as good as the next girl.
There is also a commentary on men’s involvement with femininity. The judgment of how women should look and about ‘meninists’. There are two characters that take on that stereotype and become part of a problem for Fleur to overcome. You also have the character of Pip, Fleur’s best friend, who is the complete opposite of the hypermasculinity that the boys at the boxing club show. He’s awkward and nerdy, is described as having limbs that don’t seem to work as they’re supposed to. He’s constantly falling over and walking into things. It’s an on-running joke that he drives slower than the speed limit and is still the most dangerous driver on the road. While giving a rounded view of boys in our society, he’s always one of Fleur’s biggest supporters across the course of the story.
I really enjoyed the book’s sense of place as well. Set in Bosford, a South England town that has both the well off and the not so well off living in close proximity and both sides of this world coincide in the boxing club. Bosford is near Battle, where the Battle of Hastings took place in 1066, and a big part of Fleur’s friendships stem from working at the National Trust there and acting as Saxons for tourists. It’s a fun little piece of local history that is part of how Fleur sees the world around her. I liked her habit of comparing people in her life to Saxons and Normans. It was something unique to her character.
There is a romance, but it takes a backseat to everything else. It is just something that happens in the story, not the most important part which was enjoyable as it doesn’t take away from Fleur’s personal successes. Admittedly though, I would have loved more detail on them getting together and being badass.
I really enjoyed this book. It thought it was fun to read, entertaining and hilarious at moments. Fleur is an inspirational woman, working incredibly hard to become as good as she is and being rewarded for that dedication. Finishing this book made me want to look for boxing clubs and to sweat to success.
I’m not going to. But I wanted to.
If you want something quick and fun, even a little inspirational, this book is for you!