Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Head of the River by Pip Harry



Head of the River by Pip Harry
Published June 25, 2014 by UQP
Source: the publisher
Rating: 5 stars
From the blurb: Tall, gifted and the offspring of Olympians, superstar siblings Leni and Cristian Popescu are set to row Harley Grammar to victory in the Head of the River.
With six months until the big race, the twins can't lose. Or can they?

When Cristian is seduced by the easy route of performance-enhancing drugs, and Leni is suffocated with self-doubt, their bright futures start to fade. Juggling family, high expectations, study, break-ups, new relationships and wild parties, the pressure starts to build.

As the final moments tick down to the big race, who’ll make it to the start line? And who'll plummet from grace?
With six months until the big race, the twins can't lose. Or can they? 
When Cristian is seduced by the easy route of performance-enhancing drugs, and Leni is suffocated with self-doubt, their bright futures start to fade. Juggling family, high expectations, study, break-ups, new relationships and wild parties, the pressure starts to build. 
As the final moments tick down to the big race, who’ll make it to the start line? And who'll plummet from grace?

Head of the River is Pip Harry’s second novel. Set in Melbourne, seventeen year old Leni and Cris Popescu are twins, children of former Olympian rowers, and are in their final years of school at Harley Grammar. Both were taught to row at a young age and are now in preparations for the Head of the River, the most important race in the school year. Leni is feeling the pressure and Cris is starting to realise that rowing is not what he wants to do anymore.

I adored both Leni and Cris and the dual narration worked perfectly. Being twins they are so in sync, not that they don’t have arguments and rivalry, but the bond between them was so sweet. And while being very similar, they’re also quite different: Leni is serious, determined, focused, sometimes to the point of seeming unfriendly, which also means she’s lonely. Cris on the other hand wants to relax more and no longer wants to win as much. Both feel the pressure due to their parents’ legacy, but their parents were really supportive and present throughout their story. There were so many tender moments between the four of them, I loved the Popescu family.

Cris is struggling with his weight, he comfort eats, didn't work out as much over the holidays, and finds himself heavier than the rest of the boys. It was so refreshing to read about weight issues from a male perspective, and instead have Leni wishing to be bigger and more muscular. I could understand Cris going along with the plan to use drugs to get himself back in shape, and the topic was dealt with sensitively and realistically.

The book starts two days after the race and then jumps back to six months earlier, and I was hooked on Leni and Cris’ story from the start. It’s clear something serious happens at the race and slowly their story unfolds, detailing the enormous amount of time and effort that goes into their training. Was Leni going to get the win she so wanted? Was Cris going to get caught taking drugs? I took on all their nervous energy while reading and was anticipating the outcome.

There’s a romantic element for both twins, more so for Leni, but I really liked that it wasn’t the sole focus of their story. Leni is dating Adam, but has her eye on new boy, Sam. It was great to see Leni’s growth over the course of the story, specifically when it came to Sam, and to the rest of the rowers. 

For anyone put off because they have no idea about rowing, don’t be. Firstly, there’s a glossary of all the rowing terms, and secondly, everything is so vivid that you’ll be able to picture the rowing scenes easily, even if you've never picked up an oar.

Pip Harry has done it again, Head of the River accurately captures those awkward teenage years, filled with embarrassing parents, the pressure to achieve, and fumbling romances. This is a moving and captivating story with a bittersweet ending, sure to be loved by teens and adults.


Thank you to the wonderful people at UQP for my review copy.

24 comments:

  1. This sounds so different and awesome. Plus, anything with twins is an automatic bonus (really appealing to me for some reason). I can't wait to read it :)

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  2. Great review - I loved this one too and agree, you don't need to be a rower to get caught up in the boats race :)

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  3. What a lovely book review!

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  4. This sounds so good - on so many levels. Alternating pov's of twins, a guy with body issues, present parents!

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

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  5. This sounds good! I have never heard of it but I love the location!
    Missie @ A Flurry of Ponderings

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  6. Sounds lovely- I like that the book focuses nicely on family. And it's great that the body issues affected the boy too!

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  7. It's nice to hear that the romance doesn't take over the entire story. I do love a little romance, but not when it distracts from the more important issues being addressed. Drug use, especially with teenagers can be a difficult topic to write about, so it's great that the author was able to tackle it with the right approach. Lovely review Mands :)

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  8. This sounds lovely!! Despite not being a very sports-y person, I'm all about sports in books and I can't recall ever reading one that dealt with rowing. VERY intriguing!

    Also hahaha when I first read they were offspring of Olympians, I'm a little embarrassed that my first thought was Zeus & co.

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  9. It's like you know what I am going to say :P Glossaries should help though! :D

    I am really glad to hear that the parents are actually supportive instead of pressurizing their kids to do better when one of them isn't even sure this is what he wants.

    Lovely review, Mands!! :)

    Rashika @ The Social Potato

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  10. I actually love that this is about rowing lol! That was one of my favourite things to watch with my friends in the Olympics (nothing to do with the lovely, manly arms. Honest. Nope. Nothing at all :P)

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  11. This one sounds so good! I'm not generally into sporty stuff but the characters sound great.

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  12. I just finished this one too, and it honestly probably couldn't have been released at a more pivotal point, especially in Melbourne with the alleged Essendon drug saga that's playing out in the media. I would love to see a copy in every school and major under 18's sporting club.

    I found myself more interested in Cris and his story, and found it really compelling. Awesome review Mands <3

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  13. Great review Mands, I didn't request a review copy of this one because I'm not really into sports or rowing, but I do like the twin and family focus of this one.

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  14. This sounds really awesome. I like how it talks about weight issues from a male perspective. In the media nowadays, when it comes to weight, more emphasis is given to women, like this is a universal issue for our kind. It's so annoying when you know males go through it too but it's never highlighted. I'd like to read this book for that element alone. It sounds refreshing somehow :)

    Faye at The Social Potato Reviews

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  15. Oh I'm so happy that there is glossary there! I'd probably get lost somewhere. I'm so glad you enjoyed this one and it sounds really great. Great review, Mands :)

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  16. Great review! I hadn't heard of this one before but it sounds so good. I am so happy that there is a glossary, otherwise I would definitely get totally lost. I love that it goes back 6 months and leaves you waiting to find out what happens the day of the race. Love the look of this one :)

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  17. This book sounds amazing Mands, I love it when you're able to form such a strong connection with the characters that you find yourself invested in the story from the very beginning. This book definitely sounds like something that I would enjoy! Gorgeous review as always! :)

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  18. Wow, I am liking the sound of this one! I shall go check it out on GR now. By the looks of it, this captures life of teens perfectly and realisitcally, and that's something I appreciate.

    Lovely review, mands! <33

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  19. I've only seen a few reviews of this one but they're all super positive! I'm really excited about this one. Hopefully I can read it soon. I'm so glad you loved it!

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  20. I haven't heard of this before, but it sounds great (especially the narration). Thanks goodness there's a glossary for the rowing terms, though! :)

    Great review!

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  21. This book sounds wonderful! its great you were able to connect with the characters and the storyline

    This book sounds like something I'd enjoy and I love that it has dual POV's.

    A lovely review Mandee :-)

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  22. I haven't heard of this one, but I'm definitely intrigued! :D The characters and storyline really sound like something I'd enjoy and the focus on family is great and so overdue in YA! Thanks for sharing Mandee, and, as always, BRILLIANT review! <3

    ~ Zoe @ The Infinite To-Read Shelf

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  23. I love this review -- which has really whet my appetite for the book. I liked Pip Harry's first book a lot and am so looking forward to reading this one (soon!) x

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  24. For some reason, my comments on Blogger keep getting eaten. Hi again! Thanks for this great review; I am also loving your cat header. It's so so so adorable. Going to make myself go and read Pip's other book (M lent it to me so long ago) before I get to this one but I will will will buy it. I love the rowing aspect. So different. Also my sister did it for awhile so maybe I can convince her to read it too. Hope you are doing well, M. xoxo

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