Review Blog

Aug 29 2019

Nice girls don't play footy by Kathy Helidoniotis

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Omnibus, 2019. ISBN: 9781742769226.
(Ages: 12+) Highly recommended. Themes: Sport, Family. Set in suburban Sydney, Devi, the star pupil in her mother's Bollywood dance studio is invited to attend a high school with an elite sports program. It's at school she discovers she has a natural aptitude for AFL. The paradoxes don't stop there - her background is only half Indian. If she wins the upcoming BollyOz competition that will put her mother's studio on the map, she will be the first mixed race champion and it will be good for business.
Knowing her family's opposition to the idea of a girl playing footy, the normally devoutly religious Devi, begins to weave a web of deception embroiling her best friend, in order to explore her newfound passion. Grasshopper, her coach, aids Devi with a footy kit and nurtures her potential stardom. The mighty Wallaroos include some colourful characters in Splinter and Princess but Devi yearns to earn her own footy nickname.
With Grasshopper's support Devi's opportunities increase. But selfishly following her dream becomes an obsession and Josie feels exploited. When she is invited to try out for the Greater Western Sydney Giants Academy Youth Girl's Program, it is time to tell her parents and Aji (grandmother) the truth.
Sound familiar? The parallels with the book of the hit film 'Bend it like Beckham' are strong. Helidoniotis' first person narration helps us to empathise with Devi's family-sport-dance love triangle.
This is an easy read, endearing for the colloquialisms, AFL theory and the meaty modern dilemmas shared by modern girls who may be raised in traditional families. The teacher's notes demonstrate the potential of analysing Helidoniotis' narrative and character development through class discussion.
Deb Robins

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