All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

The Whole Of My World – Nicole Hayes

on June 8, 2013

Whole WorldThe Whole Of My World
Nicole Hayes
Random House AU
2013, 384p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Fifteen year old Shelley uses her love for AFL as an escape from the everyday. Two years ago her family suffered a tragedy and now it’s just her and her father. He’s so utterly engrossed in his grief and Shelley in hers and her guilt that the two of them can’t seem to connect. Shelley is also starting a new school and she has nothing in common with most of the other students there. There’s only Tara, who follows the same team as Shelley and she introduces Shelley to their world.

Soon Shelley is down at the training grounds every week, watching the team go through their training and waiting for the team announcements. She has a soft spot for sandgroper import Mick “Eddie” Edwards, a big full forward with a recurring knee injury. To Shelley’s surprise Mick talks to her like he sees her, like she matters when she shyly approaches him for an autograph. To Mick, he and Shelley are both newcomers and it’s the first steps toward a tentative friendship.

Week after week Shelley treks to the games and the training. She spends most of her time with Tara, whose often random silences confuse her but she doesn’t want to lose her friend, especially one who likes footy as well. She is integrated into the eclectic cheer squad and game after game she tracks Mick’s progress, marking down his stats in her notebook and praying his knee holds out. Her once best friend Josh doesn’t understand – he’s trying to maintain their friendship but Shelley finds it hard to be around him sometimes now after the accident. And then there’s the fact that he’s suddenly not just Josh anymore and she doesn’t know what to do about that. And then there’s Mick – everyone seems suspicious that there’s something going on despite the obvious age difference and the fact that Mick is married. But they’re just friends…. right?

My introduction to AFL (Australian Rules Football) came late. I grew up in NSW where another type of football ruled and never even saw a game of AFL until 2006. My then flatmate was a Geelong supporter but I decided if I was going to get into this, I had to do it right. I was from NSW, I was born in Sydney, so I chose the Sydney Swans to be my team – and I threw myself into it. It was both a good time (they were the reigning premiers) and a bad time (I had missed them winning a Grand Final in 2005). I watched all the matches I could, I learned the players, I spent time attempting to learn the rules too. This is almost impossible, as they bring in new ones and discard others every year but I mastered the basics which helped when I moved to Victoria, the home of the sport in July of that year. 2006 ended in heartbreak when we lost the Grand Final by a single, solitary point. The years of 2007-11 didn’t bring much but last year, I got to see what every fan longs to – the Swans won the Grand Final, 10 point victors over Hawthorn, who just happen to be one of my very favourite teams to beat (after Geelong and Collingwood). This year I am taking my 4yo son to his first AFL game – he swings between the Swans and the Bombers (his father’s team) but he is slowly becoming quite knowledgeable. He recognises some players and understands the scoring. Next year he’ll play Auskick, the junior competition for young kids. AFL isn’t just a sport in Victoria, it’s a way of life for a lot of people. I was curious to read a book that focused on it so decided to give this one a go.

The Whole Of My World is set in the mid-1980’s so things were a little different back then. Training and the players were more accessible as teams focused around smaller, local grounds. Shelley is able to meet the players of her team, interact with them and get their autographs quite easily and she immediately forms a friendship with their new recruit Mick, who they brought over from WA. Much like Shelley, Mick is new and probably unsure of his position in the pecking order of the team. Shelley is uttery innocent about the possible ramifications of so obvious a friendship and she doesn’t understand at all why Tara is negative about the attention Mick pays her, nor does she understand her friend Josh’s skepticism about it either. Mick is older, he’s a big name, he’s married and even if that didn’t bother him, he could most likely have his pick of older, more glamorous women. It’s hard to say exactly what he connects with in Shelley other than they are both a little bit lost and perhaps Mick, unsure of himself in this new team, needs Shelley’s adoration and admiration to boost his confidence.

Shelley and her father are so well drawn in this novel. Their pain is displayed quite differently but it’s so real and it was heartbreaking to watch them both, Shelley in particular, feeling so awkward, so abandoned by her father and his lack of being able to communicate to her what she needed to desperately hear. She made a silly mistake, something that happens everyday but unconnected to this there was an accident and now she lives with what happened. Her team connects her to her mother, who followed the same team, as did her own father, Shelley’s grandfather. Also connecting her to her mother is literature – she has books her mother gave her, classics, with inscriptions in them. Shelley is at such an awkward time in her life and she desperately needs some support – you can see where she might have been able to get it, had she been able to face the person who desperately wanted to give it to her. Even Josh tries, the boy she’s been friends with for her whole life but she’s struggling with how she feels about him too. On one hand, he reminds her of everything she can’t deal with right now and on the other, he makes her feel things that she’s not used to.

This is a brilliantly written book, creating a sympathetic and likable character in Shelley – I just wanted to adopt her and give her a few pieces of advice! She matures a lot throughout the course of this book and towards the end she takes matters in her own hands and she finally manages to demand what she needs but there are some stages where she is utterly lost. Her father is too and I think it’s hard to show a grown man’s grief but this book does it so well. I think that it’s a bit of a shame that some readers might not pick this up if they don’t like or aren’t familiar with AFL because it’s go so much feeling and emotion written into it and Shelley is so easy to connect with. Everyone has been through a stage where they’ve been the newbie or felt like the odd one out. Despite her grief, despite her guilt, she retains her passion and her drive to be involved in something meaningful and I enjoyed how going to games and training helped Shelley socialise and interact with others. I think it helped give her the confidence she needed later on in the book as well, when she sees that sometimes things don’t go to plan and you pick yourself up and try again. You draw a line between last week and the next.


Book #142 of 2013


The Whole Of My World is the 61st novel read and reviewed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013

Interested? Have a look at the trailer.


4 responses to “The Whole Of My World – Nicole Hayes

  1. Danielle says:

    I have this one to start reading this week – now I’m super excited!

    Great, great review 🙂

  2. Marg says:

    I’ve just requested this one from the library on the strength of your review!

  3. shelleyrae @ Book'd Out says:

    Hmm, I overlooked this one because 1) footy- that I have to watch my boys play AFL every week is enough for me 2) it’s really weird to read a character that shares your name. I might have to re think it though with this glowing review. Thanks Bree

  4. […] Narrow Road To The Deep North by Richard Flanagan and The Whole Of My World, by Nicole […]

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