________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 28 . . . . March 25, 2016


Head Hunter. (Sports Stories).

Eric Howling.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2015.
125 pp., pbk. & epub, $9.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4594-0967-5 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4594-0969-9 (epub).

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.

Review by Tabitha Nordby.

** /4



Along one wall of the gym was a series of small offices. A door opened and Coach Taylor marched out.

"All right, listen up."

Conversation stopped dead. All eyes were on Coach, who now stood in front of them. His legs were spread wide. His hands were on his hips.

"I discovered something last game. I learned that we have two kinds of players on this team. I don't mean strong players and weak players. I don't care about that. What I care about are players who don't follow my orders. Players that don't do what I say. Players who won't do anything to win... Now, I've got a simple solution to fix this problem."

Coach walked in front of his army like he was inspecting a row of troops.

"If you disobey me you'll be benched. It's that simple. You'll be riding the pine until your backside gets splinters. Do you hear me?"

Colt Taylor is 15 and captain of his football team, the Woodside High Warriors. His dad, Sam Taylor, is the team's coach. Lately, Coach Taylor has been moody, aggressive and demanding of his team, insisting that his team win no matter what it takes, even if it means playing dirty. Near the end of the season, Coach Taylor orders Colt to headhunt an opposing team's player while threatening to bench him for the remainder of the season if he doesn't obey. When Colt follows his father's orders, he is removed from the team by the Edmonton High School Football League, and his high school turns against him. Even his father refuses to admit ordering Colt to make the play. The remainder of the novel takes the reader through the discoveries Colt and his girlfriend, Andrea, the school's newspaper reporter, make about Coach Taylor's past, discoveries which illuminate the reasons behind the coach's disturbing actions.

      Although Colt and his teammates are written with some depth and relatability, the majority of adults in this story come off as flat, even cartoonish characters, with very little empathy for, or understanding of, the teenagers they parent and teach. This may serve the teen reader well, however, as it puts Colt, Andrea and the rest of the team at the forefront of the story, thereby making this novel relatable to teens and the issues they may face during their high school years.

      Head Hunter is a fast paced, high energy novel. Consisting of only 125 pages, short, simple sentences and heavy dialogue between characters, Head Hunter is also a quick and easy read, perfect for reluctant readers. High school sports fans will also be interested in this novel for its team dynamics, the relationship between coach and team captain, and the descriptively written plays on the field.

      Eric Howling is the author of several other novels in the "Sports Stories" series from Formac Lorimer. His novels have received some critical recognition in Canada, including being shortlisted for the Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award, selected as a Resource Links' "Year's Best", and selected as Canadian Children's Book Centre's Best Books for Kids & Teens.


Tabitha Nordby is a Readers' Advisory and Reference Instructor in the Library and Information Technology Program at Red River College in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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