I know nothing about boxing, but when I saw this on NetGalley, I was intrigued by its claim to be funny and feminist, and I thought I’d give it a go.
Oddly, my favourite thing about Girls Can’t Hit was also one of my least favourite things about it: the writing style. The phrasing often seemed clumsy and unpolished, and it felt like it needed some editing in places. But at the same time, it cracked me up. There were so many parts of the book that I found hilarious, which was a little bit unexpected, and I found myself highlighting all sorts of things just because they amused me.
Maybe it’s because I have a soft spot for Saxon jokes, and since the characters live near Battle, there were quite a few of those — never let it be said that I don’t have a niche sense of humour. Whatever the reason, this made me laugh, and that in turn made me forgive any other weaknesses of the style.
I did, however, think the characters were surprisingly disparaging about the gift shop at Battle Abbey. Granted, it’s a few years since I was there, so it might have gone downhill, but I found it rather a good one — it’s got a range of actual swords and a substantial mead collection. I once got in a really long conversation with the guy working there: it started out being about the differences between Viking and Celtic mead, and ended up going via his dissertation on 14th century torture devices to discussing Game of Thrones, which I’d just read at the time. Plus there were definitely swords. So I don’t understand why the characters disliked it so much. But anyway.
Given that I have no real interest in the subject matter of the book, i.e. boxing, it was bizarrely relatable. I’ve never felt an urge to get punched in the face — the closest I’d get would be my love of hitting people with swords. The idea of working out, bulking up on protein, and all of the sports-related things the protagonist, Fleur, goes through is alien to me, so you’d think as a result I wouldn’t be able to relate to her.
However, her motivations are just so… me. Half of what she does in the book is because somebody told her she couldn’t. When she actually dislikes something, there’s no way in hell she’ll admit it to the people who didn’t want her to do it in the first place. She’ll keep going based on sheer stubbornness — and I can relate to that SO MUCH.
I could also relate a lot to Fleur’s friend Pip, who I’m pretty sure is dyspraxic and has hypermobility: his joints are described as seeming to have been put together back to front, and he’s clumsy and incompetent and exercise makes him want to die. Like dude, SAME. The descriptions of him attempting a boxing class were both relatable and funny.
(If I could find my Kindle right now, I’d give you excerpts, but it seems to have been buried in the mess that is my room, so you’ll just have to read it for yourself and find them.)
In some places, the book isn’t subtle with its feminist message. Fleur’s best friend is quite the stereotypical teenage feminist who is far too up in arms about everything, to the point where it’s sometimes difficult to tell if the author is supporting or mocking her. However, on the whole it’s a funny, surprisingly relatable story about stubbornness and girl power.
There is a brief romantic element, but it mostly keeps to the background, and doesn’t interfere with the other themes or get in the way of the various interesting friendships that develop throughout the book, which I appreciated.
On the whole, this surprised me with how engaging and enjoyable it was.