‘Which one of you idiots sent this?’, is the opening line of Make a Hard Fist by New Zealand author Tina Shaw, a novel depicting the journey of a teenager named Lizzie Quinn on her personal road to empowerment.
Oh the teenage years. How thrillingly exciting and yet downright awful were those fledgling young adult years? As I read that first line, conjured by the ‘Lizzie Q, I love U’ note grasped in Lizzie’s hand, I could feel it in the pit of my stomach again, that nervy sick feeling – Does someone out there really fancy me, or am I the subject of some nasty joke? – I remember that feeling all too well when a boy I fancied rang me at home. It wasn’t the boy, it was the boy’s friend asking me if I wanted to ‘go round’ with the boy. And what did I do? I didn’t know if it was a joke or not, panicked and hung up the phone. So I could relate to that first line, it was a good start.
But from there it all turns sour and dangerous in this novel. Not everyone gets to have that innocent teenage excitement. Some sadly experience menace and physical aggression. Lizzie Quinn, a high school student who works after school in the local library to save money to buy her Uncle Harry’s sky-blue 1969 Volkswagen Beetle for herself, starts receiving one-line notes with her name on them, hand-delivered to her letterbox, and is then attacked and physically abused in her local park. How she deals with the attack is the core of her journey in this book.
This portrayal of violence is potentially controversial material as YA fiction. Some might say ‘Shouldn’t fiction for youths be sheltered from physical violence?’ To which I would respond, ‘Is it better to protect our youth from, or, prepare our youth for potentially violent situations?’
This novel is about one girl’s reaction to physical abuse, her loss in self-confidence, the ramifications it has on all those around her, and her positive, empowering choice of learning self-defence while making solid friends along the way.
What happens in the end? Well you’ll just have to read it right to the nail-biting end to find out, but I thoroughly recommend this novel, not only for those who have been or known a victim of attack, but all young people to get some first guidance in self-defence, whether needed in life, or, hopefully not. It is great writing that also comes with an informative guide at the back that could really help.
Perhaps Make a Hard Fist will help raise awareness of the potential benefits of self-defence programmes in today’s schools? I certainly hope so.
Reviewed by Penny M Geddis
Make a Hard Fist
by Tina Shaw
Published by OneTree House Ltd