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Head of the River

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  231 ratings  ·  48 reviews
It's the most elite school sporting event in the country. Nine rowers, 2000 gruelling metres and one chance for glory in the ultimate team sport. Sit forward ... ROW.

Tall, gifted and the offspring of Olympians, superstar siblings Leni and Cristian Popescu are set to row Harley Grammar to victory in the Head of the River.
With six months until the big race, the twins can't
Paperback, 304 pages
Published June 25th 2014 by University of Queensland Press (first published January 1st 2014)
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4.17  · 
Rating details
 ·  231 ratings  ·  48 reviews

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Feb 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Who would have thought a book about rowing could have grabbed me like this one did!! I loved the alternating chapters between sister and brother Leni and Cristian, it was extra interesting to hear from both of them. They were both under so much pressure to win, even though I don't think their parents were purposefully trying to put pressure on them, i felt that both parents wanted the best for Leni and Cristian and wanted them to be happy, but they didn't actually stop to find out what it was th ...more
Head of the River is Pip Harry’s second novel. Set in Melbourne, seventeen year old Leni and Cris Popescu are twins, children of former Olympian rowers, and are in their final years of school at Harley Grammar. Both were taught to row at a young age and are now in preparations for the Head of the River, the most important race in the school year. Leni is feeling the pressure and Cris is starting to realise that rowing is not what he wants to do anymore.

I adored both Leni and Cris and the dual na
Paula Weston
May 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Pip Harry rocks.

Loved this story for its characters, its heart and its originality. It smashes gender stereotypes and gives those of us non-athletes a glimpse of the pressures of competitive sport (internal and external).

I laughed out loud (great dialogue!), loved the dynamic between siblings Leni and Cris, and got a little choked up towards the end when everything comes to a head (no pun intended).

You don't have to be into sports to enjoy this one. Head of the River is quality contemporary YA,
Definitely a YA book written by an author who loves rowing. Rowing seems to me to be a sport for those who are tall, fit and focused and this book certainly captures the feel, smells and aches of this sport. The alternate chapters narrated by the twins Leni and Cris work well as they deal with the pressure to perform, high expectations, relationships and schoolwork. The message of the danger of performance enhancing drugs was also well told.
Apr 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Two days after Head of the River and Harley Grammar is subdued at morning assembly; instead of singing ‘We are the Champions’ and back-slapping the rowing stars, the entire school is in a state of mourning for an unnamed but seriously ill student.

Meanwhile, Leni Popescu is in her own state of mourning and recovery after an accident. She’s at once scared for what her injury will mean for her rowing career, and worried about the same student her schoolmates are keeping vigil for.

Jump ahead and it
Louisa with an A
Apr 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016, my-books, 5-stars, ausfic
"In no other sport does the word team mean so much than in rowing."

Have you ever picked up a book and thought, This book is for me, about me. This book is mine.
Reading Head of the River was like picking up a book about my life and changing a few characters and situations. So for those who don't know I row. I've been racing for eight years. I've been rowing for 13 years. And, thanks to my dad, I've been around rowing my whole life. My dad was a rower himself, but unfortunately due to a back
Steph Bowe
Aug 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I would like to preface this review by saying that I ordinarily actively avoid books-about-sports because I don't really understand sports. The only sport I follow is AFL because my family would not tolerate it if I paid no attention whatsoever to who's going to make the eight. The extent of my involvement in actual sports involving me was playing Aussie Rules in primary school, and only making the team because my school needed to make up the numbers. I took a chest mark and kicked it out of bou ...more
Anna Waggener
Jan 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Disclaimer: I met Pip Harry at a writing retreat and so know her personally. I'm a tough critic, however, and would never rate a book five stars if I didn't mean it.

It's hard to know where to start in a review for this novel, which is about so many things and so lovingly written. Ostensibly built around competitive rowing and the drive of a pair of Australian twins to live up to their parents' Olympic accomplishments, Head of the River layers in the complexities of growing up, of letting go, and
Head of the River by Pip Harry was a highlight of my 2014 reading year. It was absorbing and captivating, unpredictable and unique and is a brilliant addition to our much-praised and thriving Aussie YA scene.

Pip Harry is one of those YA authors who capture the teen voice and experience so authentically and without condescension. Her characters are brave and true and flawed and the kind of teen who, were I to meet them in real life, have the power to inspire adults with their courage and intelli
May 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Leni and Cristian Popescu having rowing in their blood. Both parents have been Olympic champions and it seems like nothing can stop a meteoric rise to the top of their sport. Leni is on top of her game, training hard and loved up with her boyfriend, Adam. Cris, however, is flagging. Overweight and inherently lazy, as many 17 year olds are, he wants to keep his seat in the first eight without having to put in the hard yards. As Leni's star rises and she is made Captain of Boats, Cris loses his se ...more
Dec 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Last book read in 2014 and it was so good! Learned about rowing, Romanian food and basically, the lengths we humans go through to get what we want. Def one of the best reads this year!
Bree T
May 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Leni and Cristian Popescu are twins. Both are scholarship students to a prestigious Melbourne school for their ability in rowing. Offspring of Olympic champions, Leni and Cristian look certain to guide their school to victory in the Head of the River race on the Barwon River.

It’s six months until the Head of the River. Cristian is overweight, having indulged a little too much in the food he loves and less of the training he needs. He finds himself dropped from the firsts, down to the seconds bec
Ella H
Jul 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Emily Mead
Jul 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: contemporary
Read reviews, see awesome GIFS and see my rambling thoughts at my blog, The Loony Teen Writer

You don’t need to like rowing in order to enjoy this book. Or even know anything about it (I certainly don’t). You don’t even need to like sport.

Take me, for example. I am a great believer in the power of INSIDE over outside.

I know nothing about rowing. Okay, I know that Australia’s pretty good at it. And I know that it gives you calluses, because a guy in my grade at school is a rower. So I wasn’t ridic
Kelly (Diva Booknerd)
May 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: uqp, loveozya
3 Stars
Head of The River should be read by not only those who are interested in rowing, but for all teens who compete and strive to break into a professional level. It follows the dual points of view of siblings and twins, Leni and Cristian, whose parents are both Olympians and respected members of the rowing community, being only natural to both take up the sport themselves. I really enjoyed seeing both points of view, with Leni at the top of her sport, w
Rhondda Powling
Mar 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
An interesting book about the pressures placed on young people the world of elite school sport. Money and prestige play a big part in this rather insular world where winning seems all consuming.
This novel tells the story of Cristian and Leni Posescu who are twins on rowing scholarships. There are high expectations that they will perform well, partly because their parents are both medal winning Olympians and partly because they must maintain high performances to stay at the school. The pressure
A book with characters who are twins ✔

Wow! I absolutely loved this book, I could barely put it down.
I loved how the book started after The Head of the River took place, which gave a sense of foreboding when it went back to 6 months beforehand. you knew something bad was going to happen, but it was impossible to know what it was.

I loved reading a book based in Melbourne, as well as about I sport I love. I could imagine the scenes, based on my own experience rowing on the yarra, and I have my gues
Oct 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I had such high hopes for this book. Such incredibly high hopes. And Head of The River exceeded all of my expectations by a mile. Or by 2000m should I say?

Being a rower myself made me super keen to read this one, however I didn't realise just how relatable it would be to me. Firstly, Leni. The pressure Leni puts on herself to achieve was so realistic, and her determination was something I'd seen many times before at the lake. Then there was Cristian's desire to eat rather than work and his decis
Took me ages to read this, mostly because of life, school and uni and what not, but also because I am not a fan of teenagers who make really bad decisions. It's just so hard to read. And Cristain's choices come from desperation, but he knows he's doing the wrong thing.

While Leni's dramas are nowhere near the depth of Cristian's, they are still interesting and well handled. I liked their closeness, although it does take half the book before I really felt that they had each other's back.

There's s
Jun 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-read
A really good story overall. Although it took several attempts to start the novel, which is the reason it took me so long to read, but once you make it one fifth though the book it becomes hard to put down. I usually don't like dual narration as it interrupts the flow of the story, but Pip executed it well and I found myself wanting more. This is a book a young adults can relate to as they face rivalry and weight/self esteem issues as they enter the last couple of years of their high school life ...more
Sep 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
Pip Harry describes private school parental expectations very well. The setting is prefect with rich father bankrolling the use of steroids to ensure the rowing team wins. Story told alternatively by brother/sister twins - both in the firsts rowing team. As characters I prefer Cris, the brother who takes the drugs and is therefore the cheat, but is always there to support his sister. Leni , on the other hand, is not so likeable, has to learn how to be the Captain ie.e part of the team. Hope to r ...more
Kerri Jones
Aug 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is one if the best YA books I've read well probably since the last one I gave five stars! But seriously, I loved the way this is written in perspectives of twins Christian and Leni and the subject matter of drugs in sport was fascinating. I felt the turmoil of the twins decisions because the writing was that good. Not everything ends well (you discover that in the first chapter) but the journey and the resolutions are authentic. There's some romance and teen angst that adds extra dimension ...more
Jan 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
A good, solid read. Fiction featuring rowing is unusual and this really is a book where the sport is integral to the story and treated realistically. Even better (and more unusual) is that it is set in a co-ed school and male and female stories are given equal billing. More similarities than differences, strangely enough. The story is told alternately by Leni and Cristian, twins and top rowers, and the children of rowing olympians. They are very different, however, and very real.
Zena Shapter
Jan 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Proviso: Pip Harry is a friend of mine. That said, I wouldn't rate it here if I didn't like her book objectively. But I do. It's well-written, great pace, fascinating concept and fabulous execution.

What I loved most about the book is how it explores the *actual* reality of teenage pressure, romance and aspirations. Things *don't* always end well. Good job, Pip, you had me crying for the entire last 50 pages!
Apr 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Loved this. It had a good heaping of heart and guts. Just like with her first book, Pip had me transported right back into my highschool self -all the good, the bad and the ugly! Was really well done technically - the alternating narration worked wonderfully in capturing all sides to the characters and the storylines. A ripper sophomore book from a great Aussie author who's really starting to make a name for herself. I'll be continuing to sing her praises for sure.
Jul 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: holiday-books
Loved the dual narration, but I found it quite detached and almost clinical in parts of Leni's. I'm not sure if that was intentional because of the way that she was, or not, but either way I found in hard to connect to. However, I loved Leni and Cris's stories and bond. There were amazing other characters and a very interesting plot. Overall, I really enjoyed this book.
Dec 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Rare for me to read about sport. I picked this up, hoping it would be good for a particular demographic in our school library. Didn't expect to love it so much. It's not just about sport, but I hate to use the term "coming of age"- isn't every story essentially about that? Well written characters, believable dialogue and a plot that kept me awake, sniffing, late into the night.
Jan 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was amazing. I couldn't believe how fantastic it was. It was so fascinating and interesting to read, I could never put it down. You definitely need to row, or know a bit about rowing, to read it, but it's such a fantastic, emotional book. It has been one of the best books I've read, pulling at all my emotions, and I would recommend to it everyone I know.
Jun 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
The teenage school rower in me I loving this book so hard for all of the memories it brings back. The librarian in me is loving this book for its honesty, fresh Australian voice and topics that aren't touched on all that often in teen novels such as the pressure of GPS sports and the financial divides at private schools.
Padraig Byrne
Apr 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Another great YA novel from Pip Harry, set in the world of Melbourne private schools rowing. Loved the setting, the characters and the dialog. Highly recommend to those involved or interested in elite teen sports and the issues that arise around them.
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Pip Harry is the author of YA novels I'll Tell You Mine, Head of the River and Because of You, which was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards; the Children's Book Council of Australia - Book of the Year; and the Queensland Literary Awards. Her latest novel, The Little Wave, is for middle grade readers. She currently lives and writes in Singapore.