Headshot | Rita Bullwinkel



Published March 2024
ISBN: 9781914198724
Format: Paperback

Also available as an eBook:

Headshot is the story of the eight best teenage girl boxers in the United States, told over the two days of a championship tournament and structured as a series of face-offs. As the girls’ pasts and futures collide, the specific joy and violence of the sport comes to life with electric energy, and a portrait emerges of the desire, envy, perfectionism, madness and sheer physical pleasure that motivates each of these young women to fight.

This is a novel about the radicalness and strangeness of being physically intimate with another human when you are measuring your own body, through competition, against theirs. What does the intimacy of a physical competition feel like? What does it mean to walk through life in the bodies we’ve been given, and what does it mean to use those bodies with abandon?

Funny, propulsive, obsessive and ecstatic, Headshot is equal parts subtle and intense, as it brings us to the sidelines of the ring and above and beyond it, examining closely the eight girls’ lives, which intersect for a moment – a universe that shimmers and resonates.

Headshot punches above its weight . . . a taut tale of intimacy, violence, control, joy and desire.’ Monocle

‘An ambitious, exciting debut. You emerge from it sweaty, pummelled and ready for your next fight.’ Sunday Times

Headshot feels like the complete deal in a way we rarely see in debut fiction: efficient, forceful, just messy enough to be interesting and leaving space in the ring for the reader.’ Observer

‘An absolute knockout … its visceral, skilful prose grips from first to last.’ Declan Ryan, Daily Telegraph

‘[A] brilliant debut of teenage boxers… Bullwinkel’s writing is as poignant and visceral as the sport demands.’ Benjamin Myers, Guardian

‘Bullwinkel has created eight memorably unique teenage girls whose aim is literally to be singular, which is to say, number one … Her writing is deft, incisive, at times stunning, the literary equivalent of a sharp left hook.’ Irish Times

‘[A] knockout debut novel.’ Emily Rhodes, Spectator

‘Compelling.’ Daily Mail

‘The novel’s prose as taut as the novel’s structure, with knock-out literary punches throughout. It may be early to call it, but this has to be one of the most dazzling debuts of the year.’ Marie Claire

‘Brilliant . . . A visceral, intimate meditation on physical endurance, competition and psychology.’ The Bookseller, Editor’s Choice

‘Add Rita Bullwinkel’s novel about the world of competitive female boxing to your 2024 reading list.’ Sunday Times, Style

‘Look out for this debut novel.’ The Independent, The best fiction books to read in 2024

‘Obsessive perfectionism, pure pleasure — and the narrative collision is thrilling.’ i-D, Books to get excited about in 2024

‘Kinetic, suspenseful . . . Rita Bullwinkel is brilliant on the physical collision, at once strategic and feral, that is a boxing match, and the private hopes and agonies that compel fighters to step through the ropes.’ Laura van den Berg

‘Extraordinary act of literary telepathy. With prose as muscular and gleaming as a body in motion, Bullwinkel drops readers into that roaring, incandescent universe that is young womanhood. This is a book with its own pulse.’ C. Pam Zhang

‘A knockout, a novel as fierce and vibrant as its girl boxers. I’ve never read a book like this, that captures girlhood and life itself in the fleeting moments that make us.’ Rachel Khong

‘Headshot is just that – a shot to the head, a cumulative wallop to the senses. Bullwinkel’s prose jabs, spars, feints, floats, stings, and slowly floods us with the force of the fact: time and will can make the dust of an ordinary life sparkle.’ Namwali Serpell

‘Brilliant . . . Bullwinkel, like the finest of fighters, wields grace and vision, a most powerful hit.’ Samantha Hunt

‘Genius . . . brilliant, perfect . . . as devastating and inventive and philosophical and playful as you could imagine. I dreamed of it for days.’ Deb Olin Unferth

‘As blazing and distinctive a performance as I’ve beheld in a long while. Bullwinkel’s figurative language is tethered at one end to the distant galaxies, at the other to the cellular structure of her young fighters’ bodies. Whole lives are strung between. I’m amazed.’ Jonathan Lethem

‘This is an expertly crafted psychological study of girlhood, and of the women who emerge from its stranglehold. Bullwinkel writes with wisdom and care, and her prose has the confident spring of a knockout.’ Madeleine Gray

‘A luminously unsentimental, tour-de-force exploration of competition and its consequences . . . Headshot is literature at its vital, primal best.’ John Wray