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.
‘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