Summary: Angry and feisty, Tina is a short person who hates terms like “dwarf” or “little person.” She’s been saving up for an operation to make her taller for a long time, and when the opportunity presents itself for her to have the procedure done for free she jumps at it. Tina and her sister Ellie begin a journey down to Boston from Cape Breton Island, but are side-tracked along the way when they encounter a potential Mi’kmaw boxing champion named Jesse Mankiller. When trouble arises with Jesse’s manager, Tina is determined to step in, having helped out at her father’s gym training boxers for years without recognition. It is an unlikely pairing, but it works, and soon not only is Jesse winning matches but Tina also has a chance to prove her worth.
Number of Pages: 174
Age Range: 15-17
Review: Short and powerful, The Manager by Caroline Stellings packs a punch much like the character of its protagonist Tina. I loved reading about her growth as a person, finding real confidence under her bravado to be herself and go after what she wants. She surprises her reader again and again with her spirited and abrasive yet warm-hearted actions.
Stellings makes an interesting choice casting sister Ellie as the narrator of the story, but when The Manager comes down to the final thirty pages it is easy to see why the narration has to be that way to work. Having the outside narration maintains the dramatic tension of the book as Ellie is not privy to all that is going on in Tina’s head. And when the story reaches its conclusion, it is a revelation that no one will expect. Also, Ellie is the perfect narrator to see through Tina’s armour to the heart within.
This is another book that is challenging to write about without giving plot points away and I even had to leave out a quote I liked so I wouldn’t wreck the book for other readers. I can say though that at first I was a bit skeptical about how much I would enjoy reading a book about boxing. Stellings doesn’t make it a chore though, instead it is easy, engaging and mostly accessible to those who don’t have much knowledge about the sport. As a result I would recommend this book to both female and male readers in their mid-teens.
I know the book had to end where it did to maintain its strength, but I found myself wishing it was longer because I enjoyed Tina’s character so much.
“After all, Dad had boxed during the late fifties and early sixties, when Cape Breton was a breeding ground for champions. Back when young men from New Waterford and Sydney Mines and the Pier spent long days working underground or the mill and tried to fight their way out of the grind by entering the ring. They had their eyebrows torn off and their jaws broken, but they kept on fighting because they needed to.” – Ellie from The Manager by Caroline Stellings, page 5
“My sister couldn’t be cajoled into seeing her life in a positive way – she resented being a dwarf. And hers was not a feeble little stick-out-your-tongue sort of resentment, but a deep-seated, I’ll-make-you-and-everyone-I-know-miserable-because-I’m-miserable kind of bitterness. And there was nothing I could do to change her mind.” – Ellie from The Manager by Caroline Stellings, page 13