Check, Please! Book 1: #Hockey by Ngozi Ukazu. First Second. 2018.
I enjoyed this so much! It was utterly delightful. It centers the most adorable gay boy hockey player ever. He figure skates! He bakes pies! He has a crush on the captain of the team! He is new to college, and new to college hockey, and so completely charming that I fell really hard for him. It’s more a story about his experiences playing hockey in his first two years of college, but there is a romance plotline that was really sweet. It has a YA feel to it, though technically I guess it could be New Adult. He feels like a young 18-19, to me.
The story is primarily told through graphic novel depiction of his vlog updates, but it widens its scope as the novel unfolds, so that we see Bitty in other environments, without necessarily the conceit of him talking directly to the vlog viewers and narrating his life. I felt like I really got a sense of him from those vlog narrations, and I also enjoyed the fluidity of storytelling modes as it evolved. I was engaged all the way through, and it is rare for me to read a print book as fast as I read this one, but I found it gripping. It also is a feel-good light read, so much soft and fluffiness in it.
I really appreciated the way Bitty’s gayness was portrayed in the story, especially the coming out moment and the crushy bits, but also the way he got to be a hockey player surrounded by hockey playing dudes who just went with his femmeness, his baking, his ice dancing, him coming out, all of it, without blinking. It felt like such a relief to read a story centering a queer athlete that doesn’t present queer antagonism and toxic masculinity as inevitable. I was grinning as I read it, it just made me so happy. Because why not, why can’t we have stories like this, where queerness isn’t framed as a problem at all? We need lots of different kinds of queer stories, and this sort are all too rare, I think.
The romance is a light presence in the story, building in the background for quite a while before the slowest of burns begins to really get going. I liked how understated it was in this regard, the timing really fit. And when Bitty begins to openly talk about his crush, it’s just lovely and sweet and so enjoyable. The ending was very satisfying, while still leaving lots of room for more story in the next couple years of Bitty’s college experience, which are supposed to be released in print form this fall. I am definitely going to be reading that. There is a bunch of bonus content that was really fun. I especially appreciated the vocabulary lesson, “Hockey Shit with Ransom and Holster.”
- Gay man MC.
- Nigerian American woman author.
Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)
Hazing. Alcohol use. Injuries from playing hockey.
- Source of the book: I borrowed this from the Berkeley Public Library.
- I have had no contact with the author.
- All links to Amazon will be affiliate ones. If you buy through those links, I will make a small amount of money on that sale (which I plan to use to buy more books to review), but it will not add any to the cost of your product. It comes out of the company’s profits.
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