Review by Ming
I like fiction that makes me feel happy, and this goofy duology does it. Set at Samwell, a fictional college in Massachusetts, it follows the antics of the shortest player on the Samwell Mens Hockey team. Eric Bittle, or “Bitty,” as the strange hockey culture of nicknames dictates he be called, is a former figure skater from Georgia. He’s come to Samwell for the ability to be himself, a gay kid whose best friends before this were his mother and his rolling pin. The books chronicle all four years of college, through crushes and cellys*, crushing defeat, and glorious victory.
I can’t write about this book without mentioning the rest of the cast. Ngozi creates characters so realistically, and they’re the highlight of the story. There’s Jack, the NHL-bound love interest (and the only character that isn’t given a nickname in the first few pages.) There’s Ransom and Holster, the witty defensemen, and Chowder, a goalie obsessed with the San Jose Sharks. (He’d be one disappointed kid right now, what with the Sharks current state.) And, of course, there’s more, more characters than I could comfortably list right now.
Book 1, #Hockey, behind all the fun and laughs, is about coming to terms with oneself. It’s also about learning to take setbacks in stride, and how happy endings are not a myth. Bitty fights, and he wins. He learns that he’s always gonna have people there for him, ready to support him by all ways necessary, be that telling him he matters or simply enjoying some of his pie. He’s not mastered all his fears, especially not the one so important that it has the honor of being the title of the book.
“#Hockey, behind all the fun and laughs, is about coming to terms with oneself. It’s also about learning to take setbacks in stride, and how happy endings are not a myth.”
Check, please. A “check” is a play in hockey that is meant to separate an opposing player from the puck. Almost all of the time, a check is physical, meaning it’s some sort of tackle or other hit. Sometimes, a check leads to a penalty, but in higher-level men’s hockey, it usually has to be a pretty dirty hit. Our main character is terrified of such hits, due to a trauma only hinted at until the end of the second book. Bitty starts out so scared that even getting brushed by a teammate on a face-off scares him, and occasionally faints when faced with the prospect of a hit. Over the course of the story, he manages to slowly work with his fear, and I’m not gonna say more for fear of accidentally divulging a major spoiler.
Book 2, Sticks and Scones, is about Bitty revealing himself to the world. He’s come to terms with himself, and now is ready to show the world his true form, like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis. I can’t tell you very much about this book without spoiling the previous one, but I’ll say that this book has a lot of victories in it.
In conclusion, read Check, Please. If you like fun books, read it. If you like cute romance, read it. If you’re like me, and are waiting with mixed feelings for the NHL season to return, this might be a good story to tide you over until then.
I’ll be going now, but rest assured you’ll see more from me in the future.
* a “celly” is the colloquial term for a celebration performed by a hockey player after anything from getting an assist to winning the Stanley Cup.