FICTION

Check, Please!: #Hockey

illus. by Ngozi Ukazu. 288p. First Second. Sept. 2018. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781250177964. POP
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OrangeReviewStarGr 10 Up—Originally created as a webcomic, this tale follows junior champion figure skater and small-town Georgia boy Eric "Bitty" Bittle as he begins freshman year on the Samwell University varsity hockey team. An avid video blogger, recipe fanatic, and pie baker extraordinaire, Bitty is bewildered by his new world of bros, kegsters, and aggressive "checking"—roughness that wasn't allowed in his coed hockey league back home. In addition, he is still unsure how to tell his tough guy team members that he's gay. However, despite some disheartening setbacks, eternal optimist Bitty is determined to overcome his checking anxiety, work his heart out, and win over the guys—and his handsome team captain—even if it means bribing everyone with homemade pecan pie. Although this appears to be a simple sports comic at first glance, it is far more complex. Through a combination of hilarious team banter, foodie humor, and a lovable main character, Ukazu has crafted a compelling story about acceptance, identity, and confidence. She expertly uses bold colors and exaggerated facial expressions, such as Bitty's large eyes, to convey emotion.
VERDICT Although casual profanity, a few crass jokes, and some alcohol use make this a comic best suited for mature teens, this endearing volume is a must-have for YA graphic novel collections. Sure to resonate with hockey fans and sports newbies alike.

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