Sticks & Scones

First Second. (Check, Please!: Bk. 2). Apr. 2020. 352p. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781250179500.
Gr 10 Up–Ukazu continues the saga of small-town Georgia boy Eric “Bitty” Bittle as he begins his junior year at Samwell University and strives to balance his studies with baking, hockey, and his new long-distance relationship with former teammate and current pro hockey player Jack Zimmerman. Despite the excitement of dealing with new teammates, feuding over jam, and keeping up with the growing viewership of his vlog, Bitty struggles with having to keep Jack a secret, and he can’t seem to find the words to tell his parents that his “best friend” is so much more than that. However, as Jack’s team, the Falconers, reaches the Stanley Cup playoffs, the two must decide whether sharing their relationship would result in terrible publicity or exactly the honesty they need in their lives. Full of the same endearing charm and affable dysfunction as the first book, Check, Please!, this is a superb sequel. Ukazu’s manga-esque art is still bright, bold, and deeply expressive; her ability to depict complex emotions in each panel remains impressive. The author infuses both minor and primary characters with unique personalities and quirks, resisting the temptation to settle for jock stereotypes and typical sports tropes. Her saga deftly tackles issues of privacy, acceptance, and authenticity without feeling preachy. Profanity and mature themes make it best suited for mature teens.
VERDICT Funny, tender, and sweet without ever verging on saccharine, this is a stellar offering for fans of sports tales, romance, or stories of coming into one’s own.

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