Icebreaker

A.L. Graziadei. Holt, $18.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-77711-9

Mickey James III, who’s white, loves hockey, but the steep expectations—he’s starting college at the school where his father and grandfather were hockey stars, and he’s a projected top-two pick for the next NHL hockey draft—weigh on him, amplifying his depression and anxiety. Plus, he’s bisexual, which he worries won’t go over well in “notoriously homophobic” hockey circles and with the media, even if the school’s athletic department has a zero-tolerance bigotry policy. Even so, Mickey can’t help noticing how attractive Jaysen “Cauler” Caulfield, his teammate and prickly rival for first pick, is. On paper, Mickey’s the consummate insider, whereas Cauler is Black in a largely white sport, has already sustained a career-threatening injury, and, Mickey’s starting to think, might be gay. Debut author Graziadei clearly knows the sport, but even readers who don’t will enjoy a tale that’s more than just enemies-to-lovers. At 17, narrator Mickey’s never really bothered making friends, and now he’s on a team that insists its players get along; their friendly byplay and love for the game, Mickey’s loving relationship with his sisters, and the book’s nuanced discussion of mental health make for a complex read. Ages 14–up. (Jan.)
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