Nick Taglio started playing hockey as soon as he could walk and learned how to skate. While advancing through the peewee leagues to the prestigious high school team, Nick has suffered his fair share of ice capades.
But his latest trouble occurs after being cross-checked in a match against a tough Canadian team. Nick is knocked out, again, and now the neurologist says it is in Nick’s best interest not to play. Another head injury could mean the end of Nick’s skating career – and possibly the end of Nick.
Enter a supporting cast of characters, including a tough-love dad and protective mother; a “perfect” brother; a pushy girlfriend, Devin, who only wants Nick for the status symbol he represents; and best friend Griff, who has skated with Nick since the beginning but does not see the value in the game.
Nick’s relationship with his parents pushes him farther away. He believes their decision to side with the neurologist and bench him from the team is selfish. But Nick hasn’t told them he still has headaches and blurred vision.
As Nick attempts to deal with the reality of a life without hockey, he distances himself from Griff and the rest of the team. Nick thinks that avoiding them will keep his mind off not being able to contribute. And during this time, the team qualifies for post-season play, without Nick’s brilliant ice play.
With Nick’s health deteriorating and the arguments with his parents growing stronger, Nick faces a life-changing decision. Will he make the right choice?
Pat Hughes does an outstanding job of presenting characters who act and react in realistic ways. Nick is a typical teen who has sports – and sex – on his mind. He’s edgy, pushy, and whiny, but he’s still lovable.
A functional family that at times suffers communication breakdowns seems to advance the storyline, because in real life situations, most families do have problem communicating, especially with teenagers.
Nick’s relationship with spoiled girlfriend Devin shows how devious and spiteful teenage females can be. Her apparent lack of compassion, coupled with her refusals to give in to going all the way with Nick even though she will allow certain acts of satisfaction, cast her as a tease who believes the benefit of being Nick’s girlfriend outweighs any form of human kindness. Nick is lucky to realize that Devin’s motives only bring him down.
Dialogue is realistic and takes the reader though a range of emotions, making the reader angry with Nick when he argues with his parents, scared when Nick babysits his little bro, and happy when Nick and Griff realize that hockey isn’t as important as friendship.
It is refreshing to have a young adult novel that shows the dangers of a sport instead of only presenting the glamorous side. And, finally, the reader will appreciate how the novel deals with decision-making and consequences in both the long and short term.