Michigan vs. the Boys by Carrie Allen. October 1, 2019. Kids Can Press, 299 p. ISBN: 9781525301483. Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.
When a determined girl is confronted with the culture of toxic masculinity, it’s time to even the score.
Michigan Manning lives for hockey, and this is her year to shine. That is, until she gets some crushing news: budget cuts will keep the girls’ hockey team off the ice this year.
If she wants colleges to notice her, Michigan has to find a way to play. Luckily, there’s still one team left in town …
The boys’ team isn’t exactly welcoming, but Michigan’s prepared to prove herself. She plays some of the best hockey of her life, in fact, all while putting up with changing in the broom closet, constant trash talk and “harmless” pranks that always seem to target her.
But once hazing crosses the line into assault, Michigan must weigh the consequences of speaking up — even if it means putting her future on the line.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination; Homophobic slur; Mild sexual themes; Strong language; Underage drinking; Underage smoking; Violence, Sexual harrassment/assault
Booklist (September 1, 2019 (Vol. 116, No. 1))
Grades 9-12. Michigan’s entire life was hockey—when she was not conditioning and training, she was watching hockey movies and thinking about hockey. All of her hard work pays off when she is finally named Assistant Captain of her school team, but a few days later, the team is cut due to funding. Without rich parents to pay her tuition at a private school, she’s seemingly out of options. So, she tries out for the boy’s varsity team, which she easily makes, but her coaches and teammates aren’t happy about it. Michigan endures months of physical and emotional abuse and hazing without reporting it, focusing on her craft instead. Allen’s debut is a plot-driven novel that takes readers inside a misogynistic team and a school and town that allow that behavior to go unchecked. The book’s power comes from highlighting the pain and abuse that barrier-breaking women endure in a male-driven field, but the characters are thinly drawn and the ending is too tidy for such a complicated story. Our admirable heroine deserves more than that.
Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2019)
Michigan wants to play hockey, which leaves one last audacious option—the boys’ team. Michigan Manning and her best friend, Brie, dream of victory as the new captains of their high school girls’ ice hockey team. Instead, Principal Belmont shocks them by announcing that budgets cuts will render the girls’ hockey team defunct. The close-knit hockey girls scatter—Brie to private school, the rest to other schools and other sports, but Michigan can’t afford private school tuition or long commutes. Inspired by Jack, a handsome, popular swimmer, and a brave girl on her brother’s AAA bantam team, Michigan shrugs off ridicule, taunts, and bullying to earn her way to a coveted center position on the boys’ varsity team. It’s an exhilarating run, as debut author Allen creates a wonderfully authentic hockey world. Determined, resilient Michigan fights for her right to play despite feeling abandoned by old friends and ostracized by her new team. However, readers may feel frustrated by the author’s portrayal of Michigan’s rationalizations and the alpha bad guy trope, which veers toward the cartoonish—after purposely injuring her, one bully “lowers his voice as if talking to a baby. ‘Are you going to be OK to play this weekend? Coach needs his widdle Michigan out there.’ ” The supportive relationships between Michigan and her brother, boyfriend, and father are beautifully written, and the on-ice experience is similarly nuanced and breathtaking. Most characters are assumed white. Nevertheless, a gritty and heroic athlete persists. (Fiction. 13-16)
About the Author
Carrie Allen is a Colorado girl who wears flip-flops year-round and never skips dessert. She is retired from sports medicine, and extra-tired from chasing around two kids and two dogs. She writes contemporary YA about girls who kick butt in sports.
Her website is www.carrieallenauthor.com
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