The Hockey Saint coverCollege sophomore Tom Leonard is on his way to becoming assistant captain for his school’s ice hockey team. He receives a tip about the address of superstar hockey player Jeremiah “Jake” Jacobson and decides to stake out Jake’s house to meet his hero. Tom soon becomes fast friends with both Jake and Jake’s cousin Felicity. Tom and Jake play video games and watch movies together, Jake shows Tom the food pantry where he volunteers, and the hospital wards he visits. Jake’s volunteer service is done on the sly, as he resents celebrity and doesn’t want any time in the spotlight.

Sounds pretty sweet, eh? Ah, but a rival hockey team has hired an investigator to dig up some dirt on Jake, information that could ruin his career and blot his name in the public eye forever! As one of Jake’s only friends, Tom is in a unique position to defend Jake’s reputation, except it turns out that Jake does have some skeletons in his closet. Jake’s not so squeaky clean—that’s right, this 21-year-old pro athlete… likes to drink! And smoke! And Felicity’s “cousin” status is really just a disguise for the fact that she’s been his wife for the past two years. The media’s going to chew Jake up and spit him out now, right?

Except, no, this story is toothless and I don’t buy it. We never see an intoxicated Jake—we only hear other characters say that he’s drunk, or say that it’s a problem. His smoking “problem” is never really demonstrated outside of an ashtray with five butts in it. His doe-eyed wife loves him despite these vices, but wishes “to meet the man he can be.” He’s a star pro-athlete at 21 who regularly helps a local pantry and hospital, so what’s holding him back? Tom’s part in the story feels like that of a middle or high schooler, when realistically he’s probably 18 or 19 years old. There’s a worthwhile theme in this book of media hounds desperate to turn media figures into targets, but it’s buried by the cottony softness of the cast. Jake’s vices never fuel negative behavior, except he has possibly driven drunk before, and even then Felicity often arranges to drive him home ahead of time.

If the drama-less drama is disappointing, then the general setting doesn’t help either. Tom and Jake are hockey players, the title is The Hockey Saint, and the cover shows a hockey player under scrutiny by an army of cameras—where’s the hockey in this book? Nothing about this book’s script or artwork is necessarily unique to hockey and could be about any athlete navigating success. That universality could be a strength, except it’s a symptom of this book’s lack of identity. Tom has lived with his grandmother ever since his parents were killed by a drunk driver—she bothers Tom about his grades when his late-night hangouts with Jake cause his grades to suffer. I appreciate depicting the struggles of a young adult in college, but these problems are so feather-light and reflect so little on each other that the conclusion does not fulfill at all. Jake holds a press conference where he comes clean about his behavior and why, then everyone gets off his back. Everyone in this story is nearly identical to who they were at the beginning.

Speaking of identical characters, the artwork doesn’t make up for the story’s weaknesses, with anime-style faces that feel like a mismatch with the constant speeches characters deliver to one another. I shouldn’t be too hard on artist Marica Inoue, but most of the book is made up of talking heads. When they actually laugh or frown in too-brief moments of valuable emotion, Inoue imbues them with the sort of character they sorely need. Andres Mossa’s colors are simple, with most scenes limited to “what color is this person wearing” and “what color is the wall in the background.” This book’s moral fiber leaves it dry as raisin bran and without the flavor. This is the second book of the “Forever Friends” trilogy, following from the first book, The Stereotypical Freaks. The Stereotypical Freaks suffers by association.

The Hockey Saint
by Howard Shapiro
Art by Marica Inoue
ISBN: 9780991255016
Animal Media Group, 2014
Publisher Age Rating:

  • Thomas

    | He/Him Teen Services Librarian, Richland Library

    Features Writer

    Thomas is a teen services librarian at Richland Library in Columbia, South Carolina. While studying for his MLIS at the University of South Carolina, he won an award from Thomas Cooper Library for his curation of the works of “God of Manga” Osamu Tezuka. He has spoken about manga, graphic novels, teen programming, and podcasting at NashiCon, DragonCon, ColaCon, New York Comic Con, and American Library Association conferences. He has been on on YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels For Teens selection committee, written articles for Public Libraries, The Hub, Book Riot, and Library Trends, and reviews for School Library Journal and Kirkus.

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