Heat Factor: Kisses!
Character Chemistry: It’s not like they’re without their problems, but this is a really lovely relationship
Plot: Bitty goes to college and learns how to be himself. And he falls in love with the NHL-bound hockey captain.
Overall: I read everything within 24 hours. Absolutely delightful.
Cute is probably an excellent word to describe this series. It’s drawn elegantly with an adorable main character. It’s got a sweet, uplifting message. It’s set during the main character’s college years. Do these characters swear like, er, hockey players? Yes, they do. But everything about these books is just…sweet.
Book one, #Hockey, features Bitty’s first two years of college. During this time he goes from adorable, slightly naive, but utterly and unflappably kind first year to an essential and loved member of the hockey team. It takes him a little while to get comfortable with his team and to come out to them, but when he does, they simply pivot to finding him a different date to whatever weird party they have that I couldn’t figure out because maybe I’ve been out of college too long? Anyway, he’s a goofy, pie-baking, homework-procrastinating twink, but his team likes him for who he is. And who he is is so wholesome.
Book two, Sticks & Scones, covers Bitty’s last years of college and Jack’s first years in the NHL. I’m not even sure that I’d call #Hockey a slow burn? I mean, I guess it is, but Jack kisses Bitty at the very end of the book, and then Sticks & Scones picks up when school starts again in the fall, so we don’t spend a lot of time on the development of the relationship (except for Bitty having a crush for so long). Because Bitty and Jack already have an established relationship by the time Sticks & Scones begins, it also isn’t really about the development of their relationship. What I liked about this book is that, where opportunities for problems arise, Bitty and Jack put each other’s well-being first.
(Bitty lives with Jack for the summer between junior and senior year, but this is a very, very closed door romance. You wouldn’t even know they’re sharing a bed except for a couple frames with them talking in the bedroom.)
As the years go on, Ukazu captures the sense of assurance one gains as one goes through each year of school, from being at the bottom of the barrel to being king of the campus, from being unsure of oneself and one’s new environment to owning both, from having a very superficial independence to being really independent (with, of course, the necessary uncertainty as to what exactly one is expected to do with a liberal arts degree once those four years are over).
The style of this narrative is definitely the maybe-optimistic-more-than-realistic, all things considered. No shoulder check moments here, although both Bitty and Jack worry about coming out throughout the book. It’s just that absolutely everyone around them is supportive. Which is great. But, referring back to that shoulder-check concern, it might not resonate with a comparable lived experience. I enjoyed it as a piece of aspirational literature, especially because of the ways that Bitty and Jack supported and cared for each other and developed a really great friend group as well, but it’s not an own voices story.
The size difference between Bitty and Jack is also slightly goofy, especially considering that they’re both forwards, but I shrugged that off as a stylistic choice.
My feelings don’t respond to the GN format as strongly as they do to other storytelling formats, so I didn’t have high highs or low lows. Plus there’s really not a lot of angst or powerful tension that’ll give you that huge cathartic release—it’s a really soft story but I just really wanted everything to be wonderful for these sweetie pies. (Pun intended? Sure, we’ll go with it.)
CN: There’s an indirect explanation of Jack’s attempted suicide/overdose from before college in #Hockey and a very brief mention in Sticks & Scones that might not even be understood if you haven’t read #Hockey. One benefit of the GN format is that visual clues allow for inferences without the need for explicit unpacking or explanation.
Looking for something similar?