Ms. B Reads: Michigan Vs. the Boys
February 5, 2020
Author: Carrie S. Allen
Audience: Young Adult
Genre: Sports Fiction/ Realistic Fiction
Tags: sports, hockey, strong female lead, gender issues, discrimination
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ /5
Release Date: 10/01/2019
I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book for free through Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.
“This is the separate-the-men-from-the-boys part. Lucky for me, I’m all girl.”
Gosh, I loved this book. As an avid hockey fan and someone who really enjoys strong female leads in traditionally male settings, this book checked so many boxes for me. The story centers around Michigan, a female hockey player devastated to learn that her high school’s girls team has just been cut due to budget issues. While her teammates find various ways to move on from the blow, Michigan, who is not ready to leave her beloved sport behind, makes the bold decision to try out for the boys team instead.
Her drive to succeed and her hockey know-how quickly make Michigan the team’s top scorer and bring a positive spotlight to the program, but things in-house aren’t so hot. Team captain Daniel and several of his buddy teammates make it clear from the start that they believe Michigan has no place on the ice with them. As their antics escalate over the season, Michigan is forced to decide whether her love of the game and fear of losing it are worth continuing to be the victim of increasingly dangerous harassment.
There was much to love about this story, starting with Michigan. Throughout the book I found myself frustrated by her decisions regarding the harassment she experienced at the hands of her own teammates. “Just tell someone!” I raged. But in reflection, these repeated poor decisions are what makes Michigan such a believable character.
So many women in male-centric environments believe that they have to be independent, that harassment or aggressive behavior from male colleagues must be dealt with independently. There is a strong fear of the consequences of being seen as weak. Michigan perfectly embodies that rock and hard place in which many girls and women find themselves, and her story shows all the things that can go wrong when implicit bias and pure sexism continue to pervade.
We also get to see Michigan’s journey to recognizing a big character flaw, over-independence and a refusal to rely on others, which nearly costs her literally all the things she cares about. This includes her relationship with swim team hottie Jack, a character with just enough depth to be enjoyable. Sometimes he just feels like the generic boyfriend character- that is, until later parts of the story, when Michigan (and the reader) is forced to remember that Jack is his own person with very real feelings and opinions.
This book had an enjoyable cast of characters. Even the minor C-List characters, mainly Mich’s old hockey teammates, all manage to feel like unique and interesting people in the brief moments we see them. Mich’s family also felt pretty real. I was also very pleased with how everything was wrapped up in the end.
Overall, this was an enjoyable read that provided a nice treatment of some serious themes of gender bias and discrimination. I really recommend this book to anyone who likes sports stories, strong female characters, and realistic issues in young adult fiction.