Dude. It’s 12.45 AM. I’m writing this after spending almost every minute of the last six hours on this book and I have work early in the morning but I just can’t go to sleep without writing this.

I loved this book.

Plot: A crime committed by one of the teenage hockey team member in a small-town pits everyone against each other; friends, family, kids, adults.

Trigger Warning: Sexual assault, bullying, crude language

Let me start with the honest truth. First two pages into this book, I was very worried. I was like ooooooooo I might just DNF this. Mainly because it was all about character introduction. We get an introduction for about a good 80% of the characters in the first twenty pages. And the entire time I was like grrr, I’d rather like find out stuff about them with more action you know, rather than having the exposition dumped onto me.

But.

I continued because there was just something eccentric about the writing. The tone of this book, from beginning to end, was one and the same. It was very quiet. Despite all the shit that goes down, the narrator is a very quiet person. He’s non-judgemental but very precise in delivering what went done without being partial. The tone of the book is dripping with honesty about a town full of people that does not pride itself in being honest to their feelings.

I continued with this book and I absolutely love it. I’ve end up loving the first twenty pages and see the necessity for it. I love the circular closure in the writing, where the scene ends where it began. I love it.

I love the damn characters too. Fcuk. I love fucking Robbie Holts WHO ISN’T EVEN THAT IMPORTANT, WHO DOESN’T EVEN MAKE A DENT IN THE MAIN STORY. BUT ISTILL  LOVE THAT HE GETS TO SMILE AT THE END. I WAS SO DAMN HAPPY FOR HIM.

Let me cool down.

Let me just talk about the characters. We have a whole array of characters from the high school students to their parents to the external management people in charge of the team. All of them have such interesting character development. I won’t lie, I hated a lot of the hockey team boys at the beginning of this story, I’m lying, I hated them all. But god, at fifteen, at sixteen they’re all so damn complicated. They’re all fighting this battle and then you realise they’re just kids. The first twenty pages of the book is necessary in that it makes me understand just what exactly is at stake for all these characters, why they have come to have these battles that they face. It’s all believable. And more importantly I love the parallels. Some of these characters are put in the same position as another and they make vastly different choices, cue Benji and Felip at the fcuking end< now that I found was the most amazing parallel in this entire story. Benji and Felip both want to continue playing ice hockey but who they choose to play for says a whole lot of things about each of them, and although the book tries to say parenting affects the way a child is raised, I love that at the end Benji and Felip made their own vastly different choices despite having similar circumstances, because both their parents were in a way against playing for the team with the assaulter on it and yet. Also trust me I couldn’t have given a rat’s ass about ice hockey before this book, but I swear, I have never cared more about this sport in my life than I have in the last six hours. I got goosebumps from this book. I’ve never had goosebumps from reading a book. But it was this specific scene before the crime where Amat, who gets bullied once he joins the star team by the other players, gets beat down but stands up again while playing ice-hockey. Gah. Such a well-written scene.

The character development is really what shines in this book. I started to love people I never thought I could. And I could only pity the ones I didn’t. I’m really surprised and glad at how the author manages to dampen your spirit in one chapter when a character takes a nose dive doing something absolutely shitty, but also gives you another character that brings along hope that not everyone’s an asshole within the same chapter. And then you watch the roles reverse but when this happens, all you’re left with, is not a sense of betrayal, but more of an understanding of where the person is acting from. You never really know what someone else is going through, how someone else interprets the same scene, you can never really understand until you walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.

But Benji is fcuking bae.

I love finding a new author that I love.

BUT HERE I AM BACK ON GOODREADS LOOKING AT ALL 915 1-STARS.

ISSUES

  1. Too many characters, multiple points of view – yes. At first, I disliked it because it was like I never really got much of anyone (in the first twenty pages where most of them were introduced one after another), but as the story went on, I found that they are all necessary and they are all bloody darn unique. I almost had no problem identifying who was who and how they were related to another person. We see how all these people are connected and it’s essentially why this makes the crime that much more heinous. These are your neighbours, these are your children. That is why people feel strongly for both sides. And all of their voices matter because their kids – who are right smack in the middle of everything – have to hear their parents, their coaches, their teachers take on this situation because these people are who the kids look up to. And we will never be able to fully understand the kids if we don’t understand where they come from.
  2. An extension on characters – some find them cliche. I loved them and found their behaviours to suit their characters traits. But something to note: it is however a YA book so our teenage characters are going through a phase of finding out what’s important to them, friendship/family/relationship wise. I loved it.
  3. Melodramatic? – On a surface level, if you don’t find yourself feeling for the characters, then yes, it will be melodramatic. But I found their pain and struggles understandable.
  4. Mixing a sports story with a teenage rape plot – okay, not going to lie, the only reason I was a little apprehensive about reading this book was because of this. Like do I really need to read a book on it? I’ve seen news articles here and there and I think there has been a couple of movies about it, not that I’ve watched them. But I figured, it would be the normal blame game, a lot of angst, a showdown between the victim and the perpetrator. But I still picked it up because it was receiving all these positive reviews. And this story was not a normal blame game, was not a lot of angst, was not a showdown between the victim and the perpetrator. It was more about everyone else around them. To me, the plot wasn’t about the who’s right, who’s wrong, it’s just people and their actions and the consequences of those actions. It was about the town and it’s people and it’s values. And that’s what I ultimately loved.
  5. Repetitive instances on how hockey is important to everyone – the repetitions didn’t affect me because it’s only repeated because it’s a small town and it’s just that much more important to them. Hockey is the only thing this small town has. Damn, there isn’t like even a mall to go to. There’s like two places in this town, the bar and the ice rink (excluding the schools). To me, it made sense that these characters are obsessed with the one thing that gives them something to latch onto and the repetition only serves to show us how important it is to the characters, each with their own crucial, heart wrenching reason. That’s what I found beautiful. They each have a different story but they all found a home with hockey.
  6. The writing – monotonous. Well. Yes. But that’s up to you whether you like that one tone or not.
  7. The endingspoiler alert: real spoiler alert: no really, a spoiler alert on what happens to the case, where the perpetrator gets charged or not: are you sure you want to continue reading: okay: so he doesn’t. But I don’t have a problem with the ending. Because what is the purpose of punishment? To ensure the person repents? Or to make him undergo just as much pain as the victim of his crime? I’m guessing it should be a bit of both and I think by the end of this book, given what our victim actually does to him, our perpetrator has gone through both.
  8. A predictable story – WAS IT?  I mean not in terms of what happens to the victim and the perpetrator. Yes. I mean if you’re telling me the story is predictable in the sense that ‘a team full of jocks who doesn’t respect females, one of them ends up assaulting a female, a town with half it’s people on the jock’s side and the other half on the female’s, parents of the victim vs parents of the perpetrator, the police dropping the charge.’ Yes. Sure. It’s predictable.  How the event moulded each character inevitably might have been predictable but it was the moulding phase that really got to me because each of these ‘other’ characters could have been moulded differently given their backstories and because every character that was introduced in the beginning has an innate tendency to be an asshole. Like I’m not surprised with who supported which side by the end of the story, so yes, maybe it’s predictable, but I really loved how my own perception of these asshole characters changed from what it was at the beginning of the story to what it was at the end. That’s not to say I don’t think they’re assholes now. No. They are all truly assholes. But aren’t we all? 
  9. The actual realistic nature of the story – do I seriously think a small-town will be obsessed with a sport? No, at least not where I come from. HAHAHAHHA. Growing up in my schools, I’ve never seen anyone obsessed with sports that much, mainly because in Singapore we obsess on test grades more than any other damn thing. But I guess it’s different for those in Singapore Sports School? But even then, in Singapore, everyone rather tries to be an all-rounder rather than to pursue one thing because to survive in Singapore passion, desire, hard work isn’t enough. But I can empathise with the characters who each have their own set of problems.

Ultimately that’s what I loved. You never know the struggles of someone else.

It’s 2 am. Over and out.


An update 12 hours later.

I realise I did not talk about the LGBT rep. It was good. The LGBT subplot was weaved into the story very well. When the character was revealed to be gay, I wasn’t surprised but I was filled with a lot of warmth because the character himself was surrounded with warmth. I loved his scenes with his love interest. It provided warmth in this heavy book of people and their actions.

I realise I also completely did not talk about the other warm thing in this book – the small instances in this book where the asshole characters show the greatest compassion when you least expect it. When a kid that’s being bullied stops another kid from being bullied. When a kid takes the fall for someone else because the other person is already going through too much, when a kid hates what you did but does not hate you. I guess the sweetest thing is the fact that the ones doing the most compassionate actions are just kids. (some adults are just as compassionate but)  The kids in this book have the most heart – not all of them of course. Parents have a duty to love and protect kids. But kids?  They don’t. And the kids who you can completely understand if they looked the other way but don’t are the most beautiful and important part of this story to me. Not all hope is lost.

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