Before I discovered lesfic, I never thought it could be that much fun to read about sports. I mean, I often find watching sports boring, even those I understand (unless I’m in the stands, and there’s noise and enthusiasm and all), so how could it be interesting without only words and no images? And yet.
I don’t know much about hockey but, while hockey is the main character’s life, Breaking the Ice is about a lot more. As I’ve written before, my wife was a sportswriter for a long time, and with her, I learned to appreciate the stories that surround sports. It’s all about pushing yourself, giving your best, coming back from impossible situations.
And that’s what makes novels about sports so captivating. They’re not about sports, really. They’re about the people. What it takes to make it to the top. How to fight for what you want and for what you deserve. Nothing could illustrate that better than a story about the first woman to play in one of the major professional sports leagues. If you remember Pitch, the TV series that aired a couple of years ago about Ginny Baker, the first woman to play in Major League Baseball, you’ll know what I mean. Yet, while I really liked Pitch and was sorry when it was cancelled after only one season, books can go deeper than 45-minutes episodes.
Breaking the Ice is told in present tense from Sophie Fournier’s POV. The North American Hockey League (NAHL) has decided to allow teams to go co-ed. The Concord Condors are the only team willing to take a chance on a female player, even though Sophie is obviously the best of her generation. At eighteen, the Canadian player becomes the first woman drafted into the NAHL. Not only is she the only woman, she’s also a very young one in a man’s world, playing with and against adult men, not only boys her own age anymore. Which means she not only has to be mentally strong but also physically able to resist taking hits.
Sophie is never allowed to forget she’s the first woman to be drafted. If she fails, women fail. The weight of responsability is huge, especially at such a young age. If she’s not the best (on ice but also off it), she doesn’t play. And even when she’s the best, she’s not always rewarded for it.
I loved a lot of things about this book, and the main one is probably that I never got tired of all the hockey. The whole cast is excellent. Sophie, of course, is intense and driven, but also smart and endearing. Her teammates – whether they’re happy she’s on the team or resent her for it –, her family, the coach, other players in the league, her Russian so-called rival Dima who most of all wants to be her friend… They’re all very well-written and fleshed out, even the smaller characters.
I knew from previous reviews that there was no romance, no love interest at all. I’m hoping for some in the next Sophie Fournier story, Sophomore Surge, but I didn’t miss it at all in this one. Quite the opposite, actually. I liked that the focus was on Sophie’s first season in the NAHL, which fits perfectly with an eighteen-year-old character whose whole life has been geared toward one goal. Maybe now that she’s reached that first goal, which should lead to other, even bigger ones, she can allow herself to also have a life beyond hockey. I’m looking forward to finding out.