CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 21. . . .February 1, 2013
Natalie Hyde's latest sports-themed young adult novel, Hockey Girl, is an action-packed story that delicately handles gender equality issues relevant in Canada today. Tara is in Grade 9 and lives in a fairly typical small town in Southern Ontario where hockey is worshipped and her accomplished girls'softball team is overlooked. When arrogant boys from the local hockey team, the Hornets, make fun of softball and declare that hockey is too difficult for the girls to play, the girls fight back against the insults.
Having never played hockey before, the girls decide to form a hockey team to prove the boys wrong. Even after forming a team, the boys' teasing does not stop, and so Tara's team agrees on a bet: the hockey team with the higher standing at the end of the regular season wins. The team that loses will be the winning team's cheerleaders during the next hockey season.
While the girls' ability to quickly learn a sport without much difficultly may seem hard to believe, Tara explains that, since "every person in Cartwright, young or old, knew how to skate", they are able to apply these skills to hockey. Tara's team seems to have a chance at winning the bet when they start to face a series of challenges. First, their coach quits mid-season to take a position coaching a boys' team. Then, the league cuts all the girls' ice time to give priority to boys' teams and a boys' Midget tournament. Tired of having their involvement in sports dismissed, the girls decide to protest the injustice and bring the issue of sexism in sports to the forefront of their community.
The treatment of sexism in sports is well done, and Hyde accurately represents the inequalities in prestige and opportunities often found in our culture. As Tara's team publicizes the inequalities they face, the women of the town share their stories of sexism. Joining forces with Kip and other supportive boys, the girls try to force change and stress equal access to sport.
Although character development generally comes second to plot development in Hockey Girl, Tara and her teammates are not simply vehicles to illustrate sexism in sports. Tara and her friends are humorous and likeable characters. In her determination to be seen as an athlete and an equal in her community, Tara is a fairly well-developed character whose motivations are believable. The complexity of her character is highlighted in passages where she describes her family's obsession with her brothers' hockey and her feelings when her athletic achievements are patronizingly dismissed. Tara's own biases are also revealed when she begins a relationship with Kip, a hockey star and the son of the hockey convener.
This short novel maintains reader interest throughout with engaging characters, sporting rivalries, and fast-paced hockey action. The portrayal of small town culture is well done, and the solid development of the story and the characters makes Hockey Girl appeal to more than the typical sports fan.
Beth Wilcox is a graduate from the MA in Children's Literature program at the University of British Columbia and is currently teaching in Prince George, BC.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.