Off The Ice – Julie Cross – Juniper Falls #1 – Entangled Teen – Published 28 February 2017
All is fair in love and hockey…
Claire O’Connor is back in Juniper Falls, but that doesn’t mean she wants to be. One semester off, that’s what she promised herself. Just long enough to take care of her father and keep the family business—a hockey bar beside the ice rink—afloat. After that, she’s getting the hell out. Again.
Enter Tate Tanley. What happened between them the night before she left town resurfaces the second they lay eyes on each other. But the guy she remembers has been replaced by a total hottie. When Tate is unexpectedly called in to take over for the hockey team’s star goalie, suddenly he’s in the spotlight and on his way to becoming just another egotistical varsity hockey player. And Claire’s sworn off Juniper Falls hockey players for good.
It’s the absolute worst time to fall in love.
For Tate and Claire, hockey isn’t just a game. And they both might not survive a body check to the heart.
Confession: I didn’t read the summary before deciding I wanted to read this book. All I needed to know was that it is written by Julie Cross and I was in. I love her contemporary novels.
At first, Off The Ice could have been any teen-y, high school drama, hockey novel. But let’s not forget that it’s written by Julie Cross, so pretty soon the characters started to expand and deepen in complexity, the situation got more complicated and basically it became totally addictive.
I was a little confused at first (probably because I didn’t read the summary) about who our main characters were and how they were connected. Tate is the younger brother of Claire’s best friend. The prologue starts the story and gives readers an insight into the big event of Claire’s last night in town that connects her and Tate. And it’s not something romantic, like I assumed. Instead it is far more complicated and terrible. At this point Tate has his own girlfriend but he has always had a crush on his sister’s best friend. It’s just that Tate was never on Claire’s radar and certainly not romantically. Now, one year later Claire is back in Juniper Falls and dealing with her own family problems. One glance at Tate and she suspects that his problems haven’t disappeared either. And also…Tate isn’t the scrawny kid he used to be.
The middle part of this book just stretched for me. And I don’t mean that in a bad, it-was-boring way. Instead it lengthened in all the right ways, letting the situation and romance and complications develop naturally rather than being rushed. This allowed the readers to really get to know both Claire and Tate better, as well as getting to know some of the other characters more. I would have happily stayed in that middle section forever.
This story also raises some important issues, like small towns where sport is valued over family and responsibility (and common decency), and family relationships and violence.
Here’s what I loved most about Tate and Claire’s relationship:
– Tate. Because he is so incredibly amazing with Claire. He is dealing with so much and he still goes out of his way to be there for her. He is patient, understanding, and, inside his head at least, vulnerable and scared about his feelings.
– Their open conversations. Tate and Claire discuss things and that makes for a fantastic relationship.
– That sense of peace when they are together. They just work.
– That their age difference is never an issue.
I would classify this book is New Adult or mature Young Adult rather than Young Adult, both because of mature sexual content and because of the characters’ ages. Claire is already at college, and their focus on coming of age, growing up, moving on, and deciding what comes next for their future.
The absolute best thing about this book is that it is book one in the Juniper Falls series and that means there are going to be more books!!! Already I can see so many possibilities for secondary characters in this book to have a chance to tell their story and I can’t wait.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own
Category: New adult fiction.
Themes: Ice hockey, sport, small towns, family, relationships, illness, coming of age, college.
Reading age guide: Ages 15/16 and up.
Advisory: Frequent coarse language, f***, s***, bi***. Sex scene and sexual references.
Published: 28 February 2017 by Entangled: Teen.
Format: Paperback, ebook. 320 pages.