– A.L. Graziadei –
Henry, Holt and Co.
Published 18 January 2022
Icebreaker is an addictive sports fiction novel, about LGBT+ identity in sports, mental health, family and romance.
I think I start every sports book review with a statement about how much I love sport fiction. And I stand by that statement. I love sports novels. Icebreaker is a mix of YA and new adult, with our main characters in their first year of college but with less sexually explicit content that what one might expect from a new adult novel.
Mickey James the Third is ice hockey royalty. Ever since he was born, it’s been ordained that he will follow in his father and grandfather’s skates. He just has to survive his first year of college before he is drafted as the top pick and then he will have fulfilled that destiny. But when his draft ranking rival is placed on the same team, Mickey knows he will have to work harder than ever to prove he is worth all the hype. And when he starts to fall for that rival, despite also arguing and fighting non stop with him, Mickey will have to chose – destiny or a chance at a future he might finally, actually care about.
I adored that this book was told through the single perspective of Mickey James, rather than using duel perspectives. It made it Mickey’s story and I loved the time we got to know him and see inside his head. I don’t think I’ve ever read such a depression-positive book. Okay, positive is maybe not the right word but it is done so well and with such finesse. Everything that Mickey feels (or doesn’t feel, in some cases) reads so authentically. It is all true to his character, to the way he sees the world. How he initially treats his depression, his poor coping strategies (alcohol, lots and lots of alcohol) and the long time it takes for him to slowly accept, acknowledge and find more positive coping strategies gives credit to how hard it is to live with depression and the very real challenge that many people face. That this is all done alongside a story of LGBT+ identity and new relationships and coming out in professional sports is amazing. Nothing feels rushed and everything is given the space it needs within the story.
The romance does still play a pretty big part in the story, as does the rivalry between Mickey and Jaysen. Enemies to lovers romance anyone? My only criticism is that I didn’t get enough of Mickey and Jaysen time. At least, not when they are not fighting. We see a lot of their fights but I could have read for days and days about the times they are connecting and getting along. We do get a few fade to black scenes or “we have sex” sentences and I felt that this didn’t do justice to their relationship. It didn’t fit with what I was seeing on the page. They are constantly arguing and not getting along but still sleeping together, which yes, I get that, but with so few details (and I don’t mean I needed more explicit details, just maybe more of a lead in) it seemed out of place. But maybe that is just me being greedy with wanting more of them both.
Okay, so sex positive, LGBT+ inclusive, even polygamy is represented in this book. Ethnically diverse characters. And a wonderful cast of secondary characters, including the ice hockey team but especially Mickey’s five sisters and their respective boyfriends or girlfriend. It made for a fun and wild at times backdrop to the story. There are some fantastic comments made about women in sport and Mickey is super supporting of his sisters, all of whom are involved in sport or professional athletes.
Lots of content warnings, so check my readers advisory below. And the use and consumption of alcohol is excessive.
But I’ll say it again. Gosh I really love sports books. Especially when they are this good.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Genre: Contemporary, Sports.
Themes: Sport, LGBT+, coming out, ice hockey, Romance, mental health, depression, alcohol use, sisters, women in port, rivalry,
Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.
Representation: Black main character, LGBT+ main characters, LGBT+ side characters, polygamous relationship in side characters,
Advisory: Sexual references, references to sexual relationships, fade to black scenes. References to polygamous relationships. Frequent alcohol use to the point of black outs, drunkenness. References to depression. Frequent coarse language, f*** (18), sh** (62), as***** (31), bit** (3), pi** (2), di** (3).
Published: 18 January 2022 by Henry Holt and Co
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 304 pages.