Friday, October 18, 2019

Michigan vs. The Boys

Allen, Carrie S. Michigan vs. The Boys
October 1st 2019 by Kids Can Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Michigan loves playing on her high school girls' hockey team, but budget cuts dissolve not only her team, but the school's boys' swim team. There aren't a lot of other options for her to play in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Her friend Brie has wealthy parents to send her to a boarding school in Chicago, and a couple of friends drive an hour to play on another town's team. A couple decide to join the girls' swim team instead. At first, Michigan decides she will just help coach her brother Trent's middle school team, but she is inspired by the only girl on that team, Morgan, to try out for the high school boys' team.  She's an excellent player, and makes the team, which doesn't make the coach or the other players happy. The coach (who is Morgan's step father) tells the team that they are not allowed to socialize with Michigan, and she has to change in the ice rink's broom closet. Those are the least of her problems. Boys spill coffee down her neck in the school cafeteria, vandalize her possessions, and eventually beat her up. Michigan doesn't want to tell anyone and jeopardize her place on the team, so she stoically puts up with all of the macro and micro aggressions. One teammate, Avery, is supportive and helpful, but he is also concerned that the team will turn on him if he supports her. One bright spot is Jack, a swimmer who is not only hot but also evolved. He encourages Michigan to try out for the team and is supportive of her efforts. Eventually, the abuse reaches a point where it crosses a line into illegality, and even then, Michigan finds herself negotiating with the main perpetrator to keep things quiet. Eventually, however, things go public and Michigan has to have help from her parents to start legal proceedings against the boys. There is some misunderstanding with Jack, but this is quickly cleared up, and it turns out that the boys giving Michigan a hard time were also terrorizing others on the team. With the state tournament coming up, how will the team be able to go forward with no coach and several key players out of the game?
Strengths: Like Mathieu's Moxie, this takes on toxic masculinity and showcases the difficulty that women in sports can still face. Michigan just wants to play hockey; why should this be difficult? The treatment of Michigan by the coach and the boys on the team points out something I have long said: there is a real need for education when it comes to how kids treat and view each other. Many of them, like Dylan, have been carefully taught, and we have finally reached a point in time where this behavior is NOT going to fly. Still, I love that Allen was able to make Michigan determined but also somehow accepting of the behavior, in that she put up with mistreatment instead of immediately calling it out. I also adored Jack-- can we just make a law requiring all teenaged boys to be this evolved? They should be. He likes that Michigan is just as focused on hockey as he is on swimming, and this is what draws him to her. I also appreciated that eventually, Michigan knew she had to make the hard choice and make matters public. The delineation of everything that happens is very informative. Strong characters, strong writing, and a strong message.
Weaknesses: There is a plethora of f-bombs. Add that to the drinking and drugging, and I am going to pass for middle school even though it was a riveting read.
What I really think: I would definitely buy this for a high school and think it is an important story, but it's a bit much for middle school. I'll make sure the public library looks into purchasing a copy; if I have students get the book from the public library, I never have to get involved in meetings challenging my purchases. Just how life works.

COTA day, which is a teacher work day. Overdue slips, gluing books back together, weeding-- all sorts of glamor here!

Heading to the Rhinebeck Wool Festival after work today with my daughter, so will be wearing this sweater I knit in 1986 with wool I bought in Athens, Greece!