A. J. is ecstatic when he makes the city-wide hockey team, but when he learns that his best friend is gay, he takes his rage and fear with him onto the ice and jeopardizes his position on the team.
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Grade 8-12-- After he and his best friend, Tulsa Brown, are selected for the high school ice hockey team, 16-year-old A. J. Brandiosa is suddenly confronted with a multitude of crises. With his coach's encouragement, he becomes an ``enforcer''--someone whose main job is to make cheap, violent hits against opposing players. While the boy comes to terms with his new role, he discovers that Tulsa is gay. To further complicate his life, his secret crush on Tulsa's sister becomes public just as his friendship with Tulsa is deteriorating. In addition, his father brings home a female friend who is closer in age to A. J. As the boy works through his confusion and pain, he clarifies his own relationships, eventually emerging as a winner on all counts. The fast-paced hockey action is only a backdrop to the off-rink clashes that are told by an omniscient narrator who leaves little to the imagination regarding what the protagonists are thinking and doing; this helps clarify any uncertainty about plot or character, but it also increases the story's predictability. Important questions are raised about homosexuality, high school sports, single parents, and male sexism. This is an issue-laden story that is rescued by the carefully delineated main characters, although more discriminating readers might be dubious about how neatly the conflicts are resolved. --Jack Forman, Mesa College Library, San Diego
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
A second novel that builds on the strengths of the author's first, Last Chance Summer (1991): here, A.J. thinks his 16th year will be the best yet--until he discovers that his closest friend, Tully, is gay and that his hockey coach condones deliberate brutality on the ice. A.J. has proudly moved up to the Cyclones, a Triple-A team, and is developing an intense interest in Tully's younger sister, Summer. But finding Tully at a gay bar with a teammate turns his world upside down; he takes out his sense of betrayal (and fright at his own feelings) by going after opposing players, accepting his spreading reputation as a ``bad boy'' with guilty pleasure. The two young men are well-drawn, complex characters: glib, unstable Tully bitterly contemplates the loss of a treasured friend and the impossibility of keeping a secret in a small town, while A.J., inarticulate and socially inept, struggles desperately to lay both confusion and prejudice to rest. Believable subplots, some violent hockey action, and a particularly strong supporting cast enhance a story that is thoughtful and, ultimately, optimistic: in the end, the friendship survives. (Fiction. 13+) -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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