What feels like eons ago, my coworker and friend, told me about an adorable web comic that I just had to read called Check Please!. What she didn’t tell me was that it was a super cute LGBTQ+ story with a pie-baking hockey player as it’s protagonist! How could I have put off reading this for so long? (especially when I later discovered the ARC sitting in my library…)
Eric Bittle may be a former junior figure skating champion, vlogger extraordinaire, and very talented amateur pâtissier, but being a freshman on the Samwell University hockey team is a whole new challenge. It is nothing like co-ed club hockey back in Georgia! First of all? There’s checking (anything that hinders the player with possession of the puck, ranging from a stick check all the way to a physical sweep). And then, there is Jack—his very attractive but moody captain.
The last true Comic Book Monday feature I did was in April of 2018 and I’d been toying with bringing it back every time a parent looks at me in the bookstore and proceeds to tell me how graphic novels aren’t real books and they don’t want their precious precocious pre-teens reading picture books when they’re asking for them with more enthusiasm than I can manage to muster most days, and I’m a pretty chipper and cheery person. I figure if I could convert my father-in-law to the way of the graphic novel on my twelve year old sister in law’s behalf, I could certainly help the kids out at the store. So please, if you want to see more comic book and graphic novel reviews, let me know – I’ve got dozens I can do! I’ll be breaking down the ratings for comics and graphic novels into writing and art separately.
And now! Onto the review! I wish I had read Check Please! before writing my favorite sports books post a few weeks ago, but I’ll just have to save it for my next sports listicle. I’d taken a break from graphic novels at the start of the year, telling myself I wanted to see if I could meet my reading goal without them, as they bring down my average page count and I do tend to fly through them in a very short amount of time. I’m not ashamed to admit I’d hoard all my bound volume reading until the end of the year to see if I was coming up short on my Goodreads challenge. More than a few times I’d use them to pad out the list. But I just couldn’t stay away.
One of our reps recently sent me two graphic novels from a publisher that we hadn’t carried before and it led me to my ARC shelf in my library/guest bedroom to poke around for what other graphic novels I’d collected, but not yet read. While shelving those, I stumbled across my long forgotten ARC of Check Please! (it came out in September 2018… which means it’s been almost 2 years that it’s been sitting up there). I still don’t know how I could have possibly forgotten about it, given my everlasting love for ice hockey.
Check Please! also represents a first for me: it’s my first read with a protagonist who is part of the LGBTQ+ community. When I mentioned I was reading it to a friend, she asked if it was my first. And I didn’t think it was, how could it be? And then she reminded me off all the books I had “blurb read” and therefore not really finished and I realized that this was, in fact, the first I finished! Bitty, the aforementioned protagonist, full name Eric Richard Bittle, is an absolutely darling. He loves baking and hockey, but comes to the sport by way of competitive figure skating and he’s terrified of being checked (where another hockey player slams into you, something that happens all the time in the contact sport of ice hockey.)
As he grows into his role on a university ice hockey team, he discovers more about himself, and the players on the team, particularly what a tight knit brotherhood they have – they always have each other’s backs. The pacing is incredibly quick, 200 and change pages covers both Bitty’s freshman and sophomore years of university. Bitty, Jack, and the other hockey players are incredibly well developed – I felt that it was the best ensemble graphic novel character cast I’d seen since Giant Days and I couldn’t have been more delighted by how the first graphic novel ends, character wise.
My only gripes with the book is that, while Ngozi has definitely researched the sport of ice hockey, there are some hockey organization and culture nuances that slip through a bit. The structure and likelihood of a player’s professional career, how the NCAA tournaments work, etc. are either glossed over or not quite right and the art style, while delightful, could be stronger in conveying character emotions and facial expressions to the help the reader add tone and feeling into their dialogue while reading. However, overall, I highly recommend the book and I will now join Ngozi’s long time fans in anxiously awaiting book 2’s release on April 7th of this year!
Rating: Writing 10 out of 10, Art 8 out of 10
Where to Buy
In the USA, I recommend purchasing through IndieBound or your local independent, in the UK, and many other parts of the world, I recommend Blackwell’s, and if neither of those cover where you live, I recommend checking out your local booksellers! Independent bookstores are vital parts of every local community and I wholly endorse supporting your local stores versus Amazon.