A steely-nerved young girl and the pervasive, toxic masculinity of hockey culture face each other head-on in Carrie S. Allen's new YA novel, Michigan vs. the Boys (Kids Can Press).
Michigan Manning, a gifted teen player with ambitions of making it to the college level, is dealt a devastating blow when she finds out that the girls' hockey program she loves will be shut down due to budget cuts. With nowhere else to go, Michigan gathers all her courage to do the one thing she never thought she'd have to: join the boys' team. Suffering through bullying and harassment, she is determined to play with more heart than all her teammates combined. Once the pranks cross the line into assault, however, Michigan is faced with a serious dilemma that could alter the course of her dreams.
At once a celebration of hockey and a cutting indictment of the often narrow-minded culture around it, Michigan vs. the Boys will inspire girls to strap on some skates, take to the ice, and most importantly, stay true to themselves.
We're very excited today to share an excerpt from the book below.
Excerpt from Michigan vs. the Boys:
For tryouts, I wear a plain black jersey and plain white hockey socks nabbed from Dad’s hockey bag instead of my green-and gold-striped team socks or my team practice jersey. I scrub my face clean of makeup and spend forty-five minutes on a complicated braid that will fit completely under my helmet. Actually have to refit my helmet to get it on.
Also, if I ever get asked to prom, I’m definitely doing the same hairstyle. Too bad it’ll be wasted under a helmet tonight.
Since I’m the only girl here, the rink manager wouldn’t let me use a full locker room. And someone’s mom was hogging the women’s restroom. But the manager did unlock a broom closet for me to change in. I counted three spiders.
So here I sit, my cute braids smashed under my helmet, listening to the faint sounds of male laughter drifting through the walls from the guys’ locker rooms on either side of me. They get two locker rooms to accommodate the full tryout roster while I dodge spiders and try not to notice what’s floating in the dirty water of the mop bucket.
I’ve been playing hockey since I was six. I have now coached three bantam practices and have zero problem showing up those boys when necessary. Which is frequently.
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Pre-game butterflies are normal for me, but today there are dragons brawling in my gut. I have no idea what to expect out here. I can’t order these guys to do push-ups if they make a rude comment. If I get laughed off the ice … well, I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t tell anyone I’m here. Not Brie, who has only texted three lousy lines in the last week. Not my former teammates, who are busy with their new activities. Not Jack, who’s given me seven adorably sexy smiles in the hallway at school. Not my parents, who would definitely flip if they found out about this.
I peek out the door. The Zamboni machine is still circling the ice. I’ll wait until everyone’s out there and then sneak onto the ice before anything gets started. Blend in, lie low.
“Coach?” asks a girl’s voice. There’s another girl here? My head whips around.
It’s Megan. Standing in the hallway, shifting a pile of clipboards, with a bucket of pucks at her feet.
“You recognized me?” Not Hi, Megan! Not What are you doing here? But Oh, shit, I’m recognizable.
“I’d recognize your stick anywhere.” She gestures to the butt end, which is wrapped in neon pink tape. Wow. I’m sure all the guys have Barbie-pink tape on their stick handles. Way to blend in, Manning.
“It’s so great that you’re trying out,” she says.
“Yeah,” I snort. “That remains to be seen.”
She reshuffles the clipboards. “No, no. You’ve got this. I’ve seen you skate at my practices and that was only half speed. I’ve watched a lot of tape on these guys, and believe me, they’re not as skilled as you.”
“You’ve watched their tape? Are you a manager or something?”
“Unofficially. My stepdad’s the coach.”
No. Way. “So you really think I can keep up?” She cocks her head and a blond curl tips out from behind her ear. “Haven’t you ever seen them play?”
“Of course. I go to all their home games if we’re not playing.”
Duh. I mentally smack myself on the helmet. I do know how these guys play. Not only did I play with some of them as a kid, but I’ve watched them. Sat in the bleachers with my girls and pointed out every mistake they made, as if we’d do better ourselves.
And I can. They’re a dump-and-chase-and-collide kind of offense and I’m a cycle-until-you-have-a-chance kind of forward. There’s a good possibility I do have better hands, better eyes than most of them.
The problem is that I’m used to playing with teammates who skated the puck well and passed a lot. I know I’m not going to be able to rely on these guys. I’ll have to do it myself.
“They’ll have size, strength and stride length on you,” Megan says, as if she’s been following my mental path.
“So I’ll have to be quick.” Quick feet, quick on the draw, quick on the turnover.
I nod. Look for the open ice. Pick my opportunities. Don’t barrel in.
Behind us, the rink manager scrapes the last bit of snow. Boys will be pouring out of the locker rooms any second now. I step back toward my broom closet. “I’m just gonna —”
“Uh-uh,” Megan says, with an awfully knowing smirk for a thirteen-year-old. She points to the rink. “First on the ice.”
I can’t shrink back now. This kid skated confidently onto this same sheet of ice only a week ago, one girl in a sea of eighth grade boys. Lead weights attach to my skates, but I force them forward to the rink door. First one on the ice.
It’s the same smooth white sheet I’ve known all my life. The same blue face-off dot at center ice. The same scratched red goalposts and nets patched with bits of skate lace. This is my home ice. I’ve won a helluva lot of battles here.
I’ll do it again.
Carrie S. Allen grew up in the Colorado mountains, at 10 000 feet elevation. She worked as a certified athletic trainer, first in a high school, and then in collegiate sports medicine. She lives in Colorado Springs with her husband, kids and dogs. When she's not acting as an unpaid chauffeur, she writes about athletes. Not female athletes, but athletes who happen to be female.