Review: In the Penalty Box – Lynn Rush & Kelly Anne Blount
by Lynn Rush, Kelly Anne Blount
Publisher: Entangled: Teen
Publication Date: January 5, 2021
Genres: Young Adult, Romance
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
The Cutting Edge meets Friday Night Lights in a sizzling new hockey romance from bestselling authors Kelly Anne Blount and Lynn Rush.
Figure skating was supposed to be my whole world. But one unlucky injury and now I’m down...but I’m definitely not out. I just need to rehab—a boatload of rehab—and who’d have thought I could do it on the boys’ hockey team?
Of course, the infuriatingly hot captain of the team seems to think I’m nothing but sequins and twirls. What’s a girl to do but put him in his place? Game on.
Hockey is my whole world. I’ve worked my tail off getting my team in a position to win the championships—hopefully in front of major college scouts, too—so what’s a guy to do when a figure skater ends up as our new goalie?
Of course, the distractingly sexy skater thinks I’m nothing but a testosterone-laced competitive streak. And surely she’s only biding her time to heal, then she’s gone. Game over.
Content warnings: View Spoiler »MC’s mother was killed by a drunk driver (before book starts), MC’s dad is verbally abusive and neglectful, misogyny and sexism, side character has an abusive father, underage alcohol use, side character is injured in a car accident by a drunk driver, suicidal ideation (from MC’s father) « Hide Spoiler
After being injured, Willow’s back home from her Olympic training program to finish her rehab as quickly as possible, even if that means sometimes sharing ice with the local high school hockey puckheads. When a goalie injury – and a stray puck – bring her to the hockey team captain’s attention, Willow suddenly finds herself spending time with Brodie and agreeing to act as his team’s goalie – just until she recovers enough to go back to training, of course. But as she spends more time with the team, and especially Brodie, she starts to love hockey, and, well, maybe Brodie, too. But any sort of relationship is against team rules, and she’s got her eyes on the Olympics anyway. What could possibly be worth losing that dream?
“Everything falls into place when I’m on the ice.” She straightened up a little, slowing the pace. “I can’t think clearly anywhere else.”
“Same,” I said.”
One of the things I loved about both Willow and Brodie was how much they loved their respective sports, and just being on the ice. Willow’s been focused on her ice skating career to the exclusion of everything else for years, and it’s a relief that her best friend from home is willing to forgive her for that. Willow initially joins the hockey team for the extra ice time and team workouts, both things that’ll help her recover more quickly so she can get back to ice skating. She’s a bit surprised how much she likes the teamwork aspect of hockey (minus some seriously misogynistic nonsense) as opposed to the mean girls aspect of figure skating. She’s definitely portrayed as “different from the other girls” – she’s not an ice princess like the other skaters Brodie has dated or that he’s used to encountering at the rink. While Willow’s dealing with conflicting feelings, Brodie’s also got a lot on his mind. His mom died two years ago and ever since then his dad has struggled with alcoholism. He’s been left to fend for himself and his eight year old brother, who has bad asthma, while at the same time being the hockey team captain. It’s lot on his shoulders, and I think that’s partly why he respects Willow’s own hard work and determination so much.
“Everything about us broke the rules, yet, while I skated on this uneven ice with the splash of the setting sun bouncing red rays of light through the air, everything about her felt right.”
Some of the book felt repetitive. Both Willow and Brodie are continuously reminding each other that it would be violating team rules to date, that Willow’s planning on leaving, that Brodie has enough on his plate, etc. It felt like they kept circling back to these issues without actually addressing them, and then they sort of ignored them because they couldn’t resist kissing each other.
And on top of that, there was just a bit too much going on – the family issues, the rival team player (this plot line sort of just fizzles out) – plus a large cast of characters. It never felt like there was enough time focused on any particular thing – we’re ricocheting between Willow’s failed attempt to date a rival team player to her friend back in Colorado getting hurt to Brodie’s issues with his dad to his little brother’s sickness to hiding their relationship from everyone to worrying about not hearing back from the Boston College coach to a teammate being a misogynistic idiot to… well, you get the idea. Honestly, most of my bookmarks weren’t for bits of dialog that I loved but for more things to add to the content warnings.
And I know this is some serious nitpicking, but it’s annoying that the book frequently refers to Willow’s long black hair which she usually wears down her back in braids (Brodie is really, really into it) while the cover model is a short-haired blonde.
Overall, I enjoyed the book – I love YA hockey books for whatever reason – but it felt a bit too jumbled for me.