Shoot Out (Jessie Mac Hockey Series)
by Maureen Ulrich
Published by Wood Dragon Books
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$18.99 ISBN 9-781989-078648
In 2009 I reviewed Maureen Ulrich’s YA novel Power Plays—the first title in her Jessie Mac Hockey Series—and all these years later it’s been a pleasure to read her fourth and final book in this action-packed series. As with the earlier books, Shoot Out concerns hockey: 14-year-old protagonist Courtney’s debut with a U15 boys’ team (Moose) in Estevan, and her 19-year-old sister Jessie’s second season with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies Women’s team in Saskatoon. Ulrich’s successfully “passes” the spotlight back and forth between these two athletic characters: the siblings’ narratives alternate throughout this adeptly-written novel. Interestingly, Ulrich’s melded real-life Huskie hockey players and experiences–based on the schedule and statistics of the 2013-2014 women’s team, for which her daughter played—with fictional ones, and it’s a win-win.
There’s plenty to admire, from the crisp writing to the personal growth of the McIntyre girls, who have much more to navigate than hockey ice. Romance simmers on the back burner for both gals, and there are mercurial friendships, family dynamics, educational upsets, and injuries to attend to. The major conflicts, however, are how young Courtney will perform on the ice with her male teammates and whether the boys—and their parents—will actually accept her. Hockey’s one of the most physical sports. Is she strong enough? Talented enough? What about dressing room protocols? And even though hazing is forbidden in the Saskatchewan Hockey Association, the practice continues today, as a few of the rookie hockey players learn in this fast-paced story.
One can feel something insidious building. Will one of the Moose bullies— Brandon or Michael—seriously harm Courtney? Will it happen at one of the team’s rookie gatherings, where alcohol’s in abundance?
Jessie’s trials include a difficult psychology professor, Dr. Kerr. Here Jessie faces the woman in her office to discuss an exam vs. hockey scheduling conflict: “She has thin lips and perfectly penciled eyebrows. Beats me why she plucks the hairs out and draws them back in.” I love this observation, and several of Jesse’s other comments. “Fresh ice smells like hope,” she thinks at the first game of the Canada West Conference. “Every weekend is a dogfight in Canada West.”
And this wouldn’t be a realistic Saskatchewan novel unless there was a nod to winter weather. Jessie and her teammates often travel to games via bus, and I almost shivered reading “A winter squall pummels our bus as we retreat westward on the TransCanada Highway. I rearrange my pillow to stifle the draft sneaking down my neck.” Brrr.
Ulrich clearly knows hockey, inside and out. Jessie tries to “saucer a pass” that’s intercepted, and another character—based on real-life former Huskie Julia Flinton—“has a shot like a howitzer.” And if you’re not hockey literate, not to worry: The Jessie Mac Dictionary at the book’s end explains all the hockey terms you need to know, from Assist to Zamboni.
Maureen Ulrich lives and writes in Lampman, SK. See maureenulrich.ca for more on this fine writer’s work.
THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM THE SASKATCHEWAN PUBLISHERS GROUP WWW.SKBOOKS.COM