This week I am taking on reviewing a duo of graphic novels by Howard Shapiro. Yesterday I reviewed The Hockey Saint and today it’s Hockey Karma. Each book packs a heavy punch into a short number of pages, and while the stories revolve around the struggles of growing up and finding your place in the world the messages transcend well beyond the hockey rink and are bound to be relatable to a wide variety of audiences.
Title: Hockey Karma
Author: Howard Shapiro
Publisher: Animal Media Group
Publication Date: November 1, 2016
Genre: Graphic Novel, YA, Sports Fiction
Themes: Hockey, Relationships, Addiction, Alcoholism, Fame
My Rating: 4.5/ 5
The highly anticipated sequel to the award winning “The Hockey Saint” taking place ten years after “Saint” ends. The legendary Jeremiah “Jake” Jacobson, now thirty two, has been the world’s best hockey player over his fourteen year career because of his out of this world talent level and his smart play. But he can’t stay on top forever, and when he starts making mistakes on the ice, his career and family life start to crumble.
At the same time, Tom Leonard, his agent and best friend, is completely overwhelmed by a project that he and Jake were supposed to be working on together. A project that could have a huge impact on people throughout their city in need of a helping hand. As Jake sinks deeper into a funk over his lost status due to his deteriorating play and the emergence of teammate and rookie phenom Barclay Pedersen, Tom realizes he’s on his own. At the same time he rediscovers someone from his past who he never thought he’d see again. In that burgeoning relationship, Tom discovers the importance of taking chances and starts to believe in himself.
Can Jake break out of his downward spiral and Tom finally find the courage to step out of Jake’s shadow?
While The Hockey Saint was good, Hockey Karma takes everything to another level. The art is absolutely stunning, the writing shows growth and maturity, and the characters and their actions also reflect a similar degree of growth. The ten year difference in the characters has really been embodied, and the challenges that Tom and Jake are facing are no longer the trials of adolescence.
I’m not going to lie, I was hoping to see Tom and Jake playing on the same hockey team, but I also think that it’s important to show how few players actually make it into professional sports – even after they have been college stars. The storyline of Jake struggling with an up-and-coming edging him out of the team also particularly relatable. It doesn’t matter if it’s in sport, the office, or even volunteer efforts, there will always be a new batch of brighter, more energetic, and potentially more talented new recruits is always waiting in the wings. It important to learn how to mentor them and welcome them into the fold with grace and this is the perfect tale to relay the dos and don’ts of how this can be done.
I was also pleased to see the return of the addiction theme, as well as the expanded discussion on how addiction affects friends, family, and relationships. I want to talk more about it, but I’m afraid of spoilers! All I can say is that the behaviours, comments, and depictions were so incredibly realistic that I would consider this more of a life-lessons book than a hockey book, and I don’t even feel bad saying it!
Finally, I really, really loved Tom’s story. Whether it was his romance, his relationship with Jake, or his self-discovery through the revitalization project he genuinely felt like someone I might know as I made my way through the book. The presence of volunteerism and community involvement (and sudden withdrawal from it) was incredibly impactful and I’m glad that it was carried over from The Hockey Saint. Without question, I was rooting for Tom at that end that everything would come together in his project and really wish that it were a real thing because I would be so involved with it!
As usual, the art was fantastic, particularly the hockey scenes. I loved the subtle differences between the first and second book, as well as how the characters were shown to have aged. The colours were vibrant and expressive, and I was never once left guessing what a gesture or moment meant. The transitions were seamless, and the pace was consistent throughout. I wish I hadn’t been so glowing in my review yesterday! Because, we’re basically talking about something good that was made even better.
Would I recommend this book? Heck yes! The Hockey Saint and Hockey Karma and hands down amazing graphic novels, and straight up relatable and relevant stories!
Many thanks to Howard Shapiro and Animal Media Group for providing a copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.