Michigan vs. The Boys
Carrie S. Allen
KCP Loft an imprint of Kids Can Press
Review: Elizabeth Jaeger
Genre: Young Adult (some mature content)
Review of Michigan vs. The Boys by Carrie S. Allen
Boys are better than girls when it comes to sports. Sadly, some people believe that this statement is completely accurate. But all the girl athletes out there know it isn’t true. However, even today, even in the twenty-first century, girls need to work twice as hard as any boy if they want to prove themselves, both inside and outside the athletic arena. Being an athletic girl isn’t always easy. Being good and being accepted by your male peers can be close to impossible. I know because I used to be one of those girls.
When I was growing up, I lived and breathed basketball. My entire existence revolved around the sport. And in middle school, when one of the boys challenged me to game of one-on-one, he couldn’t take the heckling of his friends when I tied the game. He walked off the court, and went home. But I paid for it. From that point forward, I was ridiculed, made fun of, and mocked. Names flew — they dubbed me Butch and Lizzy the Lessy. I cried often. But I didn’t quit. I pushed through the pain. And saw minor successes in sports all through college.
For this reason, Michigan vs. The Boys by Carrie S. Allen resonated with me. From the first chapter, I was drawn into the story. The novel opens on Michigan’s first day as a junior in high school. She’s supposed to be the assistant captain of the girls’s ice hockey team, but minutes after she’s awarded this title, it is ripped away from her. Due to lack of funding, the girls’ hockey team has been cut. Ice time is too expensive and the girls’ team isn’t performing well enough to justify the cost. Michigan and her teammates are crushed.
Michigan tries to envision a life without hockey, but she can’t do it. She needs to play. But how? Jack, a swimmer and soon to be Michigan’s boyfriend, encourages her to try out for the boys team. It is an insane idea. One she initially dismisses, until she finds herself on the ice at tryouts. She out skates most of the boys, and plays so well, that as the coach bitterly explains, she made the team because he couldn’t justify cutting her to his young step-daughter. But when he accepts her onto the team, it’s with a battery of rules that apply only to her.
Daniel, the team captain, and several of his cronies are not pleased that a girl has been accepted on the team as an equal. They are determined to force her off the team. First, they try intimidation. Michigan responds by skating faster and playing harder. In short, she dares the coach to let her play the position of her choice. When he concedes, the boys up the ante, this time with physical assault. Still, she doesn’t quit. Instead, she establishes herself as one of the best players in the league.
When all other methods fail, Daniel sets out to destroy her reputation. Through all the humiliation, Michigan holds her head high and refuses to believe at any point that she is less worthy of anything simply because she is not a boy.
Though it is a novel about hockey, one does not need prior knowledge of the sport to appreciate and enjoy the story. In fact, it’s more about the bonds of friendship, family, and the drive to be so good at something you are willing to suffer in order to break boundaries. The relationship between Michigan and her younger brother, Trent, is delightful. Trent and Jack demonstrate that not all boys are angry and resentful about girls kicking butt in sports. Trent’s idealization of his sister feels natural, and the few quiet moments between them are sweet. All the characters are completely relatable, and by the time I finished reading, I had trouble saying goodbye.
I’ve read many novels that stay with me, and this is definitely one I recommend.