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Sunday, 2 October 2016

TBC: Hockey Karma

It's a back-to-back weekend for Teebz's Book Club as I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of another hockey story that I've had the pleasure of reading. I often find myself leaning towards books from authors whose previous works I've enjoyed, and today's entry certainly follows that path. It's rare to find a graphic novel that covers hockey, but one author is doing his best to make this a reality! Teebz's Book Club is proud to review Hockey Karma, written by Howard Shapiro, illustrated by Andres Mossa, and published by Animal Media Group. Hockey Karma follows up on the friendship between protagonists Tom Leonard and Jeremiah Jacobson, and this time they are trying to make big changes in their community!

From Mr. Shapiro's website, "Since I decided to start writing children’s stories my goal has been to create characters that adults and kids would care about and be interested in following their journey. And also to create stories that SAY SOMETHING. There are thousands of kids books out there and in my little corner of the book store, I want and wanted to do something that can stand the test of time, be relevant and vital. Plus, make it entertaining and enjoyable to read each and every time. I hope I am succeeding in that goal." Mr. Shapiro is an accomplished author with a number of titles for younger readers to his name!

Andres Mossa is a colorist and artist that has worked for a number of major outlets including Marvel Comics where he's done work for the Wolverine, Iron Man, Inhumans, and Spider-Man series. He was trained as a painter in Bari, Italy before getting into illustrating comic books and graphic novels.

Hockey Karma is a far darker graphic novel than the previous entries, and a lot of the darkness swirls around the problems that Jeremiah Jacobson is having both on and off the ice. As you'll read in the graphic novel, these on-ice problems quickly spill over into Jacobson's off-ice life where his friends and family begin to notice changes in both his demeanor and behavior.

As time creeps up on Jeremiah, new players and diminishing skills are beginning to affect Jeremiah's game. Add to the fact that he's been playing through injuries and surgeries, and it's becoming apparent that Jacobson is not the player he once was. That's not to say that he can't still compete, but there is a flashy new rookie in town named Barclay Pedersen who is gaining the attention that Jacobson once held. To combat the pain of the lingering injuries, Jacobson also has started medicating. These many factors lead Jeremiah Jacobson down a dark path in his career.

Jeremiah's best friend, Tom Leonard, begins picking up on the poor demeanor that Jeremiah has been showing. He's constantly putting off a project that Tom has been spearheading, and Tom meets a former high school crush! Jeremiah, however, noticed none of this, and Tom kicks off what could be a very promising romance with Jaelithe and begins to rediscover a confidence in himself that he never had relied upon before.

While the story of Hockey Karma may be darker, there are certainly choices that were made that led both Jeremiah and Tom to moments of redemption. Some of these choices should be rather easy to make, but it's in the reflection of the choices made that both Jeremiah and Tom learn about themselves. While Jeremiah's decisions seem to lead him into the dark, Tom's decisions seem to lead him into a better place. Yet both men are tied together by friendship and a project despite them moving in what seems to be different directions. Will their decisions pull them apart or bring them back together for the sake of the project and the sake of their friendship?

Mr. Shapiro has woven another fantastic graphic novel around Jeremiah and Tom, but I have to admit that I found Hockey Karma a little confusing at first until I figured out that Hockey Karma takes place about a decade after The Hockey Saint. Once I came to this realization, the novel made more sense. At first, I couldn't comprehend how Jeremiah had aged so much and why Tom looked like he was much older, but once I put everything together through the first few chapters, it made more sense. While this is in no way a complaint towards the story or Mr. Shapiro, you'll want to remember this as you work through Hockey Karma.

With that out of the way, I have to hand it to Mr. Shapiro and Mr. Mossa in creating another excellent story with Hockey Karma. Mr. Shapiro takes a number of real world choices and drops them on his protagonists, and Mr. Mossa illustrates the decisions and the fallout of those choices very well. The ironic part is that these choices that both Jeremiah and Tom face are the same choices that people face every day in their lives. While the results of these choices in our lives may not have the same impact as Jeremiah's and Tom's choices have in the stories, the choices presented to Jeremiah and Tom are choices you, readers, may have faced or will face in life at some point. Because of this, I was deeply engrossed in Hockey Karma until the end!

There are moral lessons littered throughout Hockey Karma about courage, pride, and the meaning of friendship that become apparent with each choice that Jeremiah and Tom make. It's in these lessons that both the reader and the protagonists find themselves in a state of self-reflection regarding choices one has made, that's what makes Hockey Karma an excellent read. Maybe I read too deeply into the story or maybe I found some sort of enlightenment on the pages, but I believe that Hockey Karma deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval because of these lessons!

Get out to your local bookstore on November 1 to find Hockey Karma, and pick up the follow-up graphic novel to The Hockey Saint!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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