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    Sucked me in until the end

    4.5 stars — Dude, if this is the end of the series, I’m going to be really sad. Each story has been a fascinating look at hockey in a small town, and this one just brought that all together in the most perfect way. You can totally read it as a standalone, but if you do read them as a series, you’ll see how all the little events from the previous two books have culminated in the conflict/climax/resolution of this book. These YAs really do have a more mature feel to them, though this one was perhaps the tamest. There is a somewhat steamy scene, but it’s mostly cut away (and fits the maturity of the characters). But it tackles some difficult subjects, like hazing, bullying, mental health, and other subjects that are too specific to mention. I just loved the way the story played out. Ms. Cross really showcased how difficult it would be to take a stand against a toxic environment that has existed and been allowed to fester for decades. I could see this happening in a small town, and I truly felt for Jake and how torn he was over how he felt, and what he wanted for the future. If he’d just made the right decision all along, I don’t think it would have had the same impact…and I don’t think it would have had the same sense of realism. Anyways, I really don’t want to get into the plot too much, just know that I was gripped and that I was so happy with how it played out. Now onto our characters! Brooke was kind of fascinating, but I feel like we kind of got shortchanged on her story. We got hints of things that happened in Austin, and with her Dad…and while some bits were fleshed out, others were left more vague. I was actually a bit let down by that. And not only that, but there was no real development with what was going on with her Mom, and how that played out. Which is okay in some respects, b/c there was enough else going on, but then why have those bits mentioned? I also get it in that when something so difficult is happening at home, it can make sense to just compartmentalize it and focus on other things to deal. However, I LOVED the whole girl’s hockey team story!! While there was a part of me that was skeptical about the rate at which Brooke learned and excelled, in the end I’m not sure I really cared. I loved seeing the challenges they faced, and the support that Sheriff Hammond gave his team. I also loved seeing Brooke develop a friendship with Rosie. Jake was so not what I was expecting. I’m not sure what I was expecting, it’s been a bit since I read the previous two books, so I didn’t have a good memory of him necessarily, but he was so much more earnest and…just endearing than I was expecting. I really ended up loving him. He was hardworking, and caring, but caught up in the craziness that is Otters hockey. But deep down he was a genuinely good guy. And I really loved the two of them together. I felt the connection and the crushes on both sides, the fascination with one another. It felt real, and sweet, and just made me happy. They were good for one another. About my only complaint is that this book, like the others, had odd time jumps. I guess I don’t mind that happening, but then maybe mention the time in between. It just always took me a minute to adjust and be like “oh wait, so it must be like weeks later now”. Needless to say, I started this one late last night and stayed up way too late because I had a hard time putting it down (though I did eventually). There’s just something about the way Ms. Cross writes that sucks me in and has me compelled to read just one more chapter.
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