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Power Play

by Eric Walters

Prolific author Eric Walters’ latest YA novel is a gripping story of hockey, ambition, and power – both on and off the ice. In Power Play, Cody is an alpha male teen whose dedication to hockey offers a distraction from an unstable home life (his father is a temperamental alcoholic and his mother is timid and ineffectual) and spotty track record at school.

When Cody is recruited for the Junior A league, he thinks his dreams of climbing up the ranks are coming true, but the situation quickly becomes a nightmare: not only does the coach sexually abuse Cody, he ensures the young player’s silence through manipulation, intimidation, and threats.

This dialogue-driven novel is successful in depicting some of the pitfalls of the all-male world of hockey, which not only promotes skill and sportsmanship but also requires players to obey the authority of male coaches and captains. (Besides Cody’s mother, women in this novel are limited to the matriarch in Cody’s host family and unnamed “puck bunnies.”) While the coach always comes across as generous and charming to other adults, he is a controlling monster behind closed doors. He continually reminds Cody that he has the power to end the careers of any of his players with the snap of his fingers, and reveals an alternate personnel file in which he depicts Cody as aggressive, unreliable, and sexually confused.

Given the measures the coach adopts to protect himself, it seems rather unbelievable that he simply pleads guilty, without a trial, after Cody finally breaks down and reveals the abuse to another coach. But in keeping its resolution focused on Cody rather than his aggressor, the novel shows the steps the young man has taken – and will continue to take beyond the end of the story – to keep going with his life.