Hockey Karma: Howard Shapiro
The career of an athlete takes on different shades of success as time wears on. At the start of a career you might soar to the top, be considered the best but aging at times can slow you down and hinder your growth, fame and potential. But, an injury while playing can destroy it all if you do not tend to it in a responsible way. Jeremiah “Jake” Jacobson is now 32 years old and considered the world’s best hockey player. Playing 14 years and really quite talented the start of this book shows a remarkable change from his beginnings in the first book of this trilogy. An injury while playing costs him his common sense, ingenuity and ability to play smart. Staying on top is all that matters to him but at times his thought processes and his choices will hinder the outcome as this one time star begins to take on a series of choices leading to a downward spiral. When pain becomes too prevalent some athletes like Jake bury their pain in heavy amounts or doses of drugs to dull the aches. Smart choices lose out and mistakes even on the ice can destroy lives, careers and family relationships.
Being at the top is great but when a new player comes in the older and more seasoned one often at times feels threatened and sometimes younger players on either team tend to try and injure the one on top. As Jake takes himself to see his doctor he learns about his back problem but refuses to go for the surgery wanting to complete the season but asking for pain pills to mask the real problem. Overhearing others talk about him does not help and his family, meaning wife and children are suffering from his neglect and attitude. Added in his best friend Tom wants to create a revitalization project to help the people that cannot afford food and the basic necessities in the community and Jake’s promise to help him seems to have gotten lost. Working on it together would help the people of their city greatly improve their station in life but Jake seems down in the dumps, feeling dejected, taken down to third line by the new coach from first line and is acting out like a spoiled child. Playing poorly, bad attitude and a new rookie named Barclay Pederson, seems to have an adverse affect on Jake. Tom now realizes he will have to handle the project alone but connecting for someone from his past seems to spark him in the right direction and talking about writing an article on gender equality for her paper created interest and connected him or her even more. How can you believe in something if you don’t believe in yourself? How do you live in someone else’s shadow and not see your way to clearing the mist or the fog?
The photos and the expressions on the faces of the characters show the emotional change in both Tom and Jake, as they have to decide how to move forward or remain where they are. When Tom tries to reason with Jake he won’t even listen. Angry because he was knocked down to third line instead of improving he takes more drugs. Almost like a child who cannot have his/her way Jake reverts back to being an adolescent and forgets he’s a father and husband. With Emma as his coach he seems to think she is okay but the resentment shines through as Tom decides to handle his own problems and hopefully not worry so much about Jake. Jake needs a rude awakening before he can move ahead.
As Jake’s life goes south something finally awakens his spirit and words can often trigger changes as one person’s words changes it all. When Jake finally realizes that taking pills is escaping the real issue and having to understand that the newest player on the team is not trying to take his place but make his own way things change. Dealing with a failing marriage a daughter who feels that her father has deserted and losing his place on the team, Jake takes a long and hard look at himself and then declares a change. As Tom forges ahead with the renewal project and Jake reunites with his family and decides on his future the author shares the true meaning of family love, friendship, trust and loyalty with readers. But, that is just the beginning. Tom tries to rekindle his relationship with his childhood love but being a reporter first that might just takes more time. Her eight-year-old son is a prime consideration and he has to decide whether to table his project or forge ahead with her.
We hear many different voices within this graphic novel, as Jake has to listen to his heart, as he and Felicity have to decide on their path in the future. Tom needs to decide where he wants to go and Emma; the coach takes a stand regarding Jake. The prime character is Jake but if you look down deep inside the message is for all athletes who are coming to the prime of their careers and might need to take a back step and move on to something else. It’s about saving face in some respects and hockey is his life and what he decides will surprise readers as Jake commits to change, gives the pep talk of his life to his teammates, comes to terms with the new player and realizes that his back injury is just an excuse to mask his own insecurities and the pills were an added bonus.
Tom continues on his path to create this amazing project as Jaelithe, his high school sweetheart attends the reunion but of the band that starts this book as we meet all of the players and both Tom and Jake. But, a single mom with a blooming career can she moves to Bump city or will she take a pass on Tom for now? The story takes on another life as you see the amazing illustrations that show the emotional upheaval of each character as they struggle with their adversities, decisions and the outcome of Jake’s final game. The ending lets you know that some things never change as the project is created, those who will spearhead different areas revealed and the final scene between Tom and Jake: Priceless! Karma is defined according to the dictionary as: The sum of a person’s actions in this and previous sates of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in future existences or in simpler terms destiny or fate, following as affect from cause,” (dictionary.com). Within this graphic comic beautifully illustrated by Andres Mossa and written by Howard Shapiro, sets the bar high as the author creates a character that many athletes can relate to as they age, often get pushed on the sidelines and feel old, dejected and cast aside. Within the illustrations the illustrator graphically depicts these feelings and emotions. When the final bell is sounded where will Jake’s blades be? When the decision is made about the project will step up? A novel of redemption, hope, loss, family love and responsibility and much more sportsmanship and understanding. Once again author Howard Shapiro manages to create a book for teens, pre-teens, older athletes, even children in middle grades to learn that life can hand you some difficult bumps it’s up to you create better ones. You are never too old for change and 32 is just the prime of your life. Find out what Jake does.
Fran Lewis: just reviews/MJ magazine