Book Title: Icebreaker
Author: A.L. Graziadei
Release Date: January 18th, 2022
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult, LGBTQ+, Sports
My rating: 5/5 Stars
A. L. Graziadei’s Icebreaker is an irresistible YA debut about two hockey players fighting to be the best—and the romance that catches them by surprise along the way.
Seventeen-year-old Mickey James III is a college freshman, a brother to five sisters, and a hockey legacy. With a father and a grandfather who have gone down in NHL history, Mickey is almost guaranteed the league’s top draft spot.
The only person standing in his way is Jaysen Caulfield, a contender for the #1 spot and Mickey’s infuriating (and infuriatingly attractive) teammate. When rivalry turns to something more, Mickey will have to decide what he really wants, and what he’s willing to risk for it.
This is a story about falling in love, finding your team (on and off the ice), and choosing your own path.
Allow me to introduce you to your new most anticipated read of 2022. (Just kidding. Kind of).
Before reading Icebreaker, I’d only ever read one other hockey romance (in the form of a graphic novel), and I’d only ever been to two hockey games. I thought I had a decent amount of knowledge of the sport, but within the first two chapters, as different technical terms were being recited, I knew this was certainly not the case. I thought this would be off-putting to me, because I wouldn’t be able to connect or understand the sport, but instead, it inspired me to look up terms that I did not understand, and I think that amplified some of my enjoyment.
Before I go any further, however, I want to stress that while there is lots of hockey involved, and there is a romance, that is by no means all this book entails. There are several important topics and discussions brought up surrounding the stigmas that come with playing hockey; especially in the NHL. One of my absolute favorite discussions in the book was about depression. Because not only is it still considered taboo in regular society, it is especially considered so in sports. But not only that, the representation was just really well done, and one that I could personally relate to. The main character, Mickey, had been dealing with depression for a while, but he was struggling to come to terms with it and accept it because he lived a rather privileged life otherwise. But as one of my favorite quotes in Icebreaker mentions, depression does not care how well or bad off you are, because it can happen to anyone. Mickey kept struggling though, because he would tell himself that he did not have a right to feel depressed, that his life was great. This one made me tear up several times, because it’s something that felt so personal and relatable to me. It’s so easy to dismiss your mental health that way instead of asking for help. I greatly appreciated the progression and journey he went through for his mental health, and it was one of my favorite parts of the book.
The romance, of course, was another favorite of mine. Mickey and Jaysen (or Terzo and Cauler, as they call each other), are rivals from the start. They’re both battling for the top draft spot for the NHL, and this causes some serious disputes between the two. Their chemistry is so obvious from their first interaction, but it takes them a lot longer to realize their feelings for each other, and even when they do, it’s anything but a smooth ride. I thought it was so realistic the way the two of them felt about each other, but had a hard time in coming to terms with it. And even when they were together, they still kept their rivalry for a long time, which I also thought made sense for the two. Nothing about their relationship felt forced, and their sweet moments together were so endearing and tender.
The characters in this story were also particularly strong. Mickey’s teammates and sisters really shone through, because while there were a lot of them, they were all going through their own problems, and none of them felt like they were placed there merely for plot reasons. These characters formed strong bonds with each other, and it was so heartwarming to see. I was rooting for all of my favorites the entire time, especially Delilah. She was my favorite of Mickey’s five sisters, while Dorian was my favorite of his teammates (aside from Jaysen, of course). We really got a deep dive into Dorian’s personality, and how much he was going through, as well. Dorian helped to show the reader that while someone can come across as happy and carefree, they can still be suffering on the inside. The story also demonstrated how imperative support systems are, be that a group of loyal friends, loving siblings, or a concerned teacher.
Another important topic discussed in this book was the expectations set by family members. While Mickey used to love hockey, between his depression and the expectations placed upon his shoulders, he was struggling to conjure any enjoyment for the sport for most of the book. There were times he felt lost and unsure of where he stood in life, because he had no idea who he was outside of hockey, but he wasn’t even sure whether he wanted to do it anymore. This showed why conversations and communication is so, so important in situations like these. If his family had ever stopped and asked what he wanted when he was younger, he might not have felt so trapped later on. There were a lot of relevant topics about family that were considered in this book, and I thought they were all done really well.
Really, the only thing that I maybe disliked about it was the fact that it was too short! I felt the ending could have been developed a bit more, because while it didn’t feel incredibly rushed, it felt like there should have been just a little bit more to it. I do like how it ended, though. The last sentence at first sent me into a rage because of how we’d waited the whole book, but then I calmed down and thought about it, and realized I was okay with it, and ultimately, the last sentence was correct.
Even though I thought the ending was a little rushed, I will still be giving Icebreaker a five star review. I loved it too much to dock off points because of that, and I’m sure this is one I will reread and love every time.
This is such an important book. It is about hockey, sure, but it’s about the bonds we form with people, what it means to be a family, the pressure we and others place on ourselves, and how it’s okay to ask for help if we’re struggling. The book also goes into a deep dive on privilege in the NHL and handled it very respectfully, in my opinion.
Before reading this, I was sure I would enjoy it, but that doesn’t come close to how much I loved it. Icebreaker was such an incredible read, and I will be recommending this to anyone even slightly interested. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, and I kept turning and turning the pages to figure out where it was going and what would happen. I am so thankful I was able to read this one!
Is Icebreaker on your TBR for 2022? If it isn’t, I would highly recommend it! It will be released in January 2022, so you don’t have to wait long!
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.
Check out my last ARC Review review: The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester