Book: Thanks A Lot, John LeClair
Publisher: Harmony Ink
Publication date: December 15, 2016
Length: 204 pages
Reviewed by Erin
A Companion to Here's to You, Zeb Pike
Sixteen-year-old Emmitt LaPoint has secretly been writing letters to his hockey idol, John LeClair, for years. So it’s probably only fitting that Emmitt’s small Vermont town seems desperate to make him the next LeClair. After all, Emmitt is about to lead his high school hockey team to the state championship, he has a near-perfect GPA, and he’s liked by almost everyone.
But even golden boys have problems, and Emmitt has more than his share. His father’s back in town to breathe down his neck. He’s happily dating his coach’s nephew, Dusty, but almost nobody knows he’s gay—and that secret is getting harder and harder to keep.
When Emmitt discovers Dusty is keeping secrets of his own, he’s forced to decide exactly what kind of golden boy he wants to be.
I love YA books. Like a lot. And when they're also about 2 boys and hockey and family and friends? Well, to me there's nothing better. If you're not a fan of hockey, don't worry. Thanks A Lot, John LeClair by Johanna Parkhurst has lots more going on than just some fabulous hockey scenes, though Parkhurst really nailed these with realism and action. This is a companion to the book, Here's To You, Zeb Pike, which I didn't read but will, but I wasn't the least bit lost and didn't feel like I was missing anything in the least.
So our two heroes, Emmitt LaPoint and Dusty Porter were pretty fabulous. Each has their own strengths but by no means are they perfect. Dusty is stubborn and moody, though that's pretty typical for a teenage boy, yeah? And Emmitt ... well he's a bit selfish and clueless to his own privilege. But these two together were so sweet. Sure there's the stereotypical jock who wants to hide his being gay and relationship with his boyfriend for fear of his team's nonacceptance. And yeah, this IS stereotypical for sure, but that doesn't mean it's not a valid fear, does it? Emmitt is the star of his hockey team. He's been taking care of his mom and younger brother since his dad walked out on their family. He's feeling the pressure to have excellent grades, lead his team to a state championship, and still be there for his family and boyfriend. That's a lot for anyone to manage, let alone a seventeen year old elite athlete who only wants to play hockey. Then we have Dusty, who is still dealing with his own issues on top of being in a secret relationship when he only wants to be recognized in public by Emmitt as his boyfriend.
There are many issues brought up in Thanks A Lot, John LeClair. Fear of coming out and only wanting acceptance. The pressures of being an athlete. Divorce and family relationships. Just struggling to balance school and life and sports. High school isn't easy in the best of times but throw in being gay and in the spotlight, and well, things sure get magnified ten-fold. I loved the relationship between Emmitt and his brother, Casey, and their mother. I really appreciated how Parkhurst portrayed Emmitt's absentee father when he came back around. And how things aren't always black and white. Parents aren't perfect people, they make mistakes, and then hopefully they try to make up for them like Emmitt's father did here. I really liked all the hockey and the action of the games; Parkhurst did a marvelous job making me feel the anxiety and excitement. What I most enjoyed was the spotlight on the You Can Play organization. It really hit home for me that there are STILL so few out professional athletes despite many of them being a spokesperson of an organization that emphasizes inclusion of all genders and orientations and races in sports. Yeah, the world is changing, but there is still so much farther to go.
This book, while relatively angst-free and maybe a tad unrealistic in it's perfection in how everything turned out, was, all in all really quite lovely. Sure there is a need for books that deal with heavier topics in a much more serious way, but there's also a well deserved and somewhat lacking need and desire for lighthearted and sweet romances between two boys or two girls or two gender queer kids or however else they fall on the spectrum that shows solid family relationships and friendships and how coming out might not be the nightmare some envision. Johanna Parkhurst delivers a tender and heartwarming story of two boys finding their way that will leave you hopeful and with a smile on your face. I recommend this book to everyone.
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