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Open Ice    by Pat Hughes order for
Open Ice
by Pat Hughes
Order:  USA  Can
Wendy Lamb Books, 2005 (2005)
* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

NICKY TAG! NICKY TAG the arena crowd cheers as Nicky Taglio heads onto the ice. Skating since the age of five, Nick is a high-school sophomore and hockey is his life ... 'In the dream there's always open ice'' (in hockey lingo, this means ice clear of opponents, which creates an opportunity). On the ice, Nick is blindsided and slammed by an opposing player, his head hitting with tremendous force. The medics rate it a grade-three, the most serious of concussions.

Nick is pigheaded about accepting what the doctor told him the second-time around - that the third-head injury would put him out of the game ... no, wait, you don't understand, the game is my high and my rush, I plan to play collegiate and professional hockey. Nick attempts to convince the team's coach, the doctor, and especially his parents to allow him to keep playing. More and more, he refuses therapeutic procedures, and is difficult to be around. He becomes forgetful, loses concentration, feels foggy of mind, is depressed, and has increasing, serious headaches. Sleeping a lot, or at times with difficulty, Nick's mood swings escalate from gentle to a raging temper. Through his obstinacy, Nick loses touch with his friends, team players, and his girl Devin. He gets behind in classwork, argues constantly with his parents and older brother Brian, and he endangers his two-year old brother Gabriel's life.

Though Open Ice has a satisfactory ending, lots of questions are left hanging in the imagination. There is also much to be desired in the book's clipped, stiff dialog. Nick is unpleasant in his language and mental mistreatment of his parents. He drinks, and uses marijuana at friends' homes and parties. But Hughes manages somehow to twist the character and story, drawing in the reader to complete the book. Her best offering is the description of hockey game moves and savvy, which hockey fans will appreciate.

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