Summary: With a move from Saskatoon to Estevan, Saskatchewan, Jessie Mac is forced to start grade nine in a new school two weeks after the new school year has already started. Targeted by a bully named Kim, Jessie finds out Kim has been spreading lies about her, antagonizing an older girl named Marsha who shows up at her house and raids her parents’ liquor cabinet. In order to get Marsha and her friends out of her house, Jessie agrees to go with them, spending a night in jail thanks to their antics. But the police officer in charge sees Jessie is a good kid and encourages her to join the local girls’ hockey team. Used to playing ringette, Jessie, though reluctant at first, comes around, finding friends, support, a potential romantic interest and love for a sport that she just can’t get enough of.
Number of Pages: 302
Age Range: 12-13
Review: I enjoy Maureen Ulrich’s writing because she explains hockey in a way that makes sense to me. My knowledge of how the game actually works is limited, and I usually find reading about it to be tedious. But Ulrich writes about the game in an engaging way, involving characters with a passion for playing.
Once again, I am reading my books in the wrong order, having started with Breakaway, the last book of the Jessie Mac trilogy before my Marathon of Books. Power Plays, the book I read today, is the first in the series, and tells the story of how Jessie gets into hockey in the first place. A stranger in a new town and a new school, Jessie is not making friends or adapting well because she is being bullied. Her grades are going down, and while some teachers mean well, Jessie finds herself dealing with a surprise visit from an older girl named Marsha who believes Jessie has bad-mouthed her.
Her encounter with Marsha ends up being a turning point in Jessie’s life though when the police officer suggests she make some new friends by joining his daughter’s hockey team.
Jessie’s a great character who grows to love the game. And when her bully becomes a teammate, Jessie eventually does her best to smooth things over between them. Thrust into the world of girls’ hockey, Ulrich’s reader learns the intricacies of playing on a girls’ team and being a girl playing on a boys’ team and the challenges of both. By the end of the novel Jessie’s team is competing for the provincial championships, and she has a new and loyal group of friends who have her back in any situation.
It’s a younger teen read, and while I liked the story itself, I also appreciated Ulrich’s Author’s Note about the seriousness of bullying with tips on how to deal with it.
“‘But most of all I’m sick to death of people not taking this sport seriously. I’m sick of the radio station not broadcasting your scores. I’m sick of having to beg for ice time so we can play three real periods of hockey. I’m sick of never playing a single game in the Civic Auditorium. I’m sick of not having a league to play in. Do you understand what I’m saying?'” – Coach Steve talking about the lack of respect the girls hockey team from Power Plays by Maureen Ulrich, page 205
“‘You have to quit blaming everyone else when things go wrong. Sometimes life just sucks – and it’s nobody else’s fault.'” – Jessie from Power Plays by Maureen Ulrich, page 274