Title – Skating Through
Author – Jennifer Cosgrove
Genre – LGBTQ fiction
A heartwarming tale which is essentially a coming out story, “Skating Through” delves into the topics of homosexuality and sports.
Ben is an ice hockey player, and captain of his team. He is gay but hasn’t come out yet, and only his best friend Ryan has known since the last three years. A budding friendship with his long time crush Marcus, causes Ben to make some life changing decisions. Marcus is bisexual and has come out since a while, even proudly displaying a flag on his backpack. Marcus does not want to be a secret, if the two do decide to take their relationship forward. Coming out to one’s family and friends is one thing. How would Ben deal with the repercussions of being homosexual in a team sport? Possible jibes from not only his own teammates but other team players as well? Would his team want to play with a gay captain? If his homosexuality is given precedence over his skills as a hockey player and captain, how would the team work together on the rink and win matches?
Jennifer Cosgrove has written a charming story dealing with sensitive topics. I loved how she created her characters – Ben’s parents who are accepting of him being gay but worried what would be left of his hockey career if he came out to everyone; his younger sister Beth who calmly states, ‘You like boys? So do I’; his best friend Ryan who has his back every step of the way; Ryan’s girlfriend Rachel who plans double dates with Ben and Marcus so the two can go out without being sneered at – Ryan and Rachel are described as a pair of guard dogs on the prowl for anyone who troubles their friends; and of course Ben and Marcus – the intricacies of their friendship and relationship are beautifully displayed.
There is another story within this story – a voice from the past that assists Ben in his decisions to be true to himself. Ben’s grandma hands him a box while clearing her attic – filled with the belongings of her uncle who served in the War. An inspection through the contents, leads to the discovery of letters written by gran’s uncle to another man; letters that were written but never sent. A revelation that his great-granduncle was also gay – at a time when homosexuality was not just criminalized, but considered a mental illness. This segment leaves a lot to ponder upon on the acceptance of homosexuality over the years. Ben fears the jibes and sneers, but at least he doesn’t live in a time where he might be put in an asylum for being who he is.
The parts featuring the hockey team are also beautifully portrayed – from casual locker room banter describing poor performers as fags, to ultimately standing up for their captain when they realize someone they know is homosexual – Cosgrove raises the question of do we personally need to know someone on the LGBTQ spectrum to be more accepting as a society? People we don’t know are still someone else’s family or friend and deserve the same respect. It’s the small things that matter – When Ben is busy texting someone, he is asked who the girl is. This has nothing to do with one’s sexuality – one could text a parent or sibling or friend as well. When Ben comes out, Ryan is assumed to be his partner; even though Ryan is straight. Homosexuals don’t need to be friends only with other homosexuals, and can foster friendships with heterosexual people of the same gender.
The writing is simplistic – As a coming of age story, Cosgrove attempts to make this readable for younger readers as well. Though creating a story revolving around serious themes, it isn’t filled with angst throughout and has it’s share of lighthearted moments – the banter with Ryan and Rachel is particularly endearing. After a long time, it was good to read an LGBTQ fiction book that didn’t include characters from the community to poke fun at them for adding to the humor element. (I have read some truly atrocious books that do this. This is not inclusivity.) And I particularly liked the concept of a gay athlete – something to think about how tough it is to come out in the world of sports, especially team sports. How many, like Ben, are torn about coming out, how many never do, and how many do but face repercussions from their sport?
“Skating Through” will be well received by a younger audience due to the simple usage of language. But it’s a great read for anyone looking for books that cover the LGBTQ community – great concept, story and characterization. The deducted point in my rating is due to the writing being overly simplistic for my taste.
Rating – 4/5