graphic novel, LGBT, YA Contemporary Fiction, YA romance

My Review: Check, Please! Book 1: #Hockey (Check, Please! #1-2): by Ngozi Ukazu

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Publish Date: September 18th 2018
Number of Pages: 288 Pages
Publisher: First Second
Genre(s): Graphic Novel, Sports, LGBT, YA

Total Star Rating: 4.35 Stars

Okay, so if you love hilarious, heartwarming, coming of age story with college male athletes who love to party, and a gay little figure skater who loves to bake and joins the team, this graphic novel is totally for you!

Before this story literally fell into my hands, I never really read graphic novels before. Not that I ever had anything against them, they were just something that I never really looked into, plus they seemed like something that Marvel took over for the most part. This book just so happened to fall into my hands one day while at work in the bookstore, and I was immediately drawn towards the artwork, the blurb on the back, and I thought it would be great material to not only enjoy, but to get some possible inspiration towards my own story that I’m working on, which also takes place on a college campus.

After some resarch from my ever curious, erudite Ravenclaw mind, Check, Please turned out to have started out as a webcomic on the author’s Tumblr and/or Twitter accounts, and it gained so much popularity with it’s growing fandom, that she eventually turned to Kickstarter to be able to make printed copies of it to send to interested parties. It eventually went on to become the most funded webcomic to ever be put up on the site, making an astounding $74,000 when her goal was only $15,000.

I’m so sad to say that before I stumbled upon the book that I’d never even heard of the franchise, and thats because it turned out to be one of my favorite stories that I’ve read in recent memory! Its got sports, it’s got friendship, it’s got brotherhood, it’s got it’s laughs and tears, romance, hot male athletes, witty and hilarious banter, sexual tension, and it’s such a great story to get behind. It’s got some extremely relatable themes like coming out, collegiate stress, overcoming fears, friendship, growing up, athletes, and eventually graduation. I’m only sad that I have to wait until Spring of 2020 in order to read Vol. 2 (at least a printed copy of it, which I want to hold off on anything until the physical copy comes out, I know the third and fourth years are available to read online).

What It’s About:

Eric “Bitty” Bittle, a vlogger and baker, enrolls as a new freshman at Samwell University, a private college over in Massachusetts. He’s a former figure skating champion, but is actually at Samwell to play on the boy’s Hockey team, who all begin to warm up to through his cheery demeanor, his excellent baking skills, and overall kindness and compassion.

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Eric Bittle, image courtesy of

Four other characters meet Bittle and become a big part of his overall story; there’s his teammates Shitty, Ransom and Holster, Jack, and Lardo.

B. “Shitty” Knight is a typical cocky, chill, go with the flow kind of guy who is actually pretty intelligent, but wants to keep it on the down low. Despite being a junior who’s actually double majoring in Political Science and Sexuality, Women and Gender studies, he is very much what some people may consider to be a “stereotypical” hockey bro, at least by appearance and first impressions.

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Shitty, image courtesy of

Adam “Ransom” Birkholtz and Justin “Holster” Oluransi are the dynamic duo; they’re not an actual gay couple, but they might as well be. Both are each other’s best friend, they play off of each other and are always there for a good laugh, or get into “deep” philosophical debates like whether flow actually helps a hockey player’s performance or not, how nicknames are created and earned, the perfect shape of Jack’s ass (which has its own parody twitter account), and plenty of other hilarious and random qualms that come up. They are total bro’s, but lovable bro’s in a beautiful bromance.

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Holster and Ransom, image courtesy of

Larissa “Lardo” Duan is the snarky and moody female team manager. She is an art major in her sophomore year, based off her sculpture and painting work done that’s referenced, and though she doesn’t always say much, she usually knows what needs to be said. Initially best friends with Shitty since they’re from the same hometown, she also befriends Bitty and gets closer to him.

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Lardo, image courtesy of

Finally, we have Jack Zimmerman. Considered by most as a “prodigy” with his dad being a hockey legend, Jack always felt the pressure coming from all sides, and it’s led to issues with stress and anxiety and other things down the road. A junior at the beginning of the story who’s a History Major, he’s incredibly driven, brooding, moody during the preseason and is a natural born leader with a no nonsense attitude. He initially dislikes Bitty, but grows to like him over the course of the two years that they are teammates. Jack even begins to tease Bitty about his mannerisms and his obsession with Twitter and baking, and they develop a fun dynamic because Bitty reminds him to take joy in the little things in life.

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Jack Zimmerman, image courtesy of

As the story develops, you discover that Bitty learns to come to terms with his sexuality when he discovers that he has a major crush on Jack. No one else really knows, and he’d prefer to keep it that way. This first volume covers Bitty’s freshman and sophomore years at Samwell University, while the second volume (releasing Spring 2020) will of course feature the last two years, and hopefully/most likely feature some characters that graduated and moved away in this first part.

What I Liked:

  1. The Characters! Honestly, it’s the characters and their whole group dynamic that steals your heart in this story. They’re just such a fun group of people to read about, and you feel like you’re immersed within their inner circle. They say funny and stupid things, and actually do funny and stupid things too; the author absolutely nails the banter and the camaraderie amongst the teammates. Her characters were surprisingly so fleshed out and dynamic, and it was so great to see how they grew as time went on. Yes, to some, they’re just the typical alpha jocks on campus, and sure, sometimes they say things that may seem problematic or stupid, but I can appreciate the fact that the author nailed their authenticity to a T, and still made them likeable all the same. With that said, I suppose there are some slight trigger warnings for some readers: there’s underage drinking, panic attacks, hazing, and the misogynistic guy talk about hooking up with girls, and frankly other sexual content. Personally, I didn’t mind any of it as I thought it added to the authenticity of the characters and who they are (boys who are athletes in college), but I could see others not be too keen on it.
  2. The Slow-Burn Romance! Yes, there is a romance, and oh….it is so agonizingly drawn out, much like someone who is a giant wuss and makes tearing off a bandaid an absolutely horrendous experience. It’s fun to see it slowly develop, but also so satisfying when it finally goes somewhere. There’s plenty in between to keep you interested at least! You can’t help but love Bitty and want him to get everything he wants in the world; he is the literal definition of a human cinnamon roll!
  3. The Author! the author took her time studying the sport of Hockey for three months at Yale back when she was writing a screenplay that was similar to Check, Please, but much darker in tone. afterwards, she wanted something lighter, more fun and uplifting, when she witnessed the friendship amongst the athletes and their own group dynamic, and so Check, Please was created. Also, she unintentionally became a huge fan of the sport after all the research she did for her works of fiction, which is awesome! She went above and beyond because she wanted it to be authentic, realistic and show that she knew what she was talking about. Any writer, author, etc should do the same sort of thing in order to make their work stronger. I also just love that from what I’ve heard, she’s just as much a part of the fandom while also being the main contributor of it all. She literally just sits and draws little three-part comics, sketches, character’s, you name it. She does her own fanart for her own comic, which just sounds adorable. It’s awesome to hear about a creator who loves her work so much, that she’s also such a huge fan as well!
  4. The Artwork! The artwork is done in such a beautiful, fun way, and the panels are smartly done in a seamless way that easily moves you within the story the next box. It’s simple and cartoony, but effective and enjoyable all at the same time.
  5. Bitty! I mean, he’s a short, gay little baker who was a figure skater who joins the hockey team. Imagine Spongebob Squarepants making it into the Salty Splatoon. He’s also from the south and says “Y’all,” “Bless your heart,” “Girl, Please” and uses people’s full names like an angry mother whenever he needs to make a point. So, he’s a gay little southern baker who’s on the hockey team, and he’s officially too pure for this world.

What I Didn’t Like:

Nothing…I didn’t dislike anything…it was all so so so so perfect….I am WAY too excited for Spring 2020 for it to release! I don’t even care, I’m rolling up in my 2004 Mercury Sable at Barnes & Noble and paying full price like:

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Oh my lord…What can I say? This story is a treat. A delicious, sweet, cavity inducing treat that most fans of LGBT!, sports, M/M romance and college story lovers will immensely enjoy. It’s mainly character driven, so it’s a little on the slower side towards the middle, but like I said, the author has created a truly amazing dynamic with her characters with their unique personalities, their banter and conversations, and how they develop for not only themselves, but for you, the reader. They truly may shock you at some points when you think you have them all figured out.

It’s funny, its heartfelt, its deep, and it’s another great coming of age story for anyone to enjoy! If you couldn’t guess, I am currently in countdown mode for the release of vol. 2 in the spring of 2020, and refuse to read what happens before then on the internet, because who doesn’t like the long, drawn out torture of waiting for the next book in a series to come out a year later?

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell


My Review: Into?: by North Morgan

Publish Date: May 22nd 2018
Number of Pages: 363 Pages
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Genre(s): LGBT

Total Star Rating: 3.5 Stars

Let me start off by saying that this book was kind of a buzzkill…not that it’s horrible and not worth reading, in fact, I knew it was going to be a sort of darker tone going into it based off of other people’s reviews on Goodreads. I would say it’s subject matter really makes you stop and think to realize some things in your life; social status, the conflicting importance of social media and how we use it, the shallowness of “insta” fame and reputation; those themes are all so totally emphasized, but in the end, how meaningful is it all, really?

What It’s About:

The story revolves around the main character, Konrad Platt, who is a 34 year old circuit-gay man who is the kind of guy on social media that everyone loves but also hates: he’s got a great body, he’s always traveling to exotic locations, at the craziest parties, Coachella, and he’s a blond/blue eyed model-esque stud with a pretty decently sized following on Instagram. He is moving to Los Angeles to get away from his ex and his new boyfriend. Konrad continues the urban gay party scene, but admits to himself over and over how he wants something more out of his life. He wants to settle down, find love, and be happy, but the problem is his own insecurities and constant obsession with his filtered image that keeps dragging him back in. No, I’m not talking about the Clarendon filter either…

What I Liked:

  1. Konrad as a Protagonist! He is a likeable character with his admissions of how meaningless the whole gay party scene is; you want to cheer him on and hope he finds someone. It was just so frustrating when he would go back to old habits; taking drugs, obsessing over the next party, stalking hot men on social media to messaging guys on Grindr, and lots of random sex with other hot guys as an attempt to fill the void he feels, or just because he’s bored.
  2. The Abuse! Now, before anyone labels me as sick, awful, or sadistic…hear me out from a simple storytelling standpoint. Konrad meets a special someone through a decent chunk of time; they message each other, he goes and visits him (not without making sure they take a shirtless picture on the beach together and post it on the ‘gram), and eventually move in together, but it takes a turn for the worse. What was truly heartbreaking about it was how Konrad was unaware of it for a long time, even with a ton of red flags popping up with the guy. He thought he’d finally found someone to be serious with, but it really went the wrong way, kind of like Sansa Stark back in Season 1 of Game of Thrones, when she was betrothed to Joffrey Baratheon…and look how that turned out…While tragic, this has to be one of the more meaningful and emotionally impactful parts of the story, one of the parts that really make the whole book stand out.
  3. The Darkly Realistic Undertones! While some can get into the story because its a novel about the gay urban party scene , the real impressive part comes from its dark underbelly in terms of themes. Sexual Attraction, Lust, Self Destruction, The Human condition and finding our meaning in this world is what will make this book haunt reader’s minds after they put it down. It seems shallow on the outside, but there’s something deeper and much darker than what is primarily seen on the surface.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Urban-Gay Scene Insider Scoop…This book allows the reader to kind of see inside the inner mechanisms how how the gay party scene goes, and while it was still informative to a degree for anyone interested in the topic, the book still casts a pretty dark shadow over it all. I’m what Konrad refers to as a “non scene” gay and it seems like they just get written off as boring and not worth any time. If someone wasn’t a “masc” partying gay man with muscles and a good social media following, they’re not worth it. Like I said before, Konrad is aware of all the shallowness and insignificance of it all, but he still lets it consume his life and make it seem like the most important thing. 
  2. The Writing Style…Konrad is the narrator of the story, but it’s very non-descriptive to the point of is it intentional to focus on the idea that he doesn’t pay attention to any of that? to which, it’s ironic since he’s all about how he appears…he describes others with barely any physical descriptions if any at all. The writing is also in a style that I’d compare to an entry in a diary. “We did this, then we did that and this happened, he said this to me and then we….” There are some areas of actual dialogue, but not a huge amount to be honest, just mostly run on sentences, like Konrad is retelling all of this to a friend.
  3. The Importance of Social Media…I mean, we all sort of already know that Social Media isn’t something to take all that seriously, that it’s only a small glimpse into someone’s life, and it’s heavily filtered on the positive side to the point that it looks like a big bragging contest. But the more interesting aspects were these unspoken rules people, especially gay men, have to follow on messaging people. Konrad messages several guys through the story, some that are already in relationships, and at one point he thinks to himself like: ‘he said this’ so he actually means ‘that’ like it was some secret code, or you have to wait a certain amount of time before you respond so to not look desperate, and in all honesty…it makes me depressed about the possibility of trying to be a gay man dating in this society now a days.
  4. Romance is Dead…This book gave me anxiety about how unaware I was about how dating worked in the gay scene, especially with social media so heavily involved, and makes me worry about myself in ever finding someone. In the story, Konrad wonders at one point if being a gay male in this world means he’s stuck in a constant stream of polygamy and partying; never actually settling down and meeting someone meaningful, but still will go on Grindr to find a random hookup, or take someone home from the gym, and I sincerely hope that’s not the case…I think you just need to seriously separate yourself from all that, and try to find something else to give your life meaning. If someone you meet can’t do that, then maybe they aren’t worth the time, as sad and disappointing as it may be sometimes.


This book is a unique read; it has a unique subject matter on the gay partying scene, but if anything, this book also showed me how I have even more determination to never get into it. I would recommend this story to anyone, straight or queer, because it does have an interesting amount of deep thinking ideas of the struggles of dating in modern times, the human condition, attraction, self image, self destruction, and finding acceptance and meaning in your life, and it makes you wonder what’s truly more important; our mental and physical happiness or how influential we are with our online presence.

Thanks For Reading!

— Nick Goodsell