________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 36. . . .May 16, 2014



Michael Betcherman.
Toronto, ON: Razorbill/Penguin Canada, 2012.
342 pp., trade pbk., $14.99.
ISBN 978-0-14-318214-6.

Grades 9-11 / Ages 14-16.

Review by Andrew Laudicina.

*** /4



“Your dad’s doing well,” Helen said as she and Nick walked out of the prison.

“Whatever,” Nick said.

Helen looked at him. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.” He usually felt sad after a visit, knowing it would be a few week before he’d see his father again. He was sad now for a different reason. The visit had been a disaster, but that wasn’t what he was thinking about. It was what happened afterwards that bothered him. As he and Helen were leaving the visiting room, he saw his father talking to Leon. His dad was laughing at something Leon had said. Leon. Frigging Leon. The guy his dad had told him to stay away from because he was a real prick! Just thinking about it made Nick furious. Take away the uniform, and you would have thought you were looking at two buddies shoot the shit. His dad seemed to be right at home. Nick wondered if he was still laughing after he went through the door to the cells.

Nick got in the car, turned on the engine, and gunned it out of the parking lot. He couldn’t get out of there fast enough.


Still coping with the loss of his mother, 16-year-old Nick Macklin is dealt another devastating blow: his father, a former all-star forward for the Vancouver Canucks, is incarcerated, 11 months into a life sentence for the murder of a fellow player. Convinced of his father’s innocence, Nick takes it upon himself to find the real perpetrator of the crime. But with little to go on—the only possible suspect is described as a bald man with a limp—Nick is in way over his head. He continues searching, nonetheless, even as he rejoins his former hockey team and reinvests in old friends and relationships that he abandoned long ago. Nick tries to make time for everyone, but between practices, school work, and a newfound social life, he finds himself searching less and less for the man responsible for his father’s wrongful imprisonment. A chance encounter one night, however, changes everything, forcing Nick to the shocking realization that his efforts all along should have been trained much closer to home.

      With only two potential suspects, for most of the book readers are not so much concerned with whodunit, but with how and why. While this does take away from the story somewhat—making it a tad too predictable—the mystery behind the murder is, nevertheless, an interesting one, and pleasantly complex. The lengths to which Nick goes to uncover the plot and expose and entrap the murderer are also cleverly executed; Nick’s spy skills (and gadgets) are topnotch, but they are not so over-the-top as to stretch reality.

      By and large, on-ice action is limited in favour of locker room escapades and pre and post-game fraternizing. Fitting really, considering that hockey, in particular, the struggles and early failures encountered by Nick’s team, are used symbolically to mirror his plight in securing justice for his father. In the end, Nick discovers that, with the proper mindset, persistence, and a few good friends, even the seemingly impossible can be achieved.

      A high page count (helped along by generous margins and typeset) does not accurately reflect the book’s true length; Breakaway surprisingly reads rather quickly, making it the ideal selection for reluctant and young readers alike. Care, however, should be exercised in recommending this book to certain audiences as colourful language is thrown about from time to time—apparently hockey players have filthy mouths, or maybe it’s just teenagers. Otherwise, Breakaway is a satisfying hockey themed book, one which will also serve to introduce readers into the mystery and crime genres.


Andrew Laudicina is an MLIS graduate from the University of Western Ontario in London; he currently resides in Windsor, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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