Resource Links Review - Power Plays

Reviewed by: Emily S.

Jessie McIntyre and her family have moved from Saskatoon to small-town Estevan, SK. Jessie is in Grade 9 and while this transition is difficult, it is made even more trying when Jessie becomes the favourite target of the school's head female bully, Kim. Kim is popular and conniving and has a lot of the adults in the community on her side. Kim is also a hockey star in a town that takes its hockey very seriously - she is one of a few girls playing on the boy's team. Jessie is pretty sure she doesn't stand a chance against Kim and things get even worse when Kim spreads rumours about Jessie to some of the real "bad kids" from a nearby town. These kids threaten Jessie with violence and get her into enough trouble that she has to be picked up from jail by her parents.

The policeman who is handling Jessie's case also happens to be the coach of the local girls' hockey team. He encourages Jessie's parents to put her on the hockey team, much to Jessie's chagrin. Jessie used to play ringette in Saskatoon and is not at all interested in hockey in Estevan. After a bit of coercion, though, Jessie does join the team and is surprised to find that she not only loves hockey, but is somewhat of a natural at the sport. An added bonus is that through her hockey team, Jessie makes new friends who are able to provide some support and help where the bullying is concerned.

Maureen Ulrich presents teen life and female bullying in a realistic and believable way. For example, she does not shy away from the fact that bullying between girls gets physical and acknowledges that sometimes adults don't see or don't believe what is happening. In Power Plays it takes quite awhile for Jessie to get any adults, including her parents, to believe the extent of the bullying that she is experiencing. When adults finally come on board, they provide Jessie with tips and techniques to deal with Kim. However, Kim's bullying is simply of a scope that the adults in Jessie's life don't fully understand. Things only get significantly better when Jessie makes friends who are able to provide her with back-up and social credibility. As for teen life in Power Plays, the language, name calling and extracurricular activities of the teens seem to ring very true. One instance of this is that online social networking plays an important part in this novel - it is one of the key ways that Kim bullies Jessie - and anyone working with teens knows that this is a vital part of teen life today. Similarly, Ulrich realistically depicts the teens in this novel drinking and doing stupid pranks at parties, but she also depicts serious repercussions to these actions. Finally, some of the girls on the hockey team have to deal with racism and all with sexism, but they learn how to deal with and handle these unfair problems.

Power Plays is an enjoyable read, but the storyline and plot are not particularly original or suprising as far as teen sports novels go. There are enough twists and turns to keep readers interested, but there is not much new groundbreaking here. What makes this novel good is its authentic and realistic feel, especialy the believable and heartening way that Jessie overcomes her bullying problems. The Author's Note at the end of the novel contains a personal message from Ulrich on bullying and also suggests some resources on how to death with lying in real life. Power Plays is a good choice for school and public libraries. 

Thematic Links: Hockey; Bullying; Friendship; Relationships; Gender Equality; Saskatchewan; Small Town

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