Corey Callahan was expecting to go to prestigious Harkness College as a varsity hockey player, but instead arrives there in a wheelchair, after ending up partly paralysed from the wait down after an accident on the ice. Her cheerful new roommate doesn't seem to mind that they have to stay in a handicap-accessible room away from all the other Harkness freshmen. If having to re-assess all her hopes and dreams about college wasn't difficult enough, Corey also falls head over heels for the extremely hot hockey player in the room across the hall, incapacitated by a leg broken in two places. The only problem? Adam Hartley already has a girlfriend.
Hartley's girlfriend is spending a semester abroad, however, and as they are both stuck in the "gimp ghetto" together, Hartley and Corey strike up a close friendship, taking lectures together, helping each other manoeuvre the dining hall and bonding over hockey played on a games console, since neither of them can skate on the ice at the moment. Corey grows more miserable as with time, she discovers that Hartley isn't just drop dead gorgeous, but smart, charming, friendly and funny. While all his friends and teammates seem to be encouraging him to forget his bitchy girlfriend, Hartley is determined to stay faithful to her. Will Corey ever have a chance with him? Will a vibrant and clearly active guy like Hartley ever see a broken girl like Corey as anything more than "one of the guys"?
Last year, a number of Cannonballers read and rated Sarina Bowen's The Ivy Years books, a series of New Adult novels set at the fictional Harkness College, mostly centred around hockey, very highly. Hence when the first book in the series was available for free on Amazon for a limited time, I jumped at the chance to get it. To complete the last few of my massive amount of reading challenges towards the end of 2015, I never got round to actually starting the series, but now, with a new reading year open to me and less demanding reading challenges on my plate, I figured I'd see what all the fuss was about. Like with Kristen Callihan's Game On books, featuring American football players, I know little to nothing about the sport that many of the characters care about and couldn't really care less about it either. Unlike with American football, however, I teach at a school where quite a lot of the
teenagers play hockey and I've actually seen the game being played.
Not that there's much hockey being actually played in this book, unless you count the computer game kind. Yet it plays an integral part in the lives of both protagonists. Corey's older brother is a former student at Harkness and used to play for the college hockey team. Hartley and his teammates all know him and are amused to discover that Corey is his little sister. Because she gets the game and all their references, it doesn't take long before they've all adopted her, while trying not to talk too much about the fact that Corey won't ever again be able to play the game they all love so much. While Corey has insecurities of her looks and especially the fact that she's stuck in a wheelchair, she's determined not to let her injury define her and there certainly isn't a "poor little me" attitude about her. She works hard to work up her strength so she can get around on crutches instead of solely in the wheelchair and she has an amazing gallows humour, often making jokes at her own expense before anyone else can. The fact that Hartley is stuck in the same boat as her, confined to crutches for a whole semester, makes it less lonely for her to be a "gimp".
Hartley is an all-round pretty great guy, but can't get over that he is illegitimate and comes from a poor background. While none of his friends can really stand his snooty, privileged and wealthy girlfriend, Stacia, Hartley is amazed that someone so popular and high class would even deign to look in his direction, and puts up with way more than is entirely reasonable just to be with her. While he and Corey start out as friends, it's obvious as time passes that there is more between them than just camaraderie, and once he becomes aware of the feelings Corey has for him, he should either have broken up with Stacia or stopped being quite so flirty with Corey, as leading her on was just needlessly cruel. I also didn't like the way he handled being stood up on his birthday, as he'd previously been so firm about being faithful and not fooling around. Once again, it was cruel towards Corey. Hartley spending way too long coming to his senses and refusing to dump Stacia, even when he knew full well that Corey was into him, is the reason I'm deducting half a star from the rating of the book.
As well as a great, gradually developing from friendship to love relationship between the protagonists, I really liked the presence of several of the supporting characters. The friendship between Corey and her roommate Dana is a great one and Hartley's teammates were also fun when they appeared. I liked the way the girls supported each other and how Dana forced Corey out of her comfort zone occasionally, preventing her from just holing up in their room all the time, away from the world. I can absolutely see why Sarina Bowen's books were popular among so many and am glad I finally got to jump on the band wagon too.