This time around Ngozi Ukazu is heavy on relationship status and less focus on hockey in Check, Please!, Book 2: Sticks & Scones. Bitty and Jack now have a relationship that is never totally fleshed out but is presented with the “highlights” of events. Jack has his hockey career, Bitty has his last few years of college, hockey, vlogging, and baking. Yet, the two must deal with the ups and downs of one being openly gay, in a welcoming community and the other dealing with the ups and downs of being a closeted gay professional hockey player. Together they learn that coming out is not just one step, but many different ones, and ones that mean sometimes you must do it more than once. Even to yourself.
While a good way to introduce a GLBTQ+ relationship in sports, there were moments that felt forced. Everyone seems to be accepting (there are a few not-team members/other teams that first threatened Bitty when he started playing, but that is in a “flashback”) but both Bitty and Jack’s teammates accept them without question. Even the media, though they do “push the gay factor” before the “hockey factor” in the articles and interviews, never seem to get negative. However, Bitty’s father perhaps has the most honest reaction: He wants to be supportive yet is not sure how. His “trying not to make a big deal” of things makes it a “big deal.” However, my favorite reaction is the one of two of Bitty and Jacks friends/college teammates: they see stuff (a sweet kiss and flirty), but they swear to “take it to the grave” as their friends’ relationship is not “out” yet.
Every so often (thankfully to allow this for my Sports Ball category) hockey is talked about. Ukazu does not talk technical but has Bitty via his vlogs and interactions, talk about the issues, games and things that happen with the sport. Of course, it comes back to the jam, pies and baking while focusing on the relationship status of people.
Even with the bumps, overall, this book was decent but just is not as strong as the first book, and a bit more slowly paced as well. There are extras at the end that are interesting (tweets by Bitty, extra comics, and more) that gives it a unique charm.