Wednesday, March 13, 2019

BOOK REVIEW | Cold Day in the Sun by Sara Biren

Title: Cold Day in the Sun
Author: Sara Biren
Series? No, Cold Day in the Sun is a standalone novel.
Pages: 320
Publication Date: March 12, 2019
Publisher: Amulet Books
Source: I received Cold Day in the Sun via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own!

Holland Delviss wants to be known for her talent as a hockey player, not a hockey player who happens to be a girl. But when her school team is selected to be featured and televised as part of HockeyFest, her status as the only girl on the boys’ team makes her the lead story. Not everyone is thrilled with Holland’s new fame, but there’s one person who fiercely supports her, and it’s the last person she expects (and definitely the last person she should be falling for): her bossy team captain, Wes.

A Cold Day in the Sun by Sara Biren is a contemporary young adult novel following Holland, a high school junior. The novel follows Holland's life at the height of the hockey season; Holland plays for the boys' team at her local high school. Holland becomes sort of a local star after the team gets picked to play at HockeyFest and she has to interview. As Holland pushes back against sexism in sports, both from people and her own internalized insecurities, she might be falling in love with the guy that pushes her the hardest, Wes. Unlucky for her, Wes is also her team captain, making him off-limits. 

I was immediately intrigued by the plot of cold Day in the Sun. Though this idea of having your main character play in a boy's team isn't new (Catching Jordan, anyone?), it had been a while since I read a novel so closely linked with sports. I was also interested in seeing how the feminism would play out. As a feminist, I was interested to see what Sara Biren had to say about women playing competitively in sports deemed "for boys." I was so pleased to have such a complex character like Holland take the lead in this novel. She's definitely kick ass, but her sporty-ness doesn't solely define her, which I was resigned to happen. Instead, Holland is much more nuanced than just a tom-boy who likes hockey. She's competitive, stubborn, and into hard rock, but also likes to dress up every now and again and thinks too much about boys. Holland and I have very different lives, but I could relate to her despite our differences.  

I would already be recommending you this just for the feminism and the girl power message. Holland and her best friends - Cora and Morgan - are so supportive of each other and are so honest with each other. I loved seeing such healthy friendships in a YA novel, a genre that is riddled with girls hating each other over guys or nonexistent friendships. 

But the romance, y'all?? It gets a big YES from me. The chemistry between Holland and Wes is off the charts, and it's because Biren gives us a ton of details. We know all the little things, like when Wes touches Holland's leg when they're sitting at a record shop, or when he notices the stripes she puts in her hair, or how he is supportive of her as a hockey player. Their conflict also makes a lot of sense. Holland is unsure about being public because she's worried that people will think she's getting extra favors by being on the hockey team and the attention will be on the relationship rather than her skill. So not only was the banter and sexual tension there along with a foundation of respect, but the conflict rang true to me.

Though the chemistry was there between Holland and Wes, there were times when I felt just a little uncomfortable about their relationship, especially in the first half of the novel. Wes is Holland's captain, and he definitely gets in her face and yells at her. I really like that Wes doesn't treat Holland differently because she's a girl. But when we add a romantic relationship layer onto that, I felt just a bit uncomfortable. I wasn't completely convinced that Holland and Wes could separate their romantic relationship and their captain/player dynamic out on the rink right when something was starting to happen. However, I had a lot more trust in their relationship and maturity at the end of the novel. 

Another critique I have for Cold Day in the Sun is the way fashion is described. I know this might seem as a small critique, but when the fashion seems outdated, the book seems out of date and the author out of touch with the community they are writing (largely) for. Our main character is a junior in high school, but her clothes read very middle school to me. For instance, Holland always has a strip of color in her hair. Though this does play a role in the romance, which I found very cute, the last time dying a strip of hair or putting a ribbon in hair was popular was when I was 12 and everyone was dying strips of hair with Koolaid. Another scene that stuck out to me was when Holland is getting ready for a dance. I'm sharing this quote with you, but keep in mind that this quote is not from a finalized copy!

Next, she colors my lips with a deep plum that complements the rich blue of my dress and starts on my hair. The dress is fantastic. The bodice with hits sweetheart neckline and wide straps hugs my curves, ending in a and of peacock feather-inspired sequins and a skirt that fades gradually to a lighter blue.

Is it just me, or does this look just feel out of touch? I went to prom two years ago as a senior, and the ombre look Biren describes where a dress fades gradually from one color to a lighter shade was barely present. The look was more popular my first and second years at high school. Other descriptors felt off - peacock feather-inspired sequins? What does that mean? Are the sequins the same color as peacock feathers, or somehow look feather-like? If it's the later...that sounds horrible. The only thing that sounds good is the neckline and makeup. I know this might seem like a random critique, but novels and main characters seem authentic when details like young adult fashion are accurate, and it wasn't in the novel.

Despite my issues with Cold Day in the Sun, it is a compelling young  adult novel about growing up, hockey, first love, rock music, and feminism. Though there are several female athlete novels out there, I loved the feminist message of Cold Day in the Sun and I think it stands out of the crowd. Some of the details left the novel feeling a little inauthentic, but the experience of first love and finding confidence in yourself is a universal experience.

With that, I give Cold Day in the Sun
4 out of 5 Hockey Sticks!


  1. I went 4.5 on this one, because it was just an utter delight to read. The family interactions, the hockey, the blog, the hairbands, the food -- I was so in love with it all. And, YES to the romance.

  2. I just got this from the library!